Friday, March 28, 2014


What if we could keep products longer?
What if we could design for upgrading modules?
What if we could update just the part of our products when needed?
What if we didn't have to upgrade the entire product when a part malfunctioned?
What if we could reduce the environmental impact through the use of industrial design?
What if we could implement eco-design within commonly used products?
What if we had a newer more efficient energy technology to replace that which was in our existing products?

One answer is what Phonebloks is sees as an answer to Planned Obsolescence.

Below is an article originally posted:

For related resources, Design for Disassembly, Eco-Design, Environment and AD Technology guidelines related to this can be downloaded for free at:


Here at Phonebloks, our tagline is ’A Phone Worth Keeping’. This raises many questions: when is a phone not worth keeping? why would a phone not be worth keeping? setting value aside, why are we not keeping our phones? The reasons for not doing this are, unsurprisingly, not entirely straightforward.
First, there are basic economic reasons. As consumers, we may have the ability to buy a new phone whenever we want. And, producing companies economic turnover is dependent on all the time selling more (and new) products. Second, there are psychological reasons. Our tastes are connected to trends. We want to be the first to own whatever phone is new because minor changes in design and other small changes show the cutting edge of technological style. (This is made clear by many marketing campaigns.) Finally, practical reasons come into play: phones break, for whatever reason, and sometimes, for reasons not included under economical and psychological reasons, the design of the product gets outdated.
These reasons are far more complex then they appear and they are connected in even more complex ways. In future blogposts we will explore these reasons, one by one, and try to find out how they are connected. However, today we would like to talk a bit about the last one, the practical one, starting with the question: Why do phones brake or otherwise become outdated; what is planned obsolescence?
Planned obsolescence is not an everyday term, but it affects your everyday life. It is an industrial policy of developing and producing products that are, essentially, designed to fail or become obsolete. This can be aesthetically; the look and/or feel of the product becomes outdated, or functionally; the hardware and/or software of the product becomes outdated or just breaks. And this, within a limited timeframe.
Dave Hakkens, the founder of Phonebloks, came across planned obsolescence firsthand. Dave once had an old compact camera that stopped working. Trying to fix it, he took it apart and found only one piece, the lens motor, truly broken. The other pieces - display, flash, battery a.s.o. - were completely functional. Dave tried to find a spare part but could not get a hold of one locally, or elsewhere. The manufacturer advised he get an entirely new camera.
Planned obsolescence comes in different shapes. A manufacturer could use materials, or a way of putting the product together, that insures that the product has a limited life span. In the case of Dave´s camera, the manufacturer took advantage of another form of planned obsolescence. Making the product difficult or impossible to repair with spare parts, thereby forcing the customer to buy a whole new camera and in that giving the broken camera a limited life cycle.
Planned obsolescence is nothing new. It derives from the bike and car industries of 1920’s Canada and the United States when the idea to develop and produce a new model every year came about in order to increase sales. In America, in the 1930’s, ideas was put forward to use planned obsolescence on most, if not all, development and production of consumer products. This to help the nation out of its economical depression. However, it took until the 1950’s, before this method, or policy, was fully recognised. Then Brooks Stevens defined it as ”Instilling in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, and a little sooner.” After that, planned obsolescence really became one of the engines in the economy surrounding consumer goods to this day.
Why do we not hold onto our phones? Planned obsolescence might be one explanation. The phone slows down, becomes unfashionable or a component breaks and no one seems to want to provide a spare part.
Let’s end planned obsolescence within the mobile phone industry.
Let’s try to make phone worth keeping.
Team Phonebloks

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Eco Design: the basics

This article is a posting from a company that produces eco-design cards to assist designers:

For related resources, Design for Disassembly, Eco-Design, Environment and AD Technology guidelines related to this can be downloaded for free at:

Eco Design

Why Eco Design?
The quality of life of the individual, the social quality of life and the quality of the Eco-Earth system are overarching areas whose quality for the people and their well-being are essential. Each of these areas is in today's world influenced by the used and consumed by the people products and services and their effects. The negative environmental impacts are well known. The limitation of these effects to an ecologically acceptable level is the great global challenge of the first half of this century. But how can this goal be achieved?

Designers, engineers and managers as actors in the design process of products play an essential role here. Already in the design phase (product definition, product design, construction) are 80% of the environmental impact that causes a product along its life cycle, defined. You are to influence later only at great additional expense or not at all. The EcoDesign takes up the challenge and supports product designers doing to meet their responsibilities and to contribute to the transformation to a sustainable society.
The quality of life of the individual, the s

What is the goal of eco design?

The aim of the Eco Design is the design of environmentally sustainable products. The Eco Design makes all involved in the design process actors for the environmental impact of its products and promotes a holistic observation and approach, which also includes the interactions with social and economic aspects. The challenges arising from the diversity, complexity and complexity of ecology are addressed and the environmental requirements are integrated into the process of product design.

What is Eco Design implemented?

The sustainability strategies of sufficiency, consistency and efficiency found in the Eco Design application and open the designer different approaches to the implementation of its environmental objectives in the design. The sufficiency is to improve the quality of life at reduced material use by services and their ability to customer needs without the use to satisfy or to organize the use of different physical goods physical goods. Consistency and efficiency to address the other hand, significant physical goods and their design. The consistency aims to make from the 'right' products. These are products whose effects remain along its life cycle within the capacity of the ecosystem.

In implementing these strategies, the benefit aspects, material and realization serve as guidelines that offer the designer a reflection framework for the Eco Design. The choice of materials largely determines the ecological footprint of a product. Has the implementation of the design by a realization method. Due to the selection of the method and process control in the process a great influence on the environmental impact of the product The effects of the products in the benefit phase anticipates the EcoDesign already in the design of the product and minimize them through the consideration of important criteria (such as easy maintenance, reparability).

The EcoDesign support the designer in structuring the ecology theme by various criteria. The environmental impact of material selection, implementation and use concept will be discussed and placed in the context of the prevailing economic mechanisms. Decision-makers allows the Eco Design a faster decision making and minimizing risks by identifying critical paths.

What causes conflicts Eco Design?

The features and characteristics of a product are largely determined by the designer in business as the designers of new products. However, the designer is rarely free in his creative activity, but mostly exposed to various requirements that may conflict with his claim to create environmentally friendly products and lead to conflicting goals. The designer wants to make his own design requirements and integrate as part of the Eco Design the environmental requirements in the product.He sees himself at the same time confronted with customer requirements, needs the entrepreneurial requirements (eg costs, target groups, areas of application, etc.) into account and observe social conditions and demands. The strength and extent of this tension defines significantly the space available to the designer for the Eco Design available.

Where is quality situate in the context of sustainable design? - An example

A designer can implement Eco design in its product through the examination and consideration of various features within the three main guidelines for material realization and usage. There are dependencies and areas of conflict that must be considered in the design between many of these features.
In the illustrated example, a designer identified in the area of ​​benefit advance the characteristic longevity as the primary aspect of quality. The guidelines instruct him then to identify interaction and areas of longevity with characteristics from the materials and realization and these involve in the design process. In the realization of the durability is related to the strength of the product characteristics, repairability, and the complexity of the manufacturing process. The consideration of the resource potential of the materials to be used in relation to longevity reflects a tension again, the results from the confrontation with the material dimension.The combination of longevity with the conversion criterion shows that interactions between the criteria within a range, here benefits exist.