In an article in Metropolis Magazine, writer John Hockenberry suggests that, in the present economy, the only way to coax money out of consumers’ wallets is to give us what we wanted all along: products that last and don’t go obsolete or break down in a year.
In other words, the products should deliver real and lasting value in return for our money. They won’t have to be thrown away. That means they will be better for the planet, too, because they also deliver real and lasting value in return for the resources and don’t have to be bought over and over again.
My point here is that products with enduring value–the only kind that, according to Hockenberry, people will buy at the moment–make both people and the planet happier. Why weren’t designers trying to do this all along? Doesn’t delivering real value make for a more sustainable business model anyway?
So it’s not just happier planet, happier people but happier business, too.
Here’s a the nut of Hockenberry’s essay [bullet points are mine]:
But what if the aspiration [of consumers] is purely not to buy? How might designers participate in an economy of no product?
- Could product design focus on concepts of “one for life” tools and objects, tech devices that can be infinitely upgraded with a minimum purchase, methodologies for assembling new products out of surplus leftovers from the binge years?
- Is there a product of no-product aesthetic that would let consumers tangibly track how one purchase actually eliminates the need for a range of other products, in the same way that the archaic 20th-century notion of the “labor-saving” device motivated the purchase of appliances?
- Design might create the “purchase-saving” appliance and link objects into permanent one-for-life relationships, under which users could cheaply modify external colors and textures to personalize products over long arcs of time.
Via Wood Turner of Climate Counts.
PS If you’re a fan of WorldChanging, you may want to help them win a $100,000 matching grant by making a contribution. Go here. They certainly deserve our support.
PPS My friends Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus will be in NYC giving a talk on Thursday night. “In 2004 Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus stirred a global debate on the future of green politics with their essay, “The Death of Environmentalism.” In 2008 Time Magazine named them “Heroes of the Environment” and declared their 2007 book, Break Through “prescient.” Winner of the Green Book Award, Break Through argues that we won’t solve global warming through pollution caps but rather through epic government investment in technology. Join Nordhaus and Shellenberger for a rare public event in New York City where they will argue for a paradigm shift in our thinking on global warming.” For details click here.