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March 31, 2009

Make sense, not stuff: A three step plan to connect design schools with the green economy

[I was asked to write a text about the green economy by Cumulus, the international network of design schools. It will published at their forthcoming conference in London (27-30 May). This is a preview].

What would architects design, if they did not design buildings? What would designers design, if they did not design products, or posters?

My question is not a rhetorical one. On the contrary, I believe design schools are in danger of being marginalised by events. The world is changing around them fast - and they are not. Or not fast enough. I agree with Al Gore that the world has reached a tipping point in its responses to climate change, resource depletion, and economic crisis: Changes we have all talked about for years are starting to be implemented.

But design schools are finding it hard to move on from the old paradigm of design-for-production, and design for individual expression.

Read the rest of the text here: Download file

Posted by John Thackara at March 31, 2009 08:46 AM


One answer to this problem has already been conceived and is being unleashed shortly! Sitting on the jury of various sustainable design competitions I spotted this problem a while back. Thankfully a number of design schools are keen to push things forward with haste, or at least in the UK they are.

Posted by: Melissa Sterry at April 2, 2009 05:33 PM

As a designer I wholeheartedly agree. In the past I have launched new products into the marketplace, and founded my own business around them. It is not just the products that are wasteful, but the entire system of distribution, frequently products are over produced and wasted.

For me as a designer the future now holds several areas of interest - systems design (both social and software), distribution network redesign, product modification and extension (hacking).

Socially there are numerous challenges to overcome, supply and demand needs rethinking, as does planned obselescence, as does individual ownership. The concept of sustainable growth and green products, makes the situation worse by allowing individuals to think they're doing their bit as they make the sitauation worse.

Posted by: Jay Cousins at April 7, 2009 07:31 PM

I asked a similar question, or rather proposed a silver lining to the cloud of doom that faces architects graduating in the midst of a recession - maybe it will teach us what architects are good for, apart from architecture. http://designandsociety.rsablogs.org.uk/2009/04/22/seeing-believing-and-the-priesthood-of-architecture/.

Posted by: emily campbell at May 27, 2009 10:38 AM

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