Fata Morgana (chimerically) wrote,
Fata Morgana

Design for the Real World, chapter 5

In Chapter 5, Papanek continues berating the automobile industry, claiming that more automobiles were recalled than sold in 1977, and that American automobile manufacturers irrationally refused to add a third top-middle taillight despite its low cost and proven benefit. He moves on to malign manufacturers of certain badly-conceived and badly-designed toys, safety equipment, appliances, and other "tawdry idiocies" before finally settling down to talk about disposability and obsolescence, the title of the chapter.

In the design of disposable items, Papanek advocates two rules: that an item's price should reflect its disposability, and that the designer consider what happens to the item after it's thrown away. In their use, he promotes pricing items based on how often they are replaced (though it seems strange that he would advocate often replacing things at all, given his previous rants), and leasing often-replaced items (though he doesn't discuss what happens to the items after you trade them in). He also talks about recycling and biodegradability. Strangely, he "applauds" a semi-disposable culture, as long as it (somehow) "did not lead to waste making and pollution." He describes one of his projects on a giant biodegradable burr coated with seeds to counter erosion.

Despite Papanek's unfocused style and extensive use of ad hominem and straw man, he does raise important points that designers need to pay careful attention to safety - as BART's first day of (entirely automatic) operation and the infamous Therac-25 debacle attest - and should consider the full life cycle of their products, from design to purchase to death or obsolescence.

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