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Planned Obsolescence- Ethical and Environmental responsibilities as an Industrial Designer

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Ashwathy Biswas

on 17 September 2012

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Transcript of Planned Obsolescence- Ethical and Environmental responsibilities as an Industrial Designer

Planned Obsolescence: Ethical responsibilities as an Industrial Designer The secret mechanism behind consumerism | Ashie What is Planned Obsolescence?
How it all started- History brief with examples
Why it works?
What can be done to overcome this?
Responsibilities as an industrial designer Aim: Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence in industrial design is a policy of planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so it will become obsolete, that is, unfashionable or no longer functional after a certain period of time. What is planned Obsolescence? Logic If a consumer does not purchase, the economy does not grow. Brief about history, how it all started: A silent trend that's been implanted into the backbone of our economy for decades. It's the secret behind consumerism and the economy of our times. Been around since the early 1920's.
Example- One of the first inventions of our time- The Light Bulb (also one of the first products to fall victim to planned obsolescence.) Years ago a group of men, decided to divide the world economy between them by making a cartel. A cartel is a formal agreement among competing firms, an international syndicate, combine, or trust formed especially to regulate prices and output in some field of business. A cartel mainly to divide the world market between them and to control light bulb production in specific. They changed patents to control production of lightbulbs.(making this legal)
By demanding bulbs be made in such a way as to expire within a given period.(bulbs which lasted upto 2500hrs now were made to last 1000hrs)
How they enforced this- by fining firms/companies that did not comply with these rules.
This in turn meant controlling consumption, as now, consumers would buy bulbs more often.
Consequently, increasing the frequency in sales. How they did this? It's quite ironic that the light bulb, something that stands for ideas and innovation, was one amongst the earliest products to fall victim to planned obsolescence. Why it works? Consumer trends + Product disposal behaviour Make a product, designed to expire after a given period of time.
What this does?- Guarantees purchase of same product or a variation of product within that given period of time.
Leaving no choice to customers already using product, but to upgrade or buy new product again.
Ensuring sales of a product before its release-> Planned obsolescence Yes, ive heard of it

When asked if they were aware of planned obsolescence, 27 people answered; I think i have an idea. No, never heard of it
6 5 16 This goes to show that people, inspite of being aware, sometimes fall victim to planned obsolescence, and other times aren't aware. When asked if they would support a firm/product that adhered to planned obsolescence as their market strategy? 27 people responded; That people sometimes have no option when it comes to certain products
The other times, they dont realize how, everyone including themselves, will be affected in the long run.
Some don't care, as to whether it might affect the economy, which we are all a part of.
People are conditioned to buy things they don't require.
Therefore they will continue to fall prey to planned obsolescence.
What does that show? 53.8%
Sometimes, cant help it 19.2
Indifferent 15.4
against it 11.5
dont have a problem with it "Planned Obsolescence, the desire on the part of a consumer to own something, a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary."-Brooks Stevens Without this concept, there wouldn't be all those malls to go shopping at, no designers, no architects, no products, no sales-people, no cleaners, no security guards, in short no jobs. All the jobs would be gone.

Take for example in Design and engineering schools. They are taught about product life-cycles, a modern euphemism for planned obsolescence, how to design a product for the business world mainly focusing on one goal, repetition. In this case to repeat purchase by a consumer.
The reason its still around: basic formula of our economic growth today:
advertising + planned obsolescence + credit = economic boom Famous example... Another very famous, yet controversial example being apple products.
More specifically the iPod. A product designed in such a way that if a battery died, which it would within 12 months, you had to replace it, as a whole not just the battery. The products life is done with that simple malfunction.
But later Apple extended its warranty to 2 years as settlement to a court case, where they were being sewed. Serge Latouche, noted critique of the growth society has put the consequences of planned obsolescence in a rather interesting manner by saying;
we are all sitting in a racing car, going at full speed without a driver, that is soon bound to crash into a wall or fall off a cliff.
How to overcome this- We live in a world where everything we choose to do, starting from how we think is programmed into us, even when we know we can work outside or around that programming without being hardwired to do so. Start by cosuming less- buy whats needed or required rather than indulging in things you dont need.(Easier said than done =D)
Go for products that are known for quality and guarantees after sales service, rather than whats hip in the market.
Go for products that can be recycled after use, that have the option to be broken down further and used, reduce carbon footprint.
Design, engineer products that last.
Use materials that are sustainable, that would reduce carbon footprint. rather not leave one at all.
Design for solutions, not profit.
Design for the future.
Responsibilities as an industrial designer: 'As designers, we need to strive to make a product that would be useful to people, not by creating a use for it, but by making it part of a solution to a problem not solved.'- Me =) Thank you!
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