Posts Tagged ‘graphic design’

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

tuesday musings: SHED and the meaning of sustainable design

Sat­ur­day morn­ing at Yale Uni­ver­sity School of Art (New Haven CT), I attended SHED, spon­sored by AIGA CT and Mohawk Paper.  Billed as “an open dis­cus­sion about cul­ture, hap­pi­ness, con­sumerism, design and the future of our planet”, I was intrigued. One of the pil­lars of the inte­rior design indus­try must surely be con­sumerism, so maybe I could learn a few tricks to rec­on­cile the drive for new inte­ri­ors with the bur­den this puts upon the planet.

Living priciples SHED Connecticut

The panel of “four amaz­ing social good thinkers and doers” included: Mod­er­a­tor Julie Lasky, Edi­tor of Change Observer; Eric Ben­son, Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Graphic Design at the Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois and Founder of Re-Nourish; Neil Brown, Asso­ciate Cre­ative Direc­tor at Bar­num Design and founder of Salt­Space; Aaris Sherin, Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Graphic Design at St. John's Uni­ver­sity and author of Sus­tain­Able. Each offered their view­points on the sus­tain­able design work they are cur­rently engaged in – read more on their respec­tive websites.

Lee Moody from Mohawk introduces SHED Connecticut speakers

Lee Moody from Mohawk intro­duces SHED Con­necti­cut speakers

Design panel at SHED Connecticut

L to R: Julie Lasky, Eric Ben­son, Neil Brown, Aaris Sherin at SHED Connecticut

While much of the dis­cus­sion focused on graphic design, there was crossover to other seg­ments of the design indus­try. Eric Ben­son dis­cussed the idea of “emo­tional sus­tain­abil­ity” and the need to engage empa­thy in order for peo­ple to care about this (or any) issue.  Neil Brown expounded on the need to edu­cate oth­ers about sus­tain­abil­ity and empower them to design change. His point – peo­ple will be the instru­ments of change, not tech­nol­ogy nor gov­ern­ments, but indi­vid­u­als within small com­mu­nity units. From my view­point as an inte­rior designer, this dove­tails with what I and other col­leagues say: our job is to edu­cate clients about sus­tain­able choices and one by one, ini­ti­ate change.

designer treasures at SHED Connecticut

design­ers brought trea­sures to SHED Con­necti­cut for a swap

Aaris Sherin posed the ques­tion: how can you as a designer make the world a bet­ter place? As Neil pointed out, design is a think­ing process for solv­ing prob­lems. Design­ers can and should con­nect what we are doing in our com­mu­ni­ties, using our skill sets, to fos­ter solu­tions for the com­mu­nity as a whole. Inte­rior design­ers like myself pro­vide com­mu­nity sup­port through local char­ity show house events like Designer Spaces & Mar­ket Places and Junior League of Hartford's Dec­o­ra­tor Show Houses — rais­ing funds for non-profit orga­ni­za­tions by doing what we do best. Graphic design­ers can sup­port com­mu­nity through ini­tia­tives like Design is Love.  Apply your skills in any way that feels best, but make an effort to engage in your com­mu­nity – sus­tain­able design is also about sus­tain­ing people.

Most applic­a­ble to inte­rior design­ers, Ms. Sherin spoke about the “tyranny of things” and how so many peo­ple labor under the bur­den of their “stuff”. The exam­ple cited was a $200 teapot, pur­chased for the long term. Many agreed this was a won­der­ful con­cept, to pur­chase the best qual­ity and keep it for life. But how to rec­on­cile that ideal with the masses of peo­ple who can never afford that $200 teapot? Should they spend $10 on the Wal­mart teapot to be dis­posed of in a year? Never buy a teapot at all? For the pro­duc­ers of the $200 teapot – how do they sus­tain their busi­ness if they only sell one teapot to a con­sumer, ever? Should the $10 teapot man­u­fac­turer be dri­ven out of busi­ness – what hap­pens to their employ­ees? So many lay­ers of peo­ple affected by every aspect of the sus­tain­abil­ity dis­cus­sion. How will con­tin­ual con­sump­tion work going forward?

Eric Ben­son offered this thought, so applic­a­ble to inte­rior design: anthro­po­mor­phize the objects’ char­ac­ter­is­tics to cre­ate an endur­ing impor­tant rela­tion­ship where “dis­pos­able” becomes an unfash­ion­able and ulti­mately unthink­able con­cept. Wow, right? Think about the objects you live with – do you love them? Do they nur­ture you and your fam­ily? Do they func­tion in a way that sus­tains you? If not, then SHED them. There is surely some­one who will trea­sure that which you no longer do. Pass it on, pay it for­ward, freecy­cle – call it what you will, just do it.

my SHED Connecticut treasure

my SHED Con­necti­cut trea­sure finds a new home with Danielle Garrick

Ulti­mately, sus­tain­abil­ity is about mind­ful­ness. The busy­ness of our lives dis­tracts us from the deci­sions we make every day with every pur­chase. Make a con­sid­ered deci­sion to replace some­thing, don’t let it be auto­matic. It’s okay to want some­thing new or more func­tional or sim­ply more beau­ti­ful, only con­sider where it comes from and where the piece being replaced is going. You don’t have to raise chick­ens on your high-rise bal­cony to live sus­tain­ably (unless you want to, of course). All you have to do is think.

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