Skin deep. Perceptions of human and material ageing and opportunities for design

In Western society there is an obsession, fuelled by pervasive advertising, with hiding the effects of ageing and maintaining skin that exudes ‘youthful perfection’. Rapid unsustainable purchasing and disposal of mass-produced objects is, in part, driven by ‘cosmetic obsolescence’ - changes to the pristine material surface which are perceived as damage and degradation. We consider the parallels between these attitudes to changes in material surfaces and human ageing, and propose that actively considering future material change in product design could increase product longevity with both environmental and social benefits.