Perspectives on greener product development and manufacturing from Sustainable Minds, our partners, customers and contributors.

If I was King I’d make the world out of Lego®.

By Lorne Craig on October 4, 2008

OK, this is going to rile a lot of young, over-imaginative product designers out there, but when elected Supreme Monarch of the World, (or when my Loyal Armies seize power in a dramatic yet bloodless coup) I’m putting the entire LEGO® staff in charge of the newly created Ministry of World Product Redesign.

No other product is as modular, flexible or backward-compatible as LEGO®. My kid can take the newest, flashiest, most market-hyped construction set and mash it up with bricks that have been stepped on in our family since 1973.

Picture this kind of retro-modularity in the real world. Got a torn office chair? No need to chuck the whole thing in the alley and buy a new one. Just pop the seat off and replace it. Want to mount your flat screen on the wall? Forget those clumsy mounting brackets and pathetic drywall screws. Just pick a spot and push it on. Heck, if a Russ Meyer marathon starts, pluck it off and remount it on the bedroom ceiling for the night.

But that’s really just the beginning. Once my Grateful Subjects discover the efficiency of easy product upgrades and repairs, a world of innovation awaits. Just as my son will take parts of Harry Potter™’s LEGO® castle and jam them together with components from a Rescue Hovercraft to make a Magical Flying Zamboni Submarine, so will the denizens of my New World Order wake up to the possibility of designing their own products for life.

Want to work on your laptop while paddling your canoe? Click. Want a briefcase hair dryer? Click. Want the ultimate outdoor concert viewing experience? Lawn chair, step ladder, beer cooler. Click, click, click.

To be sure, perspective, designers and manufacturers have already embraced modularity, when it suits the individual corporate bottom line. But proprietary design and planned obsolescence still feather way too many nests. Will it take a ruthless but benevolent dictator to enforce a LEGO®-like standard that also enhances consumer choice and sustainability?

Image credit: Lorne Craig