Electrical waste (e-waste) continues to be a growing problem globally and is estimated to increase by at least 2 million tonnes per year, to reach 120 million tonnes by 2050 if both manufactures and consumers fail to take action.
In July 2021, the UK Government put into force a new ecodesign requirement for electrical products sold in Great Britain. Known as the Right to Repair Regulation, it mirrors EU regulations with the aim to facilitate progress towards a more circular economy. The regulation asserts the responsibility of manufacturers to reduce energy usage and electrical waste, make spare parts and technical information available for professional repairers, and enable consumers to identify the most energy efficient products on the market.
As we approach the 2-years mark since the regulation was enforced, we take a closer look at the role of design as an enabler of more sustainable production and consumption behaviours to benefit both people and planet.
Embracing change for the greater good
Right to repair is without doubt a complex area for consumer brands to navigate. It requires a shift from existing business models, portfolio, design, and manufacturing strategies that are largely built on planned obsolescence, towards models that embrace product longevity, repairability and recyclability.
Before embarking on this journey, brands must first gain a broader understanding of how consumers interact with a product and the instances where that product may become damaged. These insights will inform not just early concepts, but also validate design decisions along the development process.
Observational research techniques such as contextual enquiry are an effective first step to build a clear picture of user’s behaviour with a product in context, enabling brands to pinpoint breakpoints in the user experience where misuse, hacking, or accidents can result in product damage.
Good design that builds on consumer and contextual insights should of course mitigate the risk of accidental damage possible. However, by expanding that understanding to the end-of-life of a product, we can unveil vital insights into how consumers react when their product is broken and what they will do next.
Raising perceived value to create behaviour change
So, how do consumers feel and act when something they own breaks? What range of emotions do they go through – do they feel annoyed, angry, sad? And how do these emotions influence behaviour?
The level of financial, functional, and emotional investment in a product will often determine a consumer’s next action and relates directly to perceived . So, an initial step in design for repair should be to ensure that the consumer considers the product worth repairing in the first place. This can be achieved not only through good functionality, but also through superior usability and well-considered design and materiality – regardless of price point.
Another dimension that is now coming into play for consumers is the sustainability value of a product; to what extent does this product enable me to engage in more sustainable behaviours? As the impact of climate change becomes more immediate and tangible through its direct effect on health and finances, the motivation to change one’s own behaviour becomes stronger. As a result, consumers are demanding that brands help them achieve their own sustainable living goals, no matter how small, through the products they purchase and use.
Creating new value through product relove
It’s worth taking a moment to pause and consider how different cultures think about and approach repairability. Take for instance Kintsugi (meaning “joining with gold”), the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As part of a wider philosophy of embracing the beauty of human flaws, it celebrates breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.
Similarly, Sashiko is a form of decorative reinforcement stitching (or functional embroidery) to reinforce points of wear, or to repair worn areas or tears with patches. Japanese apparel brand UNIQLO offers this service in collaboration with Studio Masachuka in many of its larger stores and through online repair tutorials, as a means of encourage consumers to make creative and sustainable decisions to add to the piece.
These are great examples of how a change to the narrative and fresh perception around a product that is broken or worn can create a new value and sense of relove for consumers; and while the consumer electronics and appliance sectors are vastly different from ceramics and apparel in many ways, brands should explore how they can take these core principles and translate into their own product range as part of a wider sustainability strategy.
Putting repair at the heart of the product experience
While the Right to Repair regulation focuses on the role and responsibility of manufacturers to move to more sustainable behaviours, we are also seeing momentum gather in the home repairer movement through the uptake of a number of websites, online communities and repair events aimed at educating consumers on how to repair everyday products at home. A good example is iFixit, whose global community of fixers and repair-seekers are helping to keep e-waste from entering landfill by extending the life of seemingly broken products.
iFixit offers free visual step-by-step instructions for a whole range of consumer products – from phones and IT, through to games consoles, home appliances and smart home devices; with the option for consumers to purchase precision tools and replacement parts if needed.
Recently, Nokia released its first low-cost smartphone with repairability at its core. Initially set to be sold in select global markets including Europe, the design of the G22 phone allows components to be easily unscrewed and replaced including the battery, screen and charging port. Nokia worked in collaboration with iFixit to offer consumers step-by-step repair guides and affordable parts for the G22, including a screen assembly replacement with all the necessary tools for under £50.
This is certainly a step in the right direction and one that brands need to take notice of. To make positive and lasting change, brands need to look beyond the obvious material and packaging choices when considering sustainable design; going to the heart of the product experience to shift consumption behaviours away from the throwaway culture we have all become so accustomed to.
The role of design in creating more sustainable behaviours
To align and adapt existing business models and product portfolios to design for repair, brands need to adopt a more holistic approach to product development – with research and design for sustainability at its core from the start of the process. To drive more sustainable behaviours, here are some initial design considerations for brands to explore.
Protect and delight
By leveraging a deep understanding of user behaviour through tools such as contextual enquiry and experiencing mapping, brands can integrate clever design features to mitigate accidental damage of a product in the first place. Think back to Apple’s Magsafe power adaptor for their MacBooks, initially introduced in 2006 for the MacBook Air. While this feature provided a quick and easy means to connect the laptop to a power source, it also functioned as a quick release if a user were to accidently pull or trip on the charging wire, preventing the laptop form crashing to the floor and potentially becoming damaged. As a brand, what clever design features can you conceive to overcome some of the accidental moments experienced by users, and make them smile instead?
Changing the narrative
Reimaging product architecture to allow for repair, requires greater focus on the disassembly of the product and modularity of core components. Brands will need to carefully weigh up the trade-offs that come with this approach, notably around the size of devices. Years of technical development have gone into size and weight reduction of many consumer electronics such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops; resulting in some components being glued into place to hit these seemingly desirable targets and thus forgoing the ability to be repaired. A new narrative is required that shifts the focus away from the thinnest or smallest as the most desirable option, to one that put focus on longevity and responsible behaviours. As a brand, what compelling stories can you tell your consumers about how the form of your product is driven by responsible choices?
Looking ahead there are many ways for brands to implement more sustainable solutions, from incremental innovations to revolutionary ones that can bring not only commercial success, but also lead the way for the industry. The key is to take those initial steps in driving sustainable production and consumption behaviours, designing for product-relove rather than end-of-life.
If you would like to know more about how PDD can help you explore design for sustainability, please get in touch.
We are very proud to announce that the Voltcraft VC 891, designed in collaboration with Conrad Electronic, has won the prestigious Red Dot award 2023 in the category of Product Design.
Recognised by the jury for its high standards of functionality and quality, the design delivers precision, reliability and ruggedness in a high-voltage environment and a seamless user experience in a context where safety always comes first.
Determined to develop a category-leading product for building professionals, Conrad Electronic and PDD teamed up to fulfil the growing demand for a safer, more robust, easier-to-handle multimeter.
The VOLTCRAFT VC 891 is a precise, easy-to-operate universal measuring instrument that is especially recommended for safe use in all electrical installations. The device is equipped with a high-resolution display with day and night mode and offers several viewing angles that allow accurate readings in a variety of environments.
The shock-proof rugged housing provides protection during accidental drops and shields the sensitive interface – extending the product life span in real world conditions. Integrated magnets in test leads and housing facilitate quick ‘hands-free’ operation when needed.
Since you are here, you can also take a look at some of the other award-winning projects we have worked on in the Industrial sector.
Evolving shopping habits of consumers has led to the steady rise in e-commerce. Over the last two years, however, as consumers who previously had little or no engagement with online shopping were forced into new behaviours, the adoption of e-commerce accelerated beyond all expectations, with many of those who have embraced online shopping not wishing to turn back.
This has been particularity notable for essential items across food and beverage, homecare, personal care and the beauty sectors, putting a spotlight back on the customer journey and questioning perhaps the traditional role of packaging as a direct means for brands to have the ‘all-important’ shelf presence and communicate their stories to consumers.
The way in which consumers search for items online has evolved too; from visual search commerce to voice command, and Direct to Consumer (D2C) email-enabled commerce. Brands are responding to this shift in consumer behaviour by enabling customers to access their products in multiple ways, with better omnichannel alignment and more joined-up brand experience.
Discoverability in online shopping
Despite the convenience and sheer variety that online shopping offers, consumers are losing the element of discovery – the experience of scouring the shelves for their usual product or brand, only to be enticed by the attractive packaging of another; or being persuaded to try something new through a strategically placed offer. E-commerce sites go some way in recreating an element discoverability, such as the ‘Before you go’ suggestions and even through some of the more unusual product substitutes offered in online supermarkets. However, the repetitious scrolling nature of online shopping means that consumers lose attention quicker than when being faced by a physical wall of products. Shopping is, after all, a three-dimensional, multisensory experience!
This poses an opportunity for e-commerce sites and brands selling direct to consumers to rethink the browsing experience for online shoppers. Could consumers select their ‘shopping mode’ based on their rational or emotional needs, for example: ‘convenience shopping’ (direct and fast) versus ‘browse shopping’ (serendipitous)?
Shifting role of primary packaging
If FMCG brands are potentially competing for customer’s attention through online means rather than on the shelves, is there an opportunity to redefine the role of primary packaging? What if brands in the supermarket no longer needed to consider labelling and size restrictions on packaging due to shelf height, and took a far more stripped-back approach to their primary packaging? What if they were to remove the bold, attention-grabbing colours and graphics they are known for, saving that for their online communication, and redirect their focus on packaging solutions that are minimal, more sustainable, and potentially more cost effective?
Conversely, what if the role of primary packaging for ecommerce was focused solely on protection, distribution, and low environmental impact? What would this mean for the customer experience if they received their McVitie’s biscuits or Fairy Liquid in unembellished packaging in their weekly food delivery? How could brands still retain a visual presence in their customers’ homes? There is certainly an opportunity for brands to explore a refill-offering that is optimised for e-commerce; balancing low-impact primary packaging solutions with branded reusable containers that hold meaning as well as longevity for customers.
Embracing the double unboxing experience
With more and more FMCG products being delivered to consumers doorsteps, premium brands should consider how they could make a lasting impression when selling direct to their consumers, by aligning the unboxing experience of secondary and primary packaging with their overall brand essence. While the functional needs of secondary packaging are paramount – strength, protection, lightweight, material reduction, easily recyclable, frustration-free – the inside of that packaging is valuable brand ‘real estate’, an opportunity to create little ‘wow’ moments for customers.
Customisation through e-commerce spans beyond the product itself and brands should also explore how the e-commerce personalisation experience can expand into physical touchpoints. Imagine a customer ordering their premium skincare products online and opening the brown cardboard postage box to discover a customised graphic or message to them on the inside. Or could brands take inspiration from AI-personalised shopping experiences online, and print bespoke product suggestions and promotions based on a customer’s purchasing and search history on the inside of the secondary packaging, to align physical touchpoints with the digital experience?
Discover, connect, conceive, deliver
So where should brands start? The most effective way to understand consumer behaviour and where it’s heading in the future is to take a ‘Zoom-in, Zoom-out’ approach to product and service development. Before going forward, brands must pause and really understand and analyse their current customer experience journey across various channels and customer touch points. What are the moments of delight for customers? What are the pain points? Crucially, where are the opportunities to align the digital and physical to create a more connected experience?
At PDD, our multidisciplinary team combines Human-Centred Design methodologies (Zoom-in) to gain a deep understanding of consumers, their unmet needs, desires, and challenges; along with Design Insight (Zoom-out), to uncover the broader consumer, market, design, and technology trends. By combining these deep and broad perspectives, we help consumer brands drive innovation from ideation through to product and service development, ensuring all decisions are grounded in real and tangible insights.
If you would like to know more about how we can help you create an even more compelling consumer experience, please get in touch!
OLAV wins German Design Award
The German Design Award honours innovative, pioneering products in international design. OLAV, with a vision to rethink cooking by putting people first and their commitment to develop durable products, is a worthy winner.
When OLAV’s co-founders Christina Neworal and Till von Buttlar first approached PDD with the idea to launch a pan through their e-commerce platform, we saw an opportunity to do things differently. Although launching a new brand in an already saturated market is always a risky endeavor, we thrived at the possibility to reset the standards in cookware through design.
Working closely with the founders PDD helped to transform their vision into a tangible, high-quality product. Through a series of iterations, technical feasibility studies and ergonomic refinements, our team evolved the original design intent into a product that fitted the market and was ready for production. Tapping into PDD’s deep knowledge and extensive network of manufacturing partners, we worked hand-in-hand with OLAV to ensure that the brand’s ethical and environmental standards were reflected through the entire supply chain.
This work is an example of how we can collaborate with founders to turn their vision into tangible, high-quality products that are appealing, profitable, sustainable and durable.
Check out some of our award-winning products in the consumer industry here.
London, 7th of April 2020. The Red Dot jury has made its decision: Severin SPUMA 700 Plus emerged victorious from the Red Dot Award for its good design quality. This means that PDD is one of the winners in the world’s most renowned design competition.
Severin SPUMA 700
Whether enjoyed for its velvety texture or soft aroma, milk foam has become an essential part of savouring coffee. The market leader in the field of induction milk frothers, Severin is constantly developing its core technologies to deliver appliances able to meet the highest requirements.
Severin SPUMA 700 Plus is equipped with 13 different programmes that provide solutions and take dietary and health aspects into considerations. Whether soy, cashew or lactose-free milk, SPUMA 700 Plus delivers optimal froth. Programmes can be selected via the innovative Easy-Select dial with a high contrast OLED display and a smooth 360° LED light ring provides clear feedback for hot or cold operations depending on the programme chosen. Its XXL capacity of 700ml makes it ideal for families and office communities.
Red Dot CEO Professor Dr Peter Zec on the laureates
“The winners of the Red Dot Award have proved that they have created excellent products worthy of winning an award. The products won over the jury not only through their aesthetic, but also thanks to their incomparable functionality. With their designs, the award winners are setting new standards in their industry. I wish to congratulate them most sincerely on their success,” said Professor Dr Peter Zec, founder and CEO of Red Dot.
Detailed evaluation of the products entered
The Red Dot Award: Product Design offers designers and manufacturers from all over the world a platform for assessing their products. In 2020, designers and companies from 60 countries entered more than 6,500 products in the competition. The international jury comprises experienced experts from different disciplines and has been convening for around 65 years in order to select the year’s best designs. The adjudication process lasts several days and is based on two essential criteria: The jurors test all of the entries in order to assess not just the aesthetic but also the materials selected, the level of craftsmanship, the surface structure, ergonomics and functionality. After intensive discussions, they make a decision on the design quality of the products. True to the motto “In search of good design and innovation”, only the best designs receive an award.
Severin SPUMA 700 Plus in exhibitions, online and in the yearbook
On 22 June 2020, Severin SPUMA 700 Plus will be added to the exhibition “Design on Stage” in the Red Dot Design Museum Essen, where all of the award-winning products will be on the show. The museum will thus be a hot spot for best-in-class industrial design. From that date, the winning product from PDD Innovation will also be presented in the online exhibition on the Red Dot website. The Red Dot Design Yearbook 2020/2021 comes out in July 2020.
PDD is a design and innovation consultancy creating physical and digital products and experiences that drive our client businesses and delight their customers and users. We have been winning awards and serving our long-standing clients since 1980.
With studios in London, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and working in 6 continents, our experienced managers and talented researchers, designers and engineers help companies in the Medical & Healthcare, Consumer and Industrial & Commercial sectors to grow their businesses through innovation.
We ensure that product and experience solutions are successful by ensuring they are appealing to customers, are feasible and viable for clients to make and are responsible for given regulation, society and the environment. Such success creates our future- and it’s this sustainable ‘win-all-round’ business model that excites us- we call it ‘Meaningful Innovation’.
About the Red Dot Design Award:
In order to appraise the diversity in the field of design in a professional manner, the Red Dot Design Award breaks down into the three disciplines of Red Dot Award: Product Design, Red Dot Award: Brands & Communication Design and Red Dot Award: Design Concept. With more than 18,000 entries, the Red Dot Award is one of the world’s largest design competitions. In 1955, a jury convened for the first time to assess the best designs of the day. In the 1990s, Red Dot CEO Professor Dr Peter Zec developed the name and brand of the award. Ever since the sought-after distinction “Red Dot” has been the revered international seal of outstanding design quality. The award winners are presented in the yearbooks, museums and online. More information is available at www.red-dot.de.