It is clear that product design bears a share of the responsibility for the environmental problems faced by contemporary society and that the discipline has an important role to play in developing a new paradigm that allows for environmentally responsible consumption.
The kettles presented here are Critical Designs that embody a series of key concepts relating to extended product lifespan and reflect upon the changes in behaviour that are required to achieve this. The kettles are designed to be instantly recognisable, but sufficiently challenging as to engage the viewer in revealing the concepts embedded within the product features.
The stated aim of this body of work was to:
To influence designers, manufacturers and consumers to play their part in extending the lifespan of products.
The critical designs address this on a number of levels through features present in the final design proposals. By presenting the key components of the appliance as individual units, the product semantics help to communicate the function of each component, aiding the user in understanding where an intervention may be necessary to keep the product operating at its optimum performance.
A service indicator module aids the user with diagnosis of faults should they occur and provides prompts when routine maintenance is required to maintain performance and ensure product longevity.
Maintenance, repair and upgrade are facilitated by the safe and simple access to parts. This feature democratises repair, empowering the user to engage in extending the lifespan of the product and changing the relationship between the manufacturer and the consumer. Longer, more meaningful relationships between the two will be necessary as the service that underpins this proposal will last well beyond the current 2 year warranty.
Extending the lifespan of products implies that the very physical presence of the object will need to endure over a much longer period, transgressing product fashion and trends. Integrating materials and manufacturing processes with inherent qualities known to build greater attachment between the owner/user and the objects from which they are made have addressed this.
Critical Design has enabled this work to develop outside of the constraints imposed by a commercial context; to question and reflect upon current product design practice. It suggests ways in which designers, manufacturers and consumers can play their part in extending the lifespan of products and engage with a circular economy model.
Whilst the work is intended to challenge convention, all of the concepts, approaches and technologies expressed through the final outcomes are grounded in reality and can be applied to near future products.
This project forms part of a research project that is supported by the Art & Design Research Centre and the critical artefacts developed for this project will go on to be used as research tools.
The next stage in this process is to run workshops with professional designers to ascertain their understanding of the role of extended product lifespan in the future of environmentally responsible product design and then to use this project to communicate some of the key concepts to them.
It is also intended that the critical designs will be exhibited in a public venue and presented at an academic conference as a research output. By situating the work in these contexts, it is hoped that it will have the greatest opportunity to achieve the original aims as stated at the outset of the project.
influence designers, manufacturers and consumers to play their part in extending the lifespan of products