Friday, February 26, 2010

Design for Dissasembly: Why it doesn't happen very often in America

I was linked to this article about Designing for the afterlife of a product from one of the blogs I follow and I was struck that by how unlikely it was to happen in America.

The tenants and ideas are simple enough to understand, and the advice offered is reasonable enough I could see it showing up in a business class book sort of like the Book "The Goal". The trouble is that this sort of design run against many manufactures ulterior goals. HP et al don't want you to repair (in this case refill) their cartridges. The have a vested interest in you not doing so, and design their products as such. They thrive on the repurchase of their highly priced ink.

Similarly the iron company that made the iron that the article was based around probably thrives not by making the best quality iron, bur rather by selling a lot of them at a low enough price that the consumer doesn't mind that they have to buy another one every two years or so. Designing an iron that is maintainable, would require that they have to charge more for the iron in the first place, in a price obsessed markets such as America, that don't have a strong ability to fix things doesn't place value in maintainability of items and will choose items that don't carry that added cost.

Given that value of the future costs versus the current costs are hard to determine for most people given options consumers often choose the least expensive or one that is in the middle of the pack. Given that consumer behavior, and given that Executives listen to finance people about maximizing profit by reducing costs rather than to designers or production staff on how to make better products there is an constant race to the bottom.

Likely the only way to reverse this trend is to retrain the public on the value of maintaining the things you own, rather than the over emphasizing the cachet value of new.

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