David Ngene’s .Able Modular Headphone concept took third place in Autodesk, Core77, and iFixit’s “Design for (Your) Product Lifetime” competition. His design took into account the most common failure points of modern headphones (the band, the drivers, and the cords) and addressed them by making the design modular, allowing for upgrades and replacement of faulty parts. This modularity is beginning to be found in many high-end headphones, but by taking it to the next level by using methods like making connections accessible and not mixing materials Ngene’s design significantly increased the lifetime and sustainability of his design.
Beyond modularity, David Ngene used many of the ideas found in our Design for Product Lifetime poster [PDF], such as using materials and finishes that will last and get better with age, and creating a design that can be disassembled using few – or in his case, even no - tools. He also designed for durability by creating an emotional connection through a beautiful and timeless design, as well as using attractive materials and textured surfaces.
The .Able Modular Headphone design focused on what has become a ubiquitous product and managed to create a unique and compelling design. By integrating sustainability and an attractive design David Ngene impressed the judges, and created a product concept that many of them would be happy to own. As judge Kyle Wiens said, “Apple's earbuds may be the most mass produced product of all time, and they fail regularly. This design allows for replacement of individual components as user tastes change as well as repair.”