Designing for one of the 6”R” – or as I learnt it- “obsolescence”

Last week my son came home and asked if I knew of any decent designers who could help him revise for his Product Design exam. After cuffing him around the ear and reminding him that I can still embarrass him in front of his mates, he said I would do. 

So first topic: The 6 ‘R’s of design.

According to my son’s revision guide these are:

Reduce – Use less materials

Rethink - Is there a better way to solve the problem?

Refuse – Get rid of parts that are not good for the environment

Recycle – Make it from recycled materials or enable the product to be easily recycled

Reuse – Give the product another use  

Repair – Make the product easy to fix


In my day the term we had to learn was “obsolescence”.  Designing to make the product’s life longer and more useful. Luckily I could pick out two products we have recently brought to market to provide good examples of “Reuse”.

We’re always looking to give a product that extra something so one day when one of our design team picked up her reading glasses she said “We are all using glasses whilst we work, we get given these cases for free but all they do is sit there empty all day, can they do more?” We looked around our desks. Surrounding our cases were our phones, our Ipads, our pens, I had my wallet and all the pocket shrapnel I usually empty out prior to sitting down to get comfortable for a day’s design. By the end of the day we had a cardboard model which took all this desk clutter and kept it tidy and together. We had a stand for our tech- our phone and tablet- and they hid all the desk mess that we stored behind them. This already added at least 2 more uses to a simple box.

 bob case on desk



With more design work we fine-tuned the case, prototyped it, branded it, protected it and then presented it to both spectacle manufacturers, and with the help of a crowd funding site, the public. BOB: “the case for your glasses and devices” is now in production. This means that BOB, having achieved over 200% funding so far, will be in the hands of backers by end of October. Now when people get new glasses, I believe that they won’t just discard the old case but keep BOB for years to come because he is so useful.  It is proof that the both sides of the market; those that give cases away, and us: the buying public, recognise that even for a humble little product like a glasses case, it could be better. It can do more.



Another product that combines functions, becomes more useful and actually strikes a chord with my son (as he uses it with the all too regular dish of pasta) is a product called the Colandish.  Yes, a dish that acts as a colander. It’s a simple idea; the pasta is ready, the fruit or salad is rinsed and dressed and you can take it straight to the table without fussing about. The Colandish has a silicon base that can be peeled down to act as a stand for use as a colander. When drained, push down and the silicon will flip up, seal the holes and your drained food can then safely be put on the table inside the Colandish. Instead of buying 2 bowls (one dish, one colander), you only need one Colandish.

The Colandish was a far trickier product to get right, and we are delighted to have been the winner of the German Design Award earlier this year. The product is recognised as not only a desirable looking product, but a space saving one, a money saving one, and a product that is enjoyable to use.

Hopefully this explained to my son how ‘Reuse’ can be applied to even the simplest of products. You don’t need to make a Swiss army knife to add function.

Showing my age somewhat but when I was at school product design did not exist as a course. I am very excited that product design focus has shifted from just aesthetics and form, to function and a celebration in the efficiencies in products’ creation and in their use.

Stefan knox

Founder and creative lead at Bang Creations Ltd www.bangcreations.co.uk

BOB can be found at http://kck.st/28Il8Uz  and www.bobcase.co.uk

Colandish lives at www.colandish.com