Design to fail

This documentary broadcast on Norwegian television examines how companies consciously design articles that stop working after a while so that people have to buy new things. The light bulb is a good example of this. After the incandescent lamp manufacturers, including the Dutch Phillips, had successfully formed a cartel in the early years of the last century, the quality of incandescent lamps deteriorated sharply. From 2500 burning hours in 1920 this decreased to 1000 burning hours in 1940. This mechanism of planned failure can be found today in all kinds of consumer products such as iPods, printers, etc. In this time this seems a bizarre practice and something perhaps in the same way as cartels should be dealt with thoroughly. Below the interesting documentary, (English subtitles can be turned on if necessary):

 (With many thanks to Niels for the tip of this documentary)

It was also mentioned in the above documentary, but the answer to this kind of built-in waste is the Cradle to Cradle principle where you try to design products that can be fully reused. Let us educate our future generations especially in this last principle so that in principle we no longer have any waste products, but all technical waste can serve as new raw material for other products. Learning to think cyclically just like nature. Below are two older documentaries from VPRO about Cradle to Cradle. They can be viewed on the site itself.

-) Waste is food part I.

-) Waste is food part II

24 thoughts on “Ontwerp om te falen”

  1. This is a bizarre thing indeed. At the same time, it is also very logical from the manufacturer's point of view. If you make a product that works too well in the sense that it has a long useful life, there will also be no demand for replacement. You cut yourself in your own fingers, as it were. C2C and sustainability is good, as long as money can be earned with it, is the idea. 

    1. Yes, another example of how nature exploitation and pollution is apparently built into the system mechanisms of our current economic system ...

      I'm getting more and more interested in a resource based economy :-) 

      1. Me too. But what exactly is it? I can imagine things, but the Venus Project talks about an economy without money. How can you have an economy without some form of money?

        1. Money is the exchange of labor between people very briefly, you can organize that exchange in many ways and one form of this we have called money. Exchange between people will always exist before money was invented and we will probably come up with other forms in the future that will make our current technology exchange that we call money redundant. Money is only 1 concrete elaboration of the principle of exchange, which will continue to exist as long as there are people. 

          But having said that, that is also the big question I have at The Venus Project. I find their ideas very interesting but I would also like to see the organizational model how they want to get it done. 

        2. Found it:
          Interesting article I must say. I also came across an article by Germen about Bitcoin and electricity as currency. Perhaps also an interesting idea for Douwe to refer to as alternatives to the economic system for inspiration. After all, it is already on the site and a reference can be made in no time.
          But back to the Venus Project for a moment. It's very idealistic when I look at it that way. No more property and assets. Doesn't seem very realistic in the short term, I must say. It is the ideal society. In theory very nice, but that unruly practice is always the problem.   

        3. You're welcome. By the way, I have already studied the articles and provided an analysis in a few comments. Perhaps interesting if you also let your light shine on it.
          They can be found here:
          And also:

        4. The value of the Japanese WAT is 1 kWh, see
          'The value of 1 WAT is compared to 1 kWh of electrical current, generated in a citizen's co-operative, to an appropriate span of time of easy work and an approximate amount in Yen'.
          There is also a digital version i-WAT:

          Also interesting is Camiel Versluis' Energy Banking concept:

          And then there are Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs):


  2. A few years ago they gave away “free” cheese slicers at Albert Heijn with the purchase of a piece of cheese. With that cheese slicer you shaved 1.5 millimeter thick slices of cheese; with the old, regular, plane, only half a millimeter. With a time of yes and no, a two kilo hunk was suddenly through. 
    The entire industry and sales bizz stands or falls with waste and obesity. After the flop chicken, we now also have the obese flop consumer. I can imagine that in about 100 years they will grow people who will become obese as quickly as possible and who can serve as 'super consumers'. They eat everything that is loose and stuck, and of course cannot pay the bill. But that is what the other citizens are for, just as nowadays banks with bad debts on certain people can appeal to the taxpayer.
    At a certain point this goes so far that it will be legally stipulated that people must spend at least an x amount on certain specified items. A new car every 5 years, living in a house of at least 500% of your annual income and 1 liter of Coca Cola per day.

  3. Sublime! I once mentioned this about someone's broken dishwasher .. I said: you can also just take a washing-up brush;)

    We have a TV of about 12 years old, still works great! Why should we replace it with a cutting-edge widescreen monstrosity? The news is not being sent out more honestly;)

  4. Yes, we also have a washing-up brush and a cast-off TV that is more than 12 years old.
    to be honest, I can't help the fact that at this point it is all as lumpy as butter: despite what has been told to me here on this forum, there are good and bad for me. And we will all be judged on that one day, too, for the next> 3 billion years, our for some non-existent Creator himself says.
    He also told that He will destroy those who destroy the earth.
    Well, we used to do that with a bat when we killed more bears than we needed coats. And we do that now with enormous forces, even atomic forces. Wasting raw materials is certainly part of that.
    As humanity, we have been entrusted with the management of this planet and we can do that in a good and a bad way. Designing to fail is not done to appease consumers, but to exploit them, while also wasting raw materials. Very wrong!
    (too bad for our Keynesian economists)
    In the final statement I therefore expect compensation for the victims of all forms of exploitation, slavery and parasitism and condemnation of the bastards.
    For the slightly shock-resistant among us: our Lord Himself once gave an example of what has been recorded. He talked about a rich guy who took advantage of life and didn't care about poor Lazarus at his doorstep. After a lavish life, he died and his eyes lifted up in hell, where it was far too hot and nothing to drink and all that.
    Now He did not tell poor Lazarus that he had lived so wonderfully, but that he had been so rotten and lacked everything. But when he also died he came to heaven where it was very nice.
    (not my story eh? but from Jesus himself!)
    When the ex-rich guy commented, he was told that he'd already had his share, which poor Lazarus now got.
    Don't say this has to do with Christian faith, because it doesn't appear in the whole story! In my opinion, this is simply about primordial laws to which this earth is subject!
    It is the same with designs to fail.
    Finally, I have one more:
    every night I am disgusted 24x or so by the Schoonenberg advertisement on TV for my hearing aids, because that advertisement cost me 800 euros, I learned at Radar. (400 euro surcharge on each device)
    But it is even more sick: exactly after 5 years, when I can get a small part of the insurance reimbursed for new devices, I was invited for a 'free' 'service'. They don't do anything about it at all, (do they dust on the outside?) Because they say they can't. But within a few weeks, one "quite coincidentally" gave up nicely, so that I had to buy new ones. Another about € 4000, - please, (they buy them in between 200 and 300, I know) where I was forced to buy a mi rotten brand too, which I did not want, but that had to be in my apparent interest. eat more batteries)
    I cautiously asked what kind of droplet should be thrown in so that the device would be properly destroyed on its economic time within a few weeks.
    I was not allowed to think about that, I was summoned with a red head.
    (I will never find out what it did die from. Am I the only one like that?)

  5. Robbieknor @ work

    There are indeed a lot of “classic” products where sustainability is important: Miele, Mercedes and many others are proud of that. But this article does put its finger on the sore spot.

    If you have to assemble a product that consists of (as an example) 100 parts, you can assume that it will no longer work if one or a few parts no longer work. The best thing is if all other parts are more or less used up, then you don't have to put in extra effort and money from a producer point of view. This works very well for a shaver, for example. Obviously, work is done on this in the design.

    Subsequently, for things that are only fashionable for a short time, technically outdated quickly or are used only a few times, a conscious choice is made for a low price and a short life. My home phone has been there for over 15 years and if it were up to me another 15, but cell phones may be hip for 2 years.

    I think this fashion sensitivity is the weak spot, if people were less sensitive to it, there would be a lot less of these kinds of disposable problems. And despite the many discussions about the throwaway society, it has still not been possible to do anything about it. Not even C2C! 

    1. Haha, if you approach it from the perspective of survival and economical with raw materials, certainly. If you approach it from making a profit, this is a great design principle :)

        1. Yes, that is why permaculture also works with an ethics on which you base your design. Care for the earth, care for people, and share the abundance. And with better design, you can take better care of people while respecting the Earth. And if you look at it within those ethical principles, it is also scandalous. Anyway, the system in which everyone is currently making calculations is making a profit. That is the principle of our current system on which all designs are made. 


        2. It is. Companies have a need for consumption. Money has to keep rolling. The capitalist system in its current form has a distinctly different kind of ethics than permaculture.
          Interesting is this article:
          Money in itself is neither good nor bad. It is about the manner of use. In this case, the way in which the current capitalist economic system is organized and implemented. In my view it is clear that the hunt to make a profit has gone too far. Witness this article. Clearly, companies making these kinds of designs are not concerned with permaculture ethics, but with the short-term thinking of neoliberalism that has gone too far.
          By the way, here's another interesting thinker that I encountered elsewhere during a discussion on this site:

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