Design against planned obsolescence

Design against planned obsolescence

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Carpenter-cabinetmaker ascendant craftsman-designer, Guillaume Bouvet gave life to the AZ Desk, a 4 in 1 children's desk. The objective? Seek to develop the furniture with the child without making it obsolete over time. A good way to twist the neck to planned obsolescence, this technique of distributors aiming to voluntarily reduce the lifespan of a product to encourage the consumer to buy more, an offense punishable by prison since July 2015. Meeting with this entrepreneur of a new kind.

Where did you discover the concept of planned obsolescence?

It's through the book Cradle to Cradle (from architect Mc Donough and chemist Braungart, literally From cradle to cradle , editor's note), a referent in product design, that I discovered this concept. I also recommend it to everyone because it sums up this concept wonderfully.

How to counter it?

You have to think, from the design of the product, following its existence, what will become of it when it is no longer useful? How to make it last over time and give it another life, or even biodegrade it? Ultimately, the goal is to succeed in offering a closed life cycle to the product, so that it never dies, or, if it dies, that it serves someone else or nature.

An evolving piece of furniture capable of supporting the child throughout its growth (from A to Z), your AZ Desk thus makes it possible to counter planned obsolescence. How did the idea of ​​this beautiful project germinate in your mind?

In 2010, I was advised to use my experience as a cabinetmaker to carry out my diploma project. Following this advice, I looked at growth markets. Everything that was evolutionary worked very well, so I thought of going in this direction. Then, visiting my parents, I found my old wooden toy chest, which had not moved and which reminded me of a lot of memories. I felt a real emotion. I then realized that today children no longer have an object of sentimental value like that, like the school desk of our parents. And that's how I wanted to recreate a product that makes sense to the user over a long period of time. A product that can grow with it and be customized through use.

What was the creative process like?

Once I had the idea, I had to bring it to life and meet the needs of a market. Suddenly, seeing that the progressive beds worked well, I went on different projects, including the office, without knowing that I was going to do something else with it. Then, it's a design creation process, that is to say that we work with three different themes, here the fun, functional and evolving side. And for each idea, I draw sketches of what already exists, of what I would have wanted as a child. Then I try to put all of these sketches together to make it a viable product. And, after a series of compromises and prototypes, was born the AZ Desk. At first, it was completely green, 100% raw wood, it lacked the marketing appeal, the high-end finish, in short the cachet. And even if designers are often afraid of the marketing side which can distort a product, it is still necessary to use it to make it marketable. Today, the AZ Desk is an office that follows the child from his 4 years to his adult size and which can become an extra office or serve the little brothers and sisters and, thus, stay in the family as an inheritance. As a product designer, you can only be attached to the object, you create nostalgia, emotions, that's what excites me.

Where and how is it made?

Entirely made in France, from cutting to packaging, including manufacturing and assembly, the AZ Desk is manufactured near Lyon. Regarding the raw material, birch - the most timeless wood and the one that contrasted best with the black color of slate - it comes from Latvia, because it is there that it is the most upscale. Once delivered in France, I store it, then by digital order, I try to produce it in sets of thirty, since it is overpriced if it had to be produced individually. I would love to cut costs even more but being on my own, unfortunately I can't.

Besides an evolving and eco-responsible piece of furniture, what other objects or means do you think of to counter planned obsolescence?

I swarm with ideas but as an artisan-designer, I also devote a good part of my time to tailor-made for individuals. On the other hand, the AZ Desk already represents a huge investment, I lack the time and money to retry the adventure of self-publishing.

Finally, what are your plans for the coming year?

Very good question ! I do not know yet, I will continue to work on these two activity lines, which are pleasant, at least this year, and I will have to make a decision within a year and a half, two years. AZ Desk by Guillaume Bouvet, 1,275 euros, more info on www.guillaumebouvet.com


  1. Pandareos

    This admirable thought has to be purposely

  2. Britomartus

    Well said.

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