„usus“ is a sustainable modular loudspeaker system. It consists of a home loudspeaker, an amplifier and a Bluetooth speaker with docking station.

The concept has been designed for a circular economy and stands for an extension of the way of designing for the sustainable Economy System.  

Usus was designed in the framework of my bachelor thesis and got nominated for the green concept award 2021.

The theory work was extremely important as I tried to discover not only the relevance of a possible product for a circular economy but also gaps in the design for one. The full reading of some books and the understanding of the different views was decisive for the newly developed design guidelines and for understanding existing design problems.

Collecting own data to understand the actual attitudes towards consumer behavior and the circular economy among non-designers was also a central part of the work. A survey was created that reached 209 participants.

In addition, interviews with experts took place again and again during the research phase. Max Münster from designaffairs and Christian Jurke from NVGTR have been interviewed frequently for example.

At the centre of the design is the modular loudspeaker. The technology of the electrodynamic loudspeaker, used in most of the loudspeakers built today, has been around for over 100 years. The loudspeaker itself has not really changed for more than 20 years.

Due to its modularity, it can be placed in new contexts again and again, as is the case with the system of Usus, and can also function in different sound volumes by means of different levels of activation. The module has a bayonet lock which can be opened easily by pressing in the two points marked on the side, yet not too easily. An air-tight connection is achieved by means of highlights on the inside of the catch which act as springs and press the module against the outside of the respective system. Copper contacts on the inside of the lock provide the connection to the speaker volume. The loudspeaker itself can be disassembled by opening four screws. Worn or broken parts can thus be replaced and repaired. The lifespan of the timeless electronics is maximised.

This thesis has led to the formation of the three new, additional design principles and their orientation towards the market, nature and consumers.

New business models are also needed for a circular economy to function. Usus works in a so-called hybrid business model, which differs from the traditional linear one in that ideally there is no need for final disposal.

As with everything, it is produced for a consumer need. If there is a change in need (aesthetic, functional or financial reasons), the system can be supplemented, reduced or returned, in contrast to a linearly designed product, due to its modular composition. The components are returned to the manufacturer, where they can either be repaired, reconditioned or reused through recycling. All in all, this offers advantages for the producer as he can reuse the parts in circulation again and again and is thus more independent of suppliers. The consumer benefits from the fact that the electronic modules do not lose function or value despite being detached from the system and can therefore be reused or resold.

To ensure that this really happens, the products are equipped with QR codes which make the use of the associated services more accessible and thus more attractive. Once the product has been scanned, the owner can easily access product information, upgrade/downgrade options and use the services. More Transparency is guaranteed at the same time. This describes the design principle “Pioneering work”.

There must be more products that work in a business model designed for the circular economy in order to declare war on the current business models, which are mostly determined by planned obsolescence. In my opinion, it is more important to find new ways to make profitable service-based business models attractive for consumers than anything else. Companies must have reasons to get out of doing „business as casual“, i.e. sticking with the established business models. It is not enough to wait until they are convinced of the trend and see it as a nice PR strategy. 

In addition to the electronic components, the materials used are black anodised aluminium (amplifier shell and loudspeaker module) and a bio-plastic (PEF) (home loudspeaker volume, Bluetooth Box outer body and amplifier inner parts). Both are 100% recyclable and known to the consumer through most city waste management systems.

The disassembly of the individual modules not only ensures that they can be easily separated and recycled, but also that the construction is transparent so that the consumer knows what he is buying. A discussion about sustainability does not even take place. Greenwashing is counteracted. Real transparency is created to give the consumer back the belief that he has made and can make the right purchase decision. 

The reduced design is determined by the function. The modularity allows the system to be easily expanded or even reduced. The individual modules do not lose value as quickly as in a fixed system and can be placed in new contexts or passed on/sold again and again. The wireless inductive charging station on the amplifier and the coupling station of the Bluetooth speaker are intended to provide practical additional benefits. These should positively influence the purchase decision with their aesthetic appearance and pleasant use. All in all, a good alternative to comparable loudspeakers should be created, which describes the additional design principle “no compromise”. The modularity is put into a practical context. The sustainability of usage is no longer the main reason for the consumer's decision to buy a loudspeaker, but a side effect. 

The home speaker has a woofer and a broadband speaker module, also used in the Bluetooth Box.

These are located in two detachable volumes, which are connected by a dovetail joint. The contact and the common connection to the amplifier is made by spring contacts on the contact surfaces.

The dimensions of the volume bodies allow it to fit into each other when disassembled, thus saving space during transport. 

The Bluetooth Box can be connected to the home system via a docking station.

When connected, it is not only charged, but also serves as an additional home loudspeaker, so it does not lose its meaning at home. The user-friendly connection to the docking station is made via a form fit and a magnetic connection.

The outwardly visible, wear-resistant cover can be replaced simply by twisting off the speaker and replacing the parts to extend its use.

The amplifier serves as a control centre for the connected loudspeakers. An induction charging station is located on the top side. This is intended to make the possible control with a mobile phone more comfortable and to serve as an additional benefit.

The various connections are modular and can therefore be adapted to individual requirements. They can be removed and replaced by pushing a button.

If you remove the lower standard module equipped with the power connection, the amplifier can be taken apart and recycled or repaired more easily. The knob is in a special size, colour and position to prevent accidental use.

During design and ergonomics studies are created foam models.

During the different studies a final foam model was created which is painted white and serves as a scale model.

To show the simplicity as well as feasibility, a functional model of the upper home speaker including a speaker module has been created aswell.

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