Reproduct design is about affordability vs accessibility. The reason being is that affordability only matters if you have money. I watched a video on Kickstarter this morning showing a new kind of virtual reality device. The Avegant Glyph is a product aimed at bringing more life like and mobile virtual reality to the market. Everything from video games to movies and music can be played through this thing and I have to admit that it uses some pretty cool technology. But this post is not about the device its self, it’s about something that is mentioned far to often for me to ignore when viewing product promos. The Glyph’s promo video mentions the product is, “affordable to everyone”. This phrase is tossed around these days as if it really is “affordable to everyone” and as if it’s the most important aspect of a product.

The Glyph is priced at $500 for a beta version of the hardware. Affordable to most who are in this market already? Yes, but to everyone? Lets look at some wage earning stats for insight. Below is a list of 5 countries and their minimum wage also shown with the exchange rate to US dollars as the Avegant Glyph is advertised in.

  • Bangladesh | $0.09/hour | $220/year
  • Tanzania | $0.13/hour | $303/year
  • Uzbekistan | $0.28/hour | $581/year
  • Vietnam | $0.30/hour | $614/year
  • India | $0.28/hour | $689/year |52 hours per week

After the Glyph is used for 5 years and thrown away, it will end up in the hands of someone who picks it up out of the trash pile. They can’t use it as a virtual reality device but I bet they would use it for something else if they could. Simply put, this device is not affordable for everyone, but it is accessible.

I started thinking about how you actually make a product affordable to everyone, and in doing so decided to elaborate on a relatively new, currently trendy way to design products. I’m all for giving third world countries devices like the Lifesaver Bottle and I think innovations like this are really important to continue with. However these products still cost someone money and I see another opportunity in product design. I’m calling it “reproduct design”.

In order to make anything actually affordable to everyone, it has to be made from something that everyone already has such as garbage.

Lighting a billion lives using a plastic bottle! from Vineet Venugopal on Vimeo.

Reproduct design is not a brand or company. It’s a methodology to design new devices with old or used devices, such as water bottles. Reproduct design also includes how the original product is manufactured. Say we know these water bottles are headed to some third world country or may eventually end up there. Why not redesign the water bottle to make a better light? Why not include filters or sanitary products inside of computer parts that will eventually be broken down after being shipped to some remote village in China? Those filters aren’t affordable in these countries, but now they become accessible.

We know that garbage is an inevitable side effect of product design and the consumer economy.  But I think a discipline like reproduct design could make that garbage more useful and less wasteful. The Glyph is not affordable to everyone and eventually, it will land in the situations mentioned above. Making a product affordable to everyone isn’t a realistic goal. Making it accessible is far more challenging but much more effective and meaningful. Reproduct design is about accessibility not affordability.