Good design includes a healthy regard for citizenship

As a dutiful consumers we are taught to shop around. To scour through the Amazon reviews and check through consumer reports. We insist on quality. Shade grown coffee, grass fed beef, top of the line, bespoke… nothing but the best. But are we considering all the factors? Price, quality, convenience…what more could one ask for? Maybe some of us search out fair trade to support workers or organic to support our health and the health of the planet. Surely that is enough. Unfortunately we are overlooking the big offender. While we are dutifully bringing our reusable totes we are neglecting to wonder what is the impact of our devices. Holding our rare earth metals hostage, encased in plastic for all time. But we do have another options. Some designers are starting to look towards a future of design that feeds the components of a product back into the system of manufacturing. Imagine being able to use your phone or a cosmetics case until it is time for an upgrade or refill and the you could turn it in back to the company to clean a reuse for another product. A sustainable, circular system that intuitively makes sense in our finite world. It is up to forward thinking designers to think beyond the store shelf or the unboxing of an online purchase. We have the potential to create beautiful complicated objects that could live on for generations. Objects used to be made to last, to be treasured heirlooms. Style and technology need not bury future generations under mountains of waste. It take forethought and consideration from the beginning. Materials and architectures, glues and finishes, packaging and off-gassing; all of these and more are part of the myriad of considerations involved in this type future focused design. This is beyond the scope of ID. From management to manufacturing, everyone involved in design and development of products needs to consider alternatives for this to be truly successful. It matters, any one component can render a product doomed to landfill. But if we are thoughtful and measured in our design choices then we will have far more impact than just setting up recycling bins at the office. Whether a start up or a corporate giant, sending something to production will have far more lasting impact than any other sorts of eco efforts you may be attempting. Could we feed cassette tapes to the soil? Of course not, but perhaps in time we may be able to feed our latest gadget back into the ‘technical nutrient cycle’ as the folks at Cradle to Cradle have envisioned. This cannot just come from governments, regulators and concerned groups. Individual designers have an opportunity to speak up and wonder if there is anything that might be done to help make this product one that will continue on. We are citizens of the world. Like the early guests at a party we are getting first crack of the spread. Currently we are drinking up all the champagne. Let us be good guests and save something for the guests coming later. Let’s keep this party going into the wee hours.


Jessica Nersesian