Product Design

Autodesk Endorses Repair Manifesto, Teaches Repairable Design

Our Self-Repair Manifesto is a declaration of rights for users, but it’s also a set guidelines for designers to make responsible devices. We all should hold companies accountable for making repairable and serviceable devices: we need standard screw heads, snaps and screws rather than glues, and readily available parts. And devices should be manufactured so that when they reach the end of their time in use, their component parts can be recycled. Of course, recyclability and repairability often go hand-in-hand, since a device that can’t be opened is a device that’s likely to be shredded at the end of its life.

Autodesk repairable design guide

So Kyle was thrilled to be involved when Autodesk, the 3D design and engineering software company that serves architects and engineers across the globe, wanted to develop a series of videos for product designers. The videos, much like our Manifesto, suggest ways to design for an improved product lifetime and better end-of-life strategies. Autodesk ultimately made three videos: Design for Repair and Upgrade, Design for Disassembly and Recycling, and Design for Durability. Kyle consulted on the scripts for the first two.

In Design for Repair and Upgrade, Autodesk calls for good instructions, free and open-source diagnostic tools and documentation, labeled and numbered parts, easy access to parts of the device that are most likely to break or fail (e.g. battery, keyboard), modular components, and standardized parts across models or product lines. Sound familiar?

Design for Disassembly and Recycling suggests using friction fits and minimal fasteners, limiting the number of individual components, and avoiding paints or coating on plastic.

Though we didn’t consult on the script for Design for Durability, the video brings up another issue close to my heart — involving users in the care and keeping of their own stuff:

Enlist the wearer of your leather boots by including care instructions and a small tin of oil or shoe polish. Even these subtle cues can help establish care and maintenance as an expected and easy part of ownership. Even better, enroll the driver of your car by designing-in a dashboard light indicating it’s time for an oil change. The more you build maintenance into the user interface, the more you encourage long life and sustainability.

After all, you’d never throw away a shirt because just one button popped off, and clothing manufacturers encourage repair by including extra buttons (and sometimes a little bit of thread) at the point-of-sale. Could cell phone companies include an extra battery with every purchase of a phone? It sounds expensive, but the upfront cost is deceptive. When companies extend the lifetime of their product and involve users in the repair process, they cut down on support and replacement costs.

It’s easy to ask for repairable products, but making them is a lot of work. Creating sustainable, repairable products is challenging, so designers need better tools and training to help. Autodesk deserves major props for getting the ball rolling.

Do you know of any other companies / design programs that teach repairable design? I’d love to write about them. Tip me.