Buy right, buy once. The Great Recovery at the RSA

I love my stuff, but not at the detriment to the world we inhabit. I’ve always tried to make sensible decisions buying only products that I think will have a long life and could even be passed on to someone else after I have no further use of it. It sounds like an ideal situation but it really shouldn’t be.

My sofa came via eBay and given a new lease of life so that it could move with me from house to house; my clothes last an uncomfortably long amount of time; I still have my thread-bare wallet which I bought around 12 years ago which I would keep for longer if the makers would help me find replacement parts.

(Rare demountable chair, model no. CB22, 1947)

But I don’t always make great decisions like these, particularly when I get sucked in by clever companies who make me part with my money for something I really, really want. But, like any addict, the effect wears off and I need another hit of stuff. Feeling unsatisfied with my purchase, I aim to make a better decision next time but I won’t kid myself that this always happens.


Thankfully the RSA (The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) is connecting some dots that are long overdue to connect – the entire supply chain including designers, policy writers, chemists, landfill managers, advertising agencies and so on.

They tell us that “our current linear model of ‘take-make-dispose’ is throwing up major economic and environmental challenges. Risk to our supply chain is increasing, and the cost of materials is rising sharply, putting pressure on businesses to change. We need to shift towards more circular systems and good design thinking is pivotal to this transition.”

This circular idea is important and given that I’ve just spent a day wandering the stands at New Designers looking for the next best designers, it was in my mind that these designers need to always be considering how they can contribute to the world rather than just narcissistically create new ‘stuff’.

But at the same time, the designer is not the only part of the issue… we need to all share this responsibility and help designers to make better decisions who will then work with a manufacturer that needs to continue this thinking.

© Todd Mclellan

I love the film above for the part about how taking apart a television can take twelve screwdrivers so that they can get inside and remove parts. They want to bring designers to landfill sites in order to show them how this can change. That is a very simple idea and I understand there is far more to change here, but that simple issue is an example detail that opened my eyes as to how disconnected the process has become.

“Designers need to consider the system as a whole rather than focus on individual components or products. To do this true co-creation is crucial from those involved in these life-cycles”


The Great Recovery is building new networks to explore the issues, investigate innovation gaps and incubate new partnerships. For further information visit the Great Recovery website and sign up to the mailing list and workshops:


Having worked in design for the past decade, Daniel started as a discussion of timeless, modernist product design. Trained as a graphic designer, he also has an avid interest in typography. You can follow him on Twitter @ateliertally.

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