Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Light-bulb Conspiracy

The Lightbulb Conspiracy

The Lightbulb Conspiracy is a documentary about the history of planned obsolescence. All products can eventually become obsolete, but planned obsolescence is when a product is designed to need replacing earlier than is necessary. In this documentary it used the example of the light bulb, which was one of the first products to be designed with a planned obsolescence. When Edison first had a light bulb in consumer production, it would last about 1500 hours, not long after light bulbs were being made that could last 2500 hours. At this time a group of light bulb manufactures from around the globe met, and it was agreed to make light bulbs last only 1000 hours, so they would have to be replaced more often. The documentary looks at how our economy and lifestyle is built on consumerism, which is powered by planned obsolescence. Without planned obsolesance, we would not see the economic growth that we do today, which at first might seem like a bad thing, who wants the economy to stop growing, right? But this documentary questions that belief. It is said "The earth is big enough to satisfy everyone's needs, but too small to satisfy individual greed".

This is an important documentary for designers in particular to watch, because it goes right to the core of our field. As designers we have the power to design products with or without planned obsolescence. All good designers have the ability to design quality products which are going to last for a long time, but it is not the simple. The company that a designer might work for might have a policy of a set planned obsolescence, so they might not have a choice as to whether or not they make a long lasting product. Even if they had the freedom to design a long lasting product, they might in fact be designing themselves out of a job. As designers, we have to be able to weigh up these different variable and make an informed design decision. This is the ethical question that all designers face.

The three take home points from this documentary are:
- Our economy currently depends on consumerism, which is driven by planned obsolescence
- While the western countries continue buying more, more frequently, developing counties becoming the dumping ground for our unwanted waste
- We live in a world of finite resources, and there needs to be a change in the way our economies work, which means we need to become less consumeristic and have access to long lasting products

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Product Disassembly

In class we were put into groups of about 6, and each group was given a faulty product (donated by Breville) to disassemble. Our group was given an iron. It took us about 27 minutes to disassemble the product into different materials as best as we physically could. Below are photos of the different groups of materials from the iron.

After this exercise is was made clear a few improvements that could be made in terms of  recycle-ability and ability for repair. For recycle-ability, is is important that the different materials used in the product are easy to detach from one another, so they can be recycled more easily. To better this, we as a group decided that we could change the majority of the plastic parts (which are currently mostly polycarbonate and polypropylene) to be all one plastic (polypropylene) as to reduce the amount of things that need to be taken apart in the recycling process.
Also there are a few parts of the iron which are polypropylene with a silicon overmould. This means that it is very hard to recycle this part. These overmoulds are normally there to help with grip, so as an alternative to this, we decided that there could be textures moulded into the plastic instead.
The part of an iron we thought was the most likely to fail was the power cable. Because this is a difficult part to replace currently, the iron is usually thrown out instead of repairing it. To help make it easier to replace this part, we designed the power cable with a pull tab, so that if it breaks and is returned to Breville, it is easy to replace just that part instead of the whole iron.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The 11th Hour

The 11th Hour

The 11th Hour is a documentary about the effects that humans and human society is having and will have on the health of earth. This film was made a number of years ago, when the general public first stared to become concerned about the impact they were having on the earth, so most of the facts and figures showed are nothing new to someone today. This film was different to other similar documentaries though because of its slightly different focus. It was said that if the earth was created on 1st January, then humans only came along at 11.45pm on 31st December, and in this long history the earth and its climate had not stayed the same, but has always been changing. It is not unusual that we are experiencing changes in the climate, but we are however speeding this process up. The climate has always changed, but that includes the species that occupy it. Of all the species that have ever existed on the planet, 99.9999% of those are now extinct. This documentary claims that we will put the climate through such extensive change that the conditions on earth will no longer be able to support human life, and like nearly all species before us, we too will become extinct. The earth will be able to recover from the damage that we cause, because it has always recovered in the past, but it will be too late for humans.

This documentary is important for designers to watch for a few reasons. As designers we have the ability to create products that will either help out the environment or harm it. It is important for designers to understand how important it is to look after the planet so that they make wise decisions when they are choosing materials for the products they design. Designers have the opportunity to greatly effect the course of history. If every designer decided to only make products that were helpful to the environment, then consumers wouldn't have a choice but to buy environmentally friendly products. Imagine how helpful this would be to the environment.

The three main take home points from this documentary are:
- We need to think of the environment not as a resource, but as crucial to our survival
- If humans don't do something about their behaviour we will make ourselves extinct
- The environment will be able to regenerate itself from the damage we cause, but we will all die in the process