One of my late architecture professors, Gordon Hashimoto, often said:
it is inherent in all things that they will deteriorate
I can’t argue against Gordon’s statement, but my philosophy is to try to make things last as long as possible. I do this by investing in high quality products that are durable and have the capacity for maintenance. I also spend a great deal of effort trying to fix broken objects. I’m pretty good at it too. To Gordon’s point, there is inevitably the moment when I realize something is beyond repair. I had to declare the death of four possessions this month: my coffee maker (repaired four times in 12 years); my printer (repaired three times in 7 years); my smartphone (repaired twice in four years); and my garage door motor (repaired three times in 6 years – but I think it was about 15 years old). Luckily, I’ve I added six months to my favorite trousers (which are now dedicated for the workshop).
It pained me to discard these deceased possessions (okay - I kept the smartphone for music since I only have 4 others for the same purpose). But here is the “but”: I was literally shocked by the improvements in the updated objects. My new printer works exceedingly faster and crisper, my new coffee pot brews (and pours) much better, my new garage door motor is much smoother and quieter, my new phone smartphones much better (hey, new verb).
This recent refresh of products reminded me that if humans never upgraded, we’d still be using inferior systems like the pony express. However, I still don’t subscribe to the idea that newer is always better. I feel that it’s important to strive for improvement, but products shouldn’t be designed to fail in two years. I know lots of folks want something new every two years, but I’m thrilled if I can get many years out of something (for example, my childhood truck is so well made that it has lasted almost 40 years).
So how does this philosophy play out in our products? We don’t claim that our merchandise will last forever; in fact our warranty just covers the first year, but we design products to survive the household. Our products are meant to take hits, resist paint, and sustain spills from little kids (and sometimes adults). We build our products to look good and last as long as they are taken care of. In other words, there is no planned obsolescence in our products. They are designed to be an investment – a part of your household which may outlast your house.