Did the title intrigue you? If you are here, reading this sentence, it must have and thus my plan has worked. Unfortunately, I cannot take credit for the dramatic wording as this was the description given my Victor Papanek in the preface of his book Design for the Real World. The book is incredibly raw and almost makes me as a designer, or more so an industrial designer, feel incredibly uncomfortable. The honest fact that many of my designer kind create new issues rather than resolve existing ones, drain the very few resources we have left and use questionable morals and ethics to create our glorious products begs the question: just how dangerous are we?
Although Papanek gives an, seemingly, never-ending list of dysphoria we in mankind have created for ourselves, he also places a lot of hope in the responsible designers of the future. He argues that:
'Design for the people's needs rather than their wants, or artificially created wants, is the only meaningful decision now.'
Papanek beautifully explains that although we have damned our world in an environmental and ecological sense, we are the only hope. Designers 'will be forced to do so by the simple desire for survival within the not so distant future'. As pessimistic as that all may sound, admitting fault rather than shying away from the issue is the right course of action for the human race.
Since the 'green design' movement arrived in the 60's and 70's, we have escalated further and further in ecological designing including appropriate technology, alternatives and ethical approaches.
In the previous post I spoke about how this design thinking spans across the 'sister arts' of industrial design and so I wanted to get opinions from two different designers on where they stand with environmental and ecological design and more specifically how they approach these two design agendas within their fields.
At one time, myself and these two wonderful ladies were all product designers on our college course but since then we have each gone our separate ways in our design thinking. Katherine Kermack is in her third year of study at Nottingham Trent University studying a BA in Product Design after taking a year out in industry and director of her own company 'Keeping in Kermack'. Samantha Litherland studied Architecture at Cardiff University and is also currently working in industry as an architectural assistant. Similarly to Katherine, I stayed on the product/industrial route however my degree was a BSc at the Manchester Metropolitan University. It was fascinating to converse with one another on this subject and here what each of us had to say on the matter.
A huge thing I consider is the 'cradle to grave' theory. A product has to start sustainable, so in materials that have the least environmental impact but also at the end of life are able to be recycled to degrade. But in saying this I am also very much aware that certain 'eco' products a/though biodegradable they actually cause more waste e.g. The paper cup. It is better is my eyes to actually create say a metal bench. Which may be power hungry and use mining to get the raw materials but actually takes a very long time to go to the grave. By being reused, sold on and then maybe upcycled into something else before it hits the grave.
- Katherine Kermack (Product Designer)
In regards to architecture and buildings, materials you use are very important, not only that they are renewable and "eco friendly" but that are sustainable and long living. Also the sustainability in terms of sourcing materials that are closer to where you're building. The way the building is designed and constructed should also be ecological for the long term, possibly looking at Breeam or Passivahaus to insulate buildings well with windows in the correct places... to maximise natural light and trap in heat to reduce running costs of the final building. Materials are also important in that.'
- Samantha Litherland (Architect)
Although both from different standpoints of designer, both make similar points on the not being fooled by the immediate label of 'eco-friendliness'. A material may give off a sort-of 'green façade' and more investigation must be considered before implementing it to a designer. Kermack's comment on 'the grave' of design is imperative as we as designers must consider the entire life cycle of a product not just the impact of it's initial creation. Adding to this idea, Litherland presents the question of how we source certain materials and if they require a boarding ticket, can they be truly labelled sustainable?
What I can gather from both opinions is that environmental, ecological, sustainable, green design or however you wish to phrase it is not just black or white. It is very much a grey area that requires a lot more exploration however the need for this investigation is beyond vital. We, as designers, need to be a catalyst for the green movement and bring up each and all elements relating to it. We cannot go on uneducated and assuming that recycling our Starbucks or buying bamboo socks is enough. We can be a powerful force of creators and, as Papanek said, 'can and must involve [ourselves].
Statement of responsibility: Victor Papanek
ISBN: 0500273588, 9780500273586
Note: Originally published; New York; Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1984.
Note: Bibliography, p351-385. - Includes index.
Physical Description: xxi,394p : ill., facsims.,1plan ; 21 cm.
Subject: Design, Industrial.; Industrial design
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