Planned Obsolescence

I have always cared about the environment. Words I’m sure you have heard over and over again from some girl walking around in Birkenstocks, or from someone on TV. I recycle and read articles on sustainability, I carpool often and even dream of owning a Tesla. But simply caring about the environment is only the beginning.

In high school I took an environmental science class, as i’m sure many of you did. This class, and my teacher redirected the way I saw myself, our world, and my role in it. I discovered I wanted to be an industrial designer a few years before this class, originally because I wanted to pursue a career in the art field, and it happens to be one of the more practical career tracks. I spent a lot of time researching the field, and the people who pioneered it. At its core, industrial design is about streamlining products, the advancement of technology within it, and aesthetic. When I first started thinking about what I wanted to do with an industrial design degree I looked at companies like Apple and Tesla. Each of these companies create revolutionary technology while creating simple, aesthetically pleasing designs, while making billions of dollars every year. What I admired in these companies, particularly Apple, was their true respect for design. Steve Jobs set out to revolutionize personal technology, and he did. But as my passion for environmental justice was cultivated, I began seeing the corporate motives that were built into this company when the focus shifted from design to revenue. I’m sure you have all experienced this on some level, for example, after the iPhone Seven was released, and I updated to iOS 10, I immediately began having problems with my, now, one generation old iPhone. This idea that a company would put an expiration date on a product is not a new idea, but it is certainly one that baffles me. By principle, that idea should go against everything any designer believes in. It goes against everything that I believe in and everything I want to do. This betrayal of trust from corporate industries is creating a lasting distrust in consumers, and without that trust, where will our technology go? Not to mention the impact this has on the environment, as we talked about in class. I hope that maybe one day this idea of planned obsolescence is something that I can change, at least where I work. Where do you think planned obsolescence is taking us and our environment?


Halle Van De Hey


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