When I was a kid, my friend's Dad spent his whole weekend fixing stuff. He'd sit at his workbench and repair old phones, old radios, gadgets and appliances. I never understood why, never saw any value in those old electronics and couldn't imagine why anyone would ever repair old stuff when they could buy cool new stuff.
My friend's Dad wasn't an industrial designer or engineer, but, in his workroom in the garage, he was helping to break the chain of throwaway thinking. Throwaway thinking supports the short-term needs of our culture and industrial systems. But, it doesn't do much for any us in the long-term.
Products like electronics have components that can fail or need to be upgraded, well before the rest of the product needs to be replaced. As a result, we throw away millions of tons of electronics worldwide each year. Disposable, non-repairable electronic products put an enormous strain on ecological systems: they create huge amounts of e-waste and require a constant stream of raw materials and energy.
No matter how easy a product is to repair, however, it's hard to keep it from becoming obsolete as new technologies roll out. Designers can intervene by making it easy for makers, users and recyclers to extend the lifecycle. In addition to overall product lifecycle, consider design strategies such as architecture and form, materials, connections and information, for consumers and end users.
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Building on our successful first invitational challenge last year, Core77 is launching the second Design For (Your) Product Lifetime Student Challenge sponsored by Autodesk and iFixit. For students and recent graduates, this challenge asks designers to present a new "smart" product that's also smarter environmentally: repairable and designed to last, even if some of its components need to be replaced. Examples may include household appliances, electronics, lighting, toys—any and all kinds of products are ripe for a lower-impact redesign.
The challenge launches today and entries are due by Wednesday OCTOBER 10th. Check out the full challenge overview here.