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Designer And Society

The designer and society

6.2.1 Discuss moral and social responsibilities of designers in relation to green design issues.

Consider issues relating to waste, pollution, resources, market forces and wealth creation.

Designers, influencing the makers, have a moral obligation to make sure that little or no harm comes from the products they design. This is shown in many aspects of the final product including waste, pollution, resources, market forces, and wealth creation.

Moral and social responsibilities of designers

  • need to be mindful of the damage the design/product may have on the environment/sustainability
  • reduce the effect on the environment through production of waste and pollution and minimising resource consumption
  • while balancing a need of the market forces
  • while ensuring wealth creation

Waste must be kept to a minimum with designs, an example of this would be PVC being used less and less as it creates large amounts of waste in all parts of its life cycle, from extracting the raw material up to disposal. At every stage, the earth is poisoned more. That is why designers are using less and less PVC in their products. Pipes for example are being made with Polyethylene instead in many cases although PVC pipe is still a commonly used word.

Market forces refers to the well known law of supply and demand, designers need an understanding of what is in demand and what is not when they design a new product. If, for example, there is a demand for fuel efficient cars, it would not be helpful to design a large gas guzzling car.

Another reason for design is making a profit, also known as wealth creation. This goes hand in hand with the previous issue since in order to make money, one has to either fulfil a demand, or create then fulfil a demand. Although the least noble sounding reason for a design, it is a fact that everyone needs money to survive, designers are no exception.

6.2.2 Define planned obsolescence.

Planned obsolescence
A conscious act either to ensure a continuing market or to ensure that safety factors and new technologies can be incorporated into later versions of the product.

Planned obsolescence in the United Kingdom “is the process of a product becoming obsolete and/or non-functional after a certain period or amount of use in a way that is planned or designed by the manufacturer”. Planned obsolescence can benefit the producer because the product falls and the consumer is under pressure to purchase again. The competitor can also depend on planned obsolescence. The concept is to hide the true cost per use from the consumer and increase the price that they are willing to pay. The types of planned obsolescence are technical, material, performance & style obsolescence.

Reference: (‘’)

6.2.3 Outline how planned obsolescence influences the design specification of a product.

Consider materials and construction, durability and ease of maintenance.

In order to render the product obsolete, the designer will adapt the design specifications.


  • low quality
  • Cheap
  • possibly recyclable in order to save production costs for the company
  • Not so durable


  • Easy to construct
  • Low cost
  • Fast and efficient to manufacture so to save costs and simplify the construction
  • Constructed in a way so it becomes easily disposable


  • Will not really be an issue for the manufacturer because the product involved is not supposed to last very long.
  • Short life span

Ease of maintenance:

  • Not a major concern for the designer
  • Will probably not be very maintainable since the goal for the product is not to last for very long.

Note: The timeline of the product can be shortened or lengthened depending on the selection of materials and production techniques. Whether the product can or can not be repaired will also have a major issue on the product lifespan.

6.2.4 Describe the advantages and disadvantages of planned obsolescence to the designer, manufacturer and consumer.

Refer to consumer choice, value, R&D and product life cycle.


  • generates long-term sale
  • increases demand
  • increases demand for longer-lasting and more expensive products
  • creates jobs
  • promotes new innovations


  • Creates waste
  • helps the competitors
  • exploits customers
  • Uses resources for unnecessary changes
  • doesn't promote new products to be manufactures sooner

6.2.5 Define fashion.

A style or trend.
  • Trend: in vogue, style, craze, all the rage, fad, flavour of the month
  • Style: the popular taste at a given time or the way in which something is said, done, expressed, or performed.

6.2.6 Compare the influence of fashion and planned obsolescence on the product cycle.

Planned obsolescence has a definite time-scale; fashion is less predictable. Both may be present. For example, a certain colour may be fashionable for a car but this does not affect materials or technological obsolescence.

Look at the flipbook on the Daily Green

Influence on product cycle

  • Planned obsolescence is usually a set time period (ie after R&D is completed)
  • There fore is predictable
  • Fashion is influenced by what the current rage or fad is ...
  • So is less predictable
  • If a fashion passes it does not mean that technical or material obsolescence will occur
  • The reverse could be said about technical or material obsolescence affect on fashion
  • cars have a strict yearly schedule of new models and often there may be little technical obsolescence

6.2.7 Evaluate the influence of fashion and planned obsolescence in relation to the quality and value of a product.

Consider whether “designer” products are better quality than cheaper brands of the same product, and also question the values of a “throw-away society”.

Throw-away society: is a culture that places a high value on consumerism where there is a tendency for over-consumption of resources & commodities, unwarranted design & manufacture of one-use products that are thrown away. Fashion is a factor ... when a trend passes the artefact is rendered useless and thrown away.

6.2.8 Explain how aesthetic considerations affect the design of products.

Refer to shape and form, texture and colour.

6.2.9 Discuss the conflict that a designer faces when attempting to balance form with function in the design of products.

Examples should be used, for example, a car or domestic products.
  • Form relates to the aesthetics of a product
  • Function relates to performance of a product
  • The designer has top decide which is the most important
  • Attempts to balance it maybe with a leaning towards one or the other
A Balance of both


Bulleted list and italicised paragraphs are excerpted from Design Technology: guide. Cardiff Wales, UK: International Baccalaureate Organization, 2007.

Images are clickable links to its location.

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Page last modified on April 03, 2012, at 02:35 AM