Thoughts from a talk part 1: Closure Experiences

I couldn’t make it to the ustwoTALKIES Designing for Sustainability event recently, but luckily they’ve shared the audio, and I recommend that everyone listens to Joe Macleod’s talk on Closure Experiences (a term that Joe coined, and which I’ve been following with interest for some time now). Click here to jump straight to Joe’s talk at 22m 40sec or skip to it below by clicking in the first little dip of silence, which looks like this:

There’s so much in this talk that feels relevant for all designers to hear and consider. Perhaps nothing entirely new – for those that are ecologically inclined – but the closure experience angle that Joe presents, sheds an incredibly important and helpful perspective, on the increasingly trite area of commercial sustainability and environmentalism.

To begin, Joe introduces the idea of closure experiences, and shares his succinct definition:

The satisfactory conclusion to a product or service relationship. Each party feeling satisfied with the completed transaction; it being a fair, just conclusion without negative consequence.

He then simplifies this idea within the current consumer journey of ‘on-boarding, usage, off-boarding’, and points out how emotionless the last part of this tends to be. We all have old phones left in drawers, old laptops on shelves, and we all know of services that we’ve left, that keep trying to drag us back in (Virgin Media for example, who I’ve witnessed, giving a wonderfully considered on-boarding, followed by an awful user experience and off-boarding, followed then again, by new and inescapable on-boarding material and junk mail).

To contextualise, the talk goes back in time, on an impressively visceral and original view of the origins of off-boarding, specifically death, the plague and the Catholic religion! From here, Joe weaves in the Protestant Uprising, Martin Luther’s dislike of indulgences, abstinence and fasting, the change in relationship between the church and professionalism, and finally the advent of industrialism, commercialism, science and medicine, all which help push the messiness of off-boarding into peripheral or invisible territory, ushering in ‘the quickening of the consumer lifecycle.’

Think how we no longer see food waste from our tables going on to feed our animals, which in turn, feed our land. Or how we hide the sick and dying in hospitals and hospices. Or how we no longer ware out our clothes before disposal, and opt instead for progressive obsolescence, replacing perfectly functional items for new ones, simply because we can, and want to.

I’m scratching the surface of the talk here, and as much for myself to indulge in thinking more about it, than for anyone reading this, so before I go on with my views and risk discouraging that you listen yourself, do go now, and listen for yourself.

Also if you do, then check back for ‘Thoughts from a talk part 2…’ as there’s another angle to the talks from this event that has got me thinking.