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Planned Obsolescence

I don’t even realize designers, whether industrial, environmental, or graphic, design my entire life. When I begin typing on my Apple laptop, I don’t say out loud “Wow, this laptop sure is ergonomic!”, I just experience a subconscious satisfaction. The fact that I use my laptop daily without complaining about it is indicative of the quality design. It fits. It works. It’s functional.

A designer in the film threw out this idea: why should things be built to be permanent? He discussed the short life span of items and the reality that they end up in landfills unable to naturally decompose. This negatively effects our environment, creating a huge amount of waste and pollution. I believe he was alluding to environmental aspirations like making all products out of biodegradable material.

I was introduced to the idea of planned obsolescence in my geography course. It is the policy of producing consumer goods with deliberately short lifespans to force people to spend money replacing the product. This is achieved by frequent changes in design, termination of the supply of spare parts, and the use of nondurable materials.

I wonder if planned obsolescence is the intentional doing of industrial designers or the idea of the company producing the product to increase profit. There is value making products with longer life spans; it lessens the environmental burden of throwing things aways at increasing levels. I don’t think planned obsolescence is necessary because it seems to happen quite naturally. American society is all about consumerism; people want the newer, faster, shinier version of products and will forget about the older one once they get it.

Again, design, whether industrial, environmental, or graphic, plays an integral part of our everyday lives. And when we don’t realize it, that means design is far from obsolete.

Fatima Bangura

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