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What is Disposable Design?

Updated: Nov 22, 2021

No matter who you are, where you live or whatever you do, every human life is affected by the products, systems and services designed. All this has a profound effect on our perception of the world. Our minds, bodies and societies are shaped by design.

In fact, most of the things we create are a disaster. For us, for our planet, and for all the other species with which we share this wonderful blue dot.

Why am I saying this? Because most of the designs were made to get people to consume what they don't need, or to see the world in a certain way or to increase profits, with the sole purpose of creating manipulative, misleading or misguided results.

What is a disposable design?

Designing for expendable is a tragic practice that has had many negative effects on the planet, from the overuse of natural resources to the dire effects that excessive expenability has on the world's oceans.

The practice of disposable design has become the dominant approach to economic development, where reusable and high-value goods are reduced to disposable dumps that no one likes.

Let's be honest, none of us like garbage. We can't find a place to put it, it often smells bad and is a source of guilt for many people. Recycling is not the solution either. It is raising the rationale for disposability, and now that China refuses to take the world's waste, many industrialized countries will have to start dealing with their own waste.

Greenpeace recently reported that approximately 40 percent of the plastic waste in the UK was exported to Turkey and collected and burned illegally.

The solution to all of this is to break down disposable, and the biggest challenge we all collectively face right now is to redesign things to work for a disposable future.

When you look at the definition of disposable, design is in the sentence:

"Product designed to be used once or only for a limited number of times and then discarded."

This is the nature of our hyper-expendable society; Everything is designed to rapidly decrease in value over time until it reaches this stage where we normalize excessive waste generation and even praise it.

However, this is a completely new phenomenon in the history of humans designing something to meet their daily needs. The disposable design is a self-designed intervention.

Disposable history

The dominance of disposable is a very recent invention and is directly related to the development of excessive consumption. It was invented with a very specific economic goal to build nations by increasing consumption.

According to the World Bank, at the current rate of production, global waste will triple by 2100, and with significant new investments in plastic production for single-use products, we will see the cycle of dependency that drives us to continue.

“Design… is an attempt to contribute through change. When no contribution is made or cannot be made, the only process available to give the illusion of change is 'style!' ”- George Nelson, Industrial Designer

In 1955, economist Victor Lebow wrote an article called "Price Competition in 1955". This title is as boring as it sounds, but it made some statements that helped kick-start the age of disposable design.

“Our highly productive economy demands that we make consumption our lifestyle, buy and use goods into rituals, satisfy our spiritual satisfaction, our ego, seek in consumption. The measure of social status, social acceptance, and prestige can now be found in our consumption patterns. The meaning and importance of our lives today was expressed in consumer terms. The more the pressure on the individual to conform to safe and accepted social standards, the more they tend to express their aspirations and individuality in terms of what they wear, use, eat - their home, their car. ,

These goods and services must be offered to the consumer with particular urgency. We need not only "forced draft" consumption, but also "expensive" consumption. We need things that are consumed, burned, worn, changed and disposed of at an ever-increasing pace. We must ensure that people eat, drink, dress, ride, live and live with consumption that is more complex than ever before, and therefore more expensive. Home appliances and the whole "do it yourself" movement are excellent examples of "expensive" consumption. As we examine the concept of consumer loyalty, we see here that the problem of shaping the American mind is entirely related ”. - Victor Lebow, economist, 1955

In 50 years, we have moved from everyday reusable products to disposable products that are causing problems in our wallets and our environment.

Countries spend billions of dollars each year to build and manage dumps that compress and bury them. As people complain about polluted cities and giant ocean islands of plastic waste, manufacturers continue to reverse all responsibility for end-of-life management of their products, and designers remain indifferent to maintaining single-use designed materials.

Sustainable Design Strategies

This is not a new topic; More than thirty years of work, deeply rooted in the practice of design history, have pushed the design industry towards more ethical, sustainable and circular product and service solutions.

There are a number of strategies that help creators design differently, known as Sustainable or Eco Design Strategies. There are many approaches that can be devised in the process of creating things that change the status quo of the product and disrupt this linear, wasteful design system.

Design is both directive and liberating, destructive and pervasive. It has the potential to be many good things, but it is single-use, which currently dominates the designed world.



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