Content type: Student Projects and Online Exhibition
Credits: Malin Dittmann, Arno Eiselt, Iris Hagel, Erco Lai, Lucie Ponard, Job Oort and Nicolas Vischi (first year students, MA Industrial Design, KABK at the time of writing). Supported by tutors Jesse Howard (designer) and Joanna van der Zanden (curator and author of the Repair Manifesto)
Year: 2020

The first tenet of the Repair Manifesto is ‘Make your products live longer!’ This seems simple in theory, but it is less so in practice. In a world where disposability has become the norm and new products are so easily available (and less expensive than the price of repairing the ones you own), how can consumers be persuaded to resist the lure of the new? How can designers design longevity into products? And what if manufacturers have another agenda?

The first-year MA students in Industrial Design spent a semester working with the theme of repair. They wanted to know how the culture around object ownership might be changed. They wondered if there is potential for taking existing broken or discarded objects and designing new lives for them. How do we inspire people to want the unwanted?

The students' projects were presented in an online exhibition, Want the Unwanted, and are republished here under three category headings that represent some of the strategic approaches to the design of product longevity: REPAIR, REUSE and EMOTIONAL DURABILITY.

Hover over the images to see the questions that underpinned each designer's research. Click on the images to see a more detailed description of the projects in a slideshow.


The strategy of repair is built on the belief that when something breaks it should be fixed instead of replaced. Designers and companies can build repair into products by making spare parts available to purchase and simple to replace. However, many companies make repair unfeasible by having parts that are glued together, non-replaceable or hidden, forcing consumers to repurchase rather than repair.


In 2020, we reached a historic tipping point: human-made materials (such as plastic and concrete) now outweigh the earth's entire biomass (natural materials). The amount of plastic alone is greater in mass than all land animals and marine creatures combined. Given the huge abundance of man-made materials that have already been created, why do we need to manufacture more? The question, instead, should be: how can we use them again?

The strategy of re-use looks at the potential for taking unwanted, old, broken or discarded products and mining them for new potential. This could relate to their material properties, their ability to tell stories or their possibility of being reconfigured into different, functioning products.


Why do we throw away belongings that still function? Are we bored with them? Has something better and faster come along?

Designing for emotional durability is a strategy that posits that the more we can connect emotionally to a product, the less likely we will be to discard it.

Jonathan Chapman, the author of Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences and Empathy summarises the need to embrace this design strategy. He writes, ‘It's actually very easy to design and manufacture a toaster that will last 20 years; that can be done. What's not so easy is to design and manufacture a toaster that someone will want to keep for 20 years, because as people... we haven't been trained to do that.’