Let’s Make
Good Stuff

An inquiry into how we make the things we live with, and how we can begin to make them better.

A Brief Introduction

This exploration into the things that we use and come across in our everyday lives was sparked by a desire to understand the ‘junk’ that has become the norm.  How can something from 70 years ago be so disparate from its equivalent today, when they are supposedly designed to perform the same function?

The current condition seems to be that the majority of consumer goods are not built to last, and even when we try to maintain them we run into the hard truth that they weren’t designed to be maintained, in fact quite the opposite. The hope of this thesis work is to begin to better understand the way modern material culture operates, and how we can wrestle with it to make good stuff rather than junk.

Part 01: Taking Things Apart

Taking something apart is usually reserved for repair of broken items.  However, it is more than just the initial requirement for beginning to fix something; it provides an opportunity to learn how that thing was made, and what made it. When we pull away the user-friendly shell we begin to see the inner workings of the thing, and can see all of the injection molding, machining, casting and wire-traces that were never meant to be part of the actual experience of the item.

Unfortunately, much of what is made today is really not designed to come apart easily, at least not by the end user who purchases the product.  The products that are made to be repairable tend to be purposely complicated or given an increased barrier to entry, utilizing adhesives, security screws, and other assembly methods that require specific expertise or niche tools to work with.  This is part of why trying to fix the cracked screen on your smartphone poses such a challenge, often causing more damage in the process when attempted at home without previous experience (ask me how I know).  So increased specialization of designs and components have begun to make the barrier to entry to this kind of repair work too high for most people to want to engage with, as they are not willing to risk more permanently breaking something in the process of learning how to fix it.
By taking things apart we get to learn about the processes and materials that actually make the things around us work.  By repeating these studies on many items we begin to learn about the design decisions made by manufacturers, and how they have changed over time.  As consumers, gaining some understanding of what goes on inside of a product allows us to make informed decisions on what we should purchase, watching teardowns to determine if the real, internal qualities of a product actually justify its price and its purchase as a material investment.  As makers and fixers, it teaches us where to look for the weak points, what simple components can be replaced, hacked, or worked around to free up items that were designed to have shortened useable lifespans.  And as designers, we can learn the positive and negative practices that our field has navigated over time, and choose to make better things.

Part 02: Making Your Own Tools

Part 03: Building Better Stuff