I'm always as interested to learn of the assignments given to ID students these days, as I am to see their work. Here's a recent brief fielded by Lorcan Looney, a Product Design student at Ireland's National College of Art and Design:
"Having been implicated in the massive environmental problems we face today, industrial designers now often consciously seek to limit the negative environmental consequences of their work. This requires not only a sense of responsibility for the future of our planet, but also a thorough understanding of the environmental impact of the various choices faced by designers and a strong competence in designing for manufacture (e.g. awareness of how products are assembled and disassembled and familiarity with the specific requirements of different materials and their associated manufacturing processes). This project is about sustainability and how to pursue it, on the one hand, and about the detailed decisions to be made when designing for manufacture, on the other.
"Your task is to re-design a simple consumer product of your choice, in full detail, for a reduced environmental impact."
Looney came up with a simple design for an electric kettle called Float:
I really like the idea of the float. Yes, it's an extra thing, and maybe it's just my failing eyesight or the lighting in my kitchen, but: After seeing Looney's design I realize that every morning, I squint and struggle to fill my glass coffee pot to the desired hash mark. I think the float would be appreciated by anyone with declining eyesight.
I also like the simple idea of using a Sharpie to mark different levels. While this isn't necessarily a feature of the product, but more a suggestion of the designer, I do like the thinking. How could we better encourage consumers to make simple changes to products themselves to improve their functionality?
As for designing it to be disassembled, that seems obvious, but I don't think it's not commonly done these days because the designer didn't think of it; I think things are made not to be taken apart because it's cheaper for the manufacturer to use press fittings and such.
For those of you that have designed consumer electronics, did you, as the designer, have enough juice to insist it be designed for repairability?
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