Planned obsolescence

By Martin Kelen | Industrial Design | 10 May 2021


 I was diggin' in my ancient toy chest with my boy, who is 4, a couple of days back, and I have found with a blend of nostalgy and astonishment, my Transformer's  F1 racing car made by Hasbro in a perfect state of conservation, obviously with spots of painting lost, some scratches and missing decals, evidence of a hard use, but the robot is as it was when my father gave it to me, more than 30 years ago


"Be frightened with the power of the Decepticons, you brittle human"

While my kid played with it, I stared at him and thought

"How does it manage to survive so many years?" or better "Why nowadays toys last so lesser?"


Meet the term: Planned Obsolescence


 At first glance, it could sound like the tittle of an antisystem conspiracy site. But the truth is that it really exist. Basically it's about a tool between the manufacture and the marketing dept. and consist in design a product for lasting shorter.

It could be by poor materials, or by the design itself. eg. a hinge made thinner for being tear more easily

Also it could be psychological, when a new model is released and no one wants the older 


In sports games, year after year new releases are made with very low significant changes, but they are on top of sales


Everything is not so mean


 In fact, it was a helpful way to avoid the bankruptcy of many industries. This is a tricky manner to motor the economy, making more jobs, more shops and more smiles. Industrial designers (like me, cheers!) are more required. Transportation is needed. New and improved buildings for manufacture and warehouse, and more money transit in general 

There is an Argentinian famous and rich shoemaker called Ricky Sarkany, Who once said:

"Men buy a pair or two of shoes, and use them for work, partys, funerals, etc and these last all life long... Women buy a shoe if they feel happy, but also if they feel sad, if they feel pleasant, but also if they feel nervous, if they are blissful or angry also. If they have an important event, or simply if they liked them"

That shows products not lay only on needs, they are involved on feelings


The dark side


The flood of nonstop realasing of products carry serious affairs in the ecological scenario. Mountains of garbage are generated in an increasing rhythm, and the recycling policies are not enough yet.

Mainly, the personal harm occur when your smartphone is not suitable for a new app or cannot upgrade to a newer software version because it's obsolete... or you can't fix your washer because the spares are not for sale anymore. Some situations push us to the despicable cycle of the planned obsolescence. You obviously could reject it, buy avoiding it also have a cost


Obsolescence in the daily life


 One thing I found disturbing in our present, is how things are becoming ephemeral in our life style. Specially on social media. You pobably have used WhatsApp and found lots of your contacts posting "States" Nothing but a photo or phrase wich dissapear on 24hs. We are habituating for everything lasting each time less


How the planned obsolescence have affected to you? Share with me your experience

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Martin Kelen
Martin Kelen

Well... Human at first, Industrial Designer graduated in UBA, Argentina I think come second. Comic drawer as an abandoned hobby, lover for making stuff of any type... and a procastinator who try to self fight. Husband, Father, High hopes

Industrial Design
Industrial Design

The charming of shapes, the intelligence making the functionallity and beauty working togheter. There are not just products, there are feelings

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