Usability, Affordability, and Duration

As I was watching Objectified, I realized for the first time that everything around me is designed.  One part of the film talked about the design of a potato peeler and how designers took women with arthritis into account.  At that point, I wondered “Then why am I using that lousy potato peeler that isn’t big enough and hurts?!”  If good design is out there, then why are poor designs purchased?  Good design depends on many variables which Objectified talked about, such as usability, affordability, and duration.

Good designs are often more expensive.  The film even mentioned that society is led to believe that good design is more expensive (Objectified).  If something is designed, products must have good designers, and the better designers charge more money, but Target (also mentioned in the film) seems to have great designs at affordable prices (Objectified).  According to an article entitled “Expensive?” by Ricability,

A Phoneability study which looked at the cost of adding accessible features to telephones (see reference 21) found that 20 of the 44 features identified could have been added at no or minimal cost.  Most peoples [sic] needs can be met by simple adjustments which use standard and easily available technologies (“Expensive?”).

The same article later said that,

The US has mandatory standards for the accessibility of electronic and information technology products bought by federal agencies. Estimates of the additional costs of making products accessible (see reference 22) were calculated to be between 0.2 and 2.8 per cent of the amount spent on information technology. This extra cost was expected to be recouped through consequent savings (“Expensive?”).

Product duration is another issue that must be taken into account with designs.  Again, pricing comes into factor here: many times longer-lasting items are more expensive because of higher quality.  The documentary points out that everything designed ends up in a landfill, but how long does the design last before it gets there (Objectified)?  Good design should last a long time.  However, what may constitute design aesthetically may not be designed well in quality or duration.  Take laptops for example: laptops are designed to be portable, and they also look very sleek.  However, laptops usually last two to five years, whereas desktop computers last longer.  Why?  Better design for duration leads to longer lives for desktop computers, but better size and aesthetic design evidently leads to a shorter lifespan for laptops.  ArchDaily’s article, “Dieter Rams 10 Principles of ‘Good Design,’” describes each of Rams’ 10 principles, including this principle: “Good Design Is Long-lasting: It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated.  Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society” (Rosenfield).  This point is interesting because many objects that users think “have good design” are fashionable and trendy, Target being a good example of this fashionable design.  Rams would say that such designs are trashed sooner.  As these examples show, design duration depends both on durability and appearance, not just on one factor exclusively.

Objectified covered many aspects of design, but usability, affordability, and duration stand out as major issues affecting design.  According to the film and other sources, usability and duration do not have to affect pricing very much, yet in society such factors do affect pricing.  The main concept to be learned is that good design can be affordable.  Just go to Target!

Works Cited

“Expensive?”  Ricability.  Ricability, Research Institute for Consumer Affairs. n.d,  Web.  01       April 2012.

Objectified.  Dir. Gary Hustwit.  Perf. Paola Antonelli, Chris Bangle, Andrew Blauvelt.  Swiss     Dots, 2009.  Streaming.

Rosenfield, Karissa.  “Dieter Rams 10 Principles of “Good Design.”  ArchDaily. ArchDaily, 09    Jan. 2012.  Web.  01 April 2012.

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About Allison L. Goodman

I am a stay-at-home wife and mother. I fill my days making taking care of my daughter, encouraging others, cooking meals for my family, managing my resources through DIY projects, and writing.
This entry was posted in Criticism, Design and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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