DO-FIX: CREATING DEEPER RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN USERS AND PRODUCTS THROUGH VISIBLE REPAIR
This PhD by practice explores the possibilities of visible repair using a design-led methodology that aims to bring a new consciousness to the relationship between consumers and products, as part of an approach to ‘circular’ product design. Through a series of workshops in which participants repaired broken products, Do-Fix repair kits were developed and trialled; these kits combine new technologies such as 3D printing with traditional repair methods such as kintsugi, darning and patching, focused on making repairs both visible and engaging to carry out.
Current economic systems depend on large quantities of resource and energy use that cannot be sustained with the planet’s finite resources. Producing long-lasting, purposeful and ‘circular’ products is essential in order to decrease the rate of consumption and its negative environmental impacts. Repair is an effective strategy for extending product lifespan and closing the material loops. However, increasing the product’s lifespan is also dependent upon the attitudes and behaviour of users. Therefore, the aim of this research is to explore the role of repair in user-product engagement and create a product or service that encourages people to repair products more for the purpose of awakening human sensitivity to environmental and societal problems. Conventional repair methods, such as kintsugi (a Japanese repair method using gold), darning and patching are combined with new technologies and materials, including 3D printing, with the help of ‘research through design’ methods. All the repair techniques were tested in workshops with users. The results were fed back into the research, which was then used to develop Do-Fix repair kits, providing users with the opportunity to give a second life to an object. Here the aim is not to disguise the damage, but to make something artful out of it. The Do-Fix repair kits include four different kits, namely (1) the kintsugi kit, (2) 3D-printed patches, (3) plaster patches for mending textiles, and (4) textile patches for fixing shoes and bags. The value of this research for design practice is in its exploration of potential methods and materials of product repair by providing concrete examples, as well as the creation of the Do-Fix repair kits. For academics and researchers, its value lies in reframing the position of repair in the circular economy and developing design considerations related to product repair.