Conclusions of Designboost 2007.

Applying a general view …

  • In discussions concerning sustainability there is always we and them. But all of us have dual roles: privately we and professionally them and of course also the reverse. To refer a question to them is actually to refer it back to ourselves Conclusion: there is no such thing as …. “we cannot do anything until they have done …..”

  • No company, organisation or institution – and individual for that matter – can escape their contribution to sustainable development. Conclusion: a conceptual strategy for sustainable development ought to be compulsory for every business, non-profit organisation and institution - as also every individual. This strategy must be part of everyday thinking and not reserved for special occasions.

  • All efforts/actions aimed at enhancing sustainable development is linked to a number of consequences. Some of these are in accordance with the core aim and others are not – or even counteracting it. Conclusion: every effort/action has to be analysed as part of a whole before being put into practice. The whole should embrace the entire organisation and its immediate sphere top-down as well as down-up, but also go as far beyond as possible.

Applying a designer view …

  • Designers are dependent on their clients to realise their aims but there is a lot of effort to put in before surrendering or refraining. Effort is most effective when based on awareness and knowledge. Conclusion: designers must be well informed in as many matters as possible in relation to design: human, cultural, social and economical.

  • A designer has to understand not only how humans live, but also how they function: this would include understanding that our decisions are only partly rational and that this may well be for the better as our thoughtless acts often are very ‘efficient’. Conclusion: important designer awareness is that human ways of living are changing fast while human ways of being are lasting even if constantly adjusting.

  • Many tensions between a sustainable and a capitalistic society can be overcome. Producing more does not necessarily mean overusing the earth’s resources. Producing less is not the same as forcing companies out of business. Conclusion: designers should actively contribute to producing less waste by trying to improve the balance between producing objects and designing services and by not confusing new with better, desire with need and emotions with feelings. 
  • Designing for sustainability is a way of thinking more than a way of doing. This differentiation is important as it allows for focus to combine physical and mental aspects of sustainability. Conclusion: holistic thinking on sustainability must be integrated to the point of being intuitive. This can probably not be learnt but only achieved by lived experience.
  • Useful design for humans is often authentic and easily understood, devoid of clutter. Conclusion: it is important for designers to study how people act in their everyday real life.
  • Design that last often appeals to our imagination and invites to further exploration, signals ‘who it is’ and has a narrative, something to tell. Conclusion: the very simple object might not be the most sustainable solution. 

And finally …

Legislators as well as designers should not expect humans to generally act eco-centric: to always put regard to sustainability and the environment first. Yes, we will admit to do it but No, we will subconsciously act with our own immediate well-being in mind. Experience will most likely make egocentric and eco-centric more in tune but until then lots of resources can be spared if legislators and designers make use of our egocentric characteristics for their eco-centric purposes.