Björn Rust (he/him) is a post-industrial designer cum researcher, innovator and educator, developing context-sensitive innovation practices for people, planet and beyond.

Recent writings

  1. Opportunity hoarding
  2. Doing away with bullshit
  3. The course of my life, so far

If you can’t fix it, you don’t own it

As a product nears the end of its life, be it timely or untimely, there is a range of modes by which we can respond. If a product has outlived its usefulness, first ask, can this product be upgraded or augmented to extend its life? Then ask can it be cannibalised to upgrade or augment another product. Only then should we consider recycling, with reuse always trumping recycling. But what of untimely demises? A broken display or a faulty battery are common, and yet repairability is not a principle consideration of the vast majority of brands.

There are exceptions, of course, Patagonia for one will not only repair their own products but also those that their customers have bought from other brands. But the likes of Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard or Douglas Tompkins of The North Face, who have both been known to discourage customers from buying new products, are rare.

More common are brands like Apple, which releases incrementally improved products in a tightly sealed chassis, protected with tamper-proof fasteners, adhesives and ‘do not remove’ stickers. Granted, to deliver customers ever thinner, ever lighter, ever more sophisticated products, the likes of the Apple Industrial Design Group (IDg) often have little choice but to develop inherently unrepairable proprietary solutions. But the extent to which these products are unrepairable is not a symptom of minification alone. There is also a powerful commercial motivation to prevent users from upgrading or repairing the product they buy.

We should always protect the ‘right to repair’. Otherwise, if we were to imagine the extreme, we arrive in a future where we are forbidden to resole a shoe, patch a jacket, or darn our knitwear.

Inspired by: Motherboard

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