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Sustainable Lifetime – Week 4

During the session today we recapped the different types of obsolescence that we learnt about last week. These were Psychological, Economical, Component failure (physical) & Technological. We gave short presentations in groups each talking about a certain object we had researched and obsolescence category it would fall into. This was really useful test my knowledge and understanding of last week.

We moved on to look at product lifetime research and performance economy. Optimising the utilisation of products components and materials. Product Life extension strategies should be thinking about this throughout the designing process of the product. Not just thinking about the sustainability factor at the end. This is a hierarchy system with the 4R’s Reuse, repair, recondition & recycle. The further down the system you go the more energy that is required in that process.

We spoke about products that are design to be emotionally durable. Things that we make relationships with over time. According to Chapman there are 5 main principles; narrative, consciousness, attachment, fiction and surface. We talked about surface mainly, thinking about materials as they are most important to emotionally durable design.

Consumer  behaviours was something that we continually talked about throughout the session. We can design sustainable products and services but they have limited time if consumer behaviour remains unchanged. This is a big issue when it comes to designing sustainably, we can continue to make these products but unless behaviour changes then we will remain in this cycle that doesn’t work.

In relation to this we discussed Tony Fry who talks about defuture, this idea that design up until now is defuturing us, taking away our future. We aren’t designing for the future we are just designing for the now. “We design our world while our world acts back on us and designs us” (Wills, A. 2007).



Sustainable lifetimes – Week 3

After my absence last week I caught up with people who were in the session to get me up to date with what they did. This week we focused on The Circular Economy and how it differs from linear economy. Linear economy is when you take – make – waste, is fast consumption rates but its very unsustainable. Whereas circular economy is a closed loop and has slow consumption rates which is arguably more sustainable. Circular economy requires both biological (natural) and technical (synthetic) systems to work.

We then split up into groups to research different theories underpinning circular economy. Our group has blue economy which essentially was about utilising our oceans for energy and fishing more sustainably. It also talks about carbon footprint how it’s better to travel via seas than transport through air travel. Each research group then presented back to the main group about their findings. This gave me an insight into each theory that underpins circular economy.

Then moving forward we spoke about planned obsolescence which is when a product is designed to fail after a certain length of time. It’s pre planned, designed and engineered by the designer. We moved forward to talk about different categories of obsolescence, component failure, technical, economic, psychological obsolescence.

Component Failure – when a part of the product stops working.

Technical Obsolescence – When a the technology in a product fails or stops working.

Economic Obsolescence – cheaper to buy new products than get repaired. Capitalism hides costs.

Psychological Obsolescence – pressure when going into a shop to buy something brand new. Maybe having a new kitchen a need a kettle to match colour scheme.

Sustainable Lifetimes – Week 1

In my study group for constellation this term I am looking at sustainability & sustainable lifetimes. Sustainability is currently a massive issue across the world and is something that the art and design community must begin to understand and develop in their practice.

In groups we started by looking at what sustainability meant to us, what the main causes of un-sustainability could be and what sustainability means within our individual areas. This was used starting task as it made me think about how sustainability is broad but effects every single art and design practice, it’s something that needs addressing.

This first week we looked at the context behind un-sustainability in detail looking at key stages in how it came into being. Starting with the pre-industrial phrase right through until post war where consumption of products was at it’s highest. Within this we discussed the brith of the market economy and capitalism, looking at the two laws created by Adam Smith. The law of self interest and the law of competition we designed to balance each other out and stop people abusing the law of self interest. Also, amongst the rise of un-sustainability rose consumerism. With people putting more products onto the market more consumers wanted to buy.  Post war the middle class became more prosperous as things were cheaper to buy, which was known as the abundance/dynamic economy.

There were many critics of consumerism including Thorstein Bundle Vebken and Vance Packard who critiqued the corporation on consumerism. It started to become clear within the 1960’s that sustainability was an issue and throughout the USA and Europe ecological movements began to emerge. Businesses that had used planned obsolescence started to be challenged as this was used as a ploy to sell more.

Art & Design Responses

There were three main art and design responses to sustainability Green Design > Ecodesign > Sustainable Design. These all occurred chronologically and subsumed by the following response.

Green design was the initial response, which included campaigns, designs reflecting the issue, and the colour green being used to symbolise the issue. However, business soon caught onto this and ‘green’ started to make great business sense as people wanted to buy into the green design. This is ironic as these business weren’t really doing anything to change their models but people were buying products as they were green.

Furthermore, companies started to use things such as lightweight and biodegradable  packaging however this also brought it’s own issues. People were just disregarding objects everywhere saying it’s okay as it’s biodegradable, peoples attitudes towards disposal of objects changed. Also companies started to label their products recyclable but labelling something as recyclable doesn’t mean that it will be recycled.

People began to see the flaws in Green design as it wasn’t really doing anything about the problem. Lifecycle thinking started to be used this is where the entire process of making and selling the product was considered, thinking about where the most impact is going to happen and how you can reduce the impact. Eco Design emerged from this type of thinking and green design was subsumed by it. Moving away from the idea of a linear system being used on a planet with finite resources.