Life After ‘Peak Stuff’

Designers beware the tsunami of “peak stuff”…

Proceed with “design as usual” at your own peril…

A piece in today’s Financial Times provides the latest in the growing series of warnings from many business sectors regarding an important new reality. In developed economies we are moving into a new way of life, which among designers is often referred to as “peak stuff”. People simply have too many artefacts in their lives, each requiring attention and care. And the waste associated with the disposal of unwanted artefacts is beginning to cause unease for many. The benefits of “more stuff” are being outweighed by the “costs”, both economic and emotional. Comfort has been achieved, and the new frontiers of design appear to be those of experience and meaning.

The Financial Times piece cites Steve Howard, who is the head of sustainability at Ikea, who stated that the west may have reached “peak stuff”, a situation which he also described as “peak home furnishings” and “peak curtains”.

Ikea’s 2015 sustainability report indicates that the company has started asking itself questions about the drawbacks of its products. “In a world of limited resources, how can Ikea create a positive impact on the planet while selling low-cost products that customers can easily discard and replace?”

Part of Ikea’s current response is to create a “circular Ikea” in which products last as long as possible and are designed for easy upcycling and recycling. Its Belgian stores have even begun running workshops on repairing damaged products in a bid to encourage customers not to see old furniture as “disposable and replaceable”.