Designed to keep : a study in developing customization and added value, through strategic management of product architecture and component modularity in the design of a coffee maker : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Design at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
Environmentalism in design has taken an approach around efficient use, reuse and disposal of materials and energy leading to greener growth. However we are still burdened with an already high and growing (68% increase per day in the last 57 years) volume waste stream that creates problems when trying to employ methods such as recycling and biodegradability. Even with best practices, the sheer quantity far outweighs the capabilities of our infrastructure. "Of the 267.8 million tons of municipal solid waste generated by Americans in 2017, only 94.2 million tons were recycled or composted". "If a recyclable item does not reach the appropriate processing facilities to be recycled it'll be destined for the landfill regardless of its potential to be recycled." This study explores a middle ground to reduce the high waste stream within consumer electronics, by employing intrinsic and emotionally durable design strategies to extend a product's usable life. This is intended to reduce the volume of our waste streams over time, minimizing the environmental impact of unrecoverable embedded energy of manufacturing, transport and other energy costs. This practice-based research explores the opportunity modular product architecture provides in developing: repair and serviceability, encouraging open source and third party component development, extending product life cycles and engendering attachment in the development of a case study coffee machine. Coffee is currently made in a range of brewing processes, each with their own preferences. This results in many users owning multiple and different coffee machines with many similar parts that perform in similar ways. Coffee culture is diverse and is supplied by a large range of consumer electronic products along with more bespoke batch produced coffee machines for particular requirements of niche market segments. Volume produced coffee machines are part of the 13% of household electronics that gets replaced within the first 5 years of life. Research was informed by case study analysis from a range of sectors that employed product strategies and approaches that showcased the use of component sharing, modularity and product repairability to extend the meaningful life of products and engagement with the consumer. A design strategy was established that used at its base a modular product architecture. This enabled a product system to be developed that: provided customization of the system for particular coffee brew processes, accessibility for serviceability and repair, and the provision for third party suppliers to contribute customized components to the system. Four different methods of coffee preparation were developed within an overall system, consisting of a base module of pour over coffee, drip coffee, cold brew, and automatic pour over coffee. A prototyping strategy was employed in the development of the design with a focus on the refinement of individual modular components that made up the product system. An integrated prototype that combined modular components, testing of the logistics and basic functionality of the system was achieved. From this testing, direct links between user experience and the design of individual components within the system were made. The careful management of design specification for components collectively contributed to the overall desired product experience. Further usability testing would be required to validate aspects of product interaction and this would usefully inform the progression of the products design. The product strategy approach employed in this case study coffee machine design, would appear to have further application for other consumer electronic products seeking to extend their usable life and lessen the impact on downstream waste streams.