Lifecycle and Flows: Better By Measure

Faculty: Jennifer van der Meer and Rebecca Silver



COURSE Description

The hidden forces behind how consumer objects are made will be the focus of this course. Systems thinking, lifecycle analysis and Stakeholder Management Theory will be used as frameworks for understanding the industrial process. We will also examine the ecological, social and financial impact of a consumer product across the full product lifecycle. Critical analysis, business logic, design research and object-making consciousness will be addressed. Course work follows the product manufacturing cycle from ideation to final end-of-life. Students will document the lifecycle of a product and develop an alternate design scenario that radically improves it.


Course objectives

This course will help students understand the inputs, outputs, flows, and consequences of the material world. The coursework will follow the product manufacturing cycle from ideation to final end of life. The first quarter of the semester will focus on the business drivers that create the conditions for the full continuum of new product innovation-from high-touch design-led ideation processes down to lower-cost high turnover copycat methods of manufacturing. During the second quarter students will trace objects down to their origins, starting with mining and extraction through component manufacturing, final assembly, and shipping. The third quarter of the course will focus on branding, marketing, and sales, understanding the cues that motivate purchase intention for consumer products. During the final quarter of the course, students will understand the use phase of a consumer product, the process for recycling the product or sub-components of the product, and final disposition. Students will be required to fully document the lifecycle of a product, and develop an alternate design scenario that radically improves the product, based on ecological, social, and financial impact measures. 


Class experience

This is a lecture class. Students participate in group discussions, but develop individual design solutions and final presentations. Lectures, field trips, and guests comprise the first half of in-class sessions, with discussion, debate, and project reports during the remainder of the class. Potential partners for this class are, Sustainable Minds, and Good Guide.


course deliverables

Students in this course will come away with a set of tools to:

  • Conduct thorough, original design research
  • Engage with manufacturers and suppliers directly through discussions and fact-finding missions
  • Conduct a lifecycle analysis
  • Develop and deliver a convincing argument for redesign
  • Design for preferable outcomes