Informing design decisions

It is important for designers to consider a wide range of perspectives when designing a product and to consider the many scenarios that affect the product’s life.

Planned obsolescence

Planned obsolescence is the practice of designing products that will have a limited life and that will become obsolete and require to be replaced, such as disposable razors. Modern mobile phones are a good example as they need continual software upgrades and they are soon replaced by new better-performing models. Planned obsolescence is generally bad for the environment as it creates more waste.

Design for maintenance

Design for maintenance is a term used when designing products that are more durable and have spare parts available to mend and maintain them. This is only possible with low-tech or modular products that don’t require a great deal of skill to repair. For example, a push bike can be regularly maintained, with parts such as pedals and chains being replaced when they are damaged.

A disassembled bike with its parts neatly laid out on a wooden table.

Design for disassembly

Design for disassembly is a concept that when a product has reached the end of its life it can be taken apart and parts reused or recycled. For instance, a stool could be unscrewed to allow the plastic seat and steel legs to be recycled.

Environmental design

Environmental design is something designers are increasingly considering by:

  • making products from renewable materials, such as paper straws instead of plastic, to create less waste material
  • transporting materials in a more efficient way to cut down on emissions of greenhouse gases
  • cutting down the use of finite resources for use in production and for energy supply; improving the overall environmental impact of a product
A collection of colourful paper straws displayed in two clear jars and on a wooden table.
Paper straws
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