Jacqueline Cramer and Nicole van Nes / Influencing Product Lifetime Through Product Design New products are purchased every day. Of durable products, new purchases are more often than not replacement purchases. We replace a fridge, cell phone, or MP3 player even though they may be in working (or fixable) condition. In this article, Cramer and van Nes examine the reasons people choose to replace durable products, or “what is the motivation for consumers to replace their products?
”9 This question is asked with an eye towards influencing product design in order to improve a product’s “lifetime optimization. ”10 They begin with a substantial literature review, although very little research relates to their question, and none addresses it directly. The majority of the literature addresses initial purchases of durable goods or how a consumer chooses between various options of similar products.
The literature concludes that three primary issues influence consumers in their product decisions: 1) product characteristics, 2) external influences, and 3) consumer characteristics (290). The lack of specific information regarding the question of motivation in replacement purchases, the authors conducted an empirical study into the factors influencing motivation. Through this study, they uncovered four main motivations: wear and tear, improved utility, improved expressions, and new desires. Of these four, wear and tear on a product was the most influential and prevalent motivation.
In a day-long workshop of brainstorming on how this study can point to new directions in product design, the participants came up with five design strategies; design for reliability, for reparability, for upgradability, for product attachment, and for variability. I agree with the basic premise of the study and the reasons for it; that in order to ‘optimize’ a product’s lifetime, we must first understand the motivations for replacing it. However, I can see more complex psychological reasons for replacing usable items, and am unsure how they could be quantified.
Dewick, Foster, & Green / Technological Change and the Environmental Impacts of Food In this article, Dewick, Foster, and Green examine the changing production and consumption of yogurt in the United Kingdom, and the role technology plays in that change. Their goal is to ascertain whether technology advancements in production can lessen the environmental impact of yogurt. Through interviews and a review of the current life-cycle assessment (LCA) research into yogurt and dairy in general, they explain both what has historically shaped the yogurt industry in the U. K.
and what changes we are likely to see in the future, in terms of production and technology. Several new technologies, most notably refrigeration, have advanced the yogurt industry over the past 50 years. It is unclear, however, whether or not the current “technological bottlenecks”11 of cooling and heating technology will be cleared in the near future. Up until this point, the technological advances have helped to neutralize the concurrent growth in the yogurt industry, spurred on by the demand for yogurt diversification in the form of low-fat, organic, and probiotic yogurts.
This growth, along with the diversification, has meant an enormous increase in the environmental impact of the yogurt industry. If the challenge for policymakers is to mitigate the environmental costs that are driven by increased production of more diversified products in a landscape where the rhetoric of ever-increasing consumer choice is dominant and is also the accepted recipe for increasing profitability in the low-margin dairy chain,12
then they may have to confront both consumers and producers with some uncomfortable realities, or figure out how to accommodate the increased demand and economic growth without sacrificing the environment. And while advances in technology and a focus on production are part of the LCA of yogurt, social awareness and change has to be as well. Notes 1. Albert Borgmann, “Opaque and Articulate Design,” International Journal of Technology and Design Education 11 (2001): 9. 2. Ibid. , 9. 3.
Christina Cogdell, “Products or Bodies? Streamline Design and Eugenics as Applied Biology,” Design Issues 19, no. 1 (2003): 40. 4. Ibid. , 42. 5. Dolores Hayden, “What Would a Non-Sexist City Be Like? Speculations on Housing, Urban Design, and Human Work,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 5, no. 3, suppl. (1980): S171. 6. Ibid. , S181. 7. Eva Heiskanen, “Every Product Casts a Shadow: But Can We See It, and Can We Act On It? ” Environmental Science & Policy 2 (1999): 63. 8. Ibid. , 65. 9.
Jacqueline Cramer and Nicole van Nes, “Influencing Product Lifetime Through Product Design,” Business Strategy and the Environment 14 (2005): 289. 10. Ibid. , 287. 11. Paul Dewick, Chris Foster, and Ken Green, “Technological Change and the Environmental Impacts of Food Production and Consumption,” Journal of Industrial Ecology 11, no. 3 (2007): 140. 12. Ibid. , 141.
Borgmann, Albert. “Opaque and Articulate Design. ” International Journal of Technology and Design Education 11 (2001): 5-11.