Allan Chochinov, editor-in-chief at Core 77, was a speaker at Compostmodern on Saturday, and presented some great steps for designers. He calls them "Denting an Impossible Design Problem in 10 Sustainable Steps."
Chochinov's steps include:
1. Acknowledge privilege.
In other words, realize the power you have as a designer not to churn out garbage, but create things that make a difference. Examples given for the junk designed and so not needed were a plastic banana slicer, Bouty to-go paper towles, and Zebo, a website in which people compare the stuff they own.
2. Use the word "consequence."
Chochinov encouraged designers to think about the end result of their products. He showed Chris Jordan's photo of phones, and reminded listeners to design for the fact that that product will have to be dealt with later. What consequence will what you create have on the planet?
He said, "Designers think they're in the artifact business, but they're not. They're in the consiquence business."
3. Question authority.
He stressed that designers don't have to ask permission from clients or bosses to start working on designs. It is your right and your obligation to explore every crazy sustainable idea you can think of.
4. Surround yourself with the awesomest people you can.
That pretty much speaks for itself. Being around people who know more than you and who are inspirational will help you to think up some great ideas and be able to spread them.
5. Don't play fair.
In other words, if aesthetics will get you through the door and talking sustainability to your client, then by all means go with aesthetics first. Use that to switch them over to sustainability.
6. Be intentionally dumb.
When you don't know what you don't know, then you don't know your limitations and therefore have none. Chochinov stresses playfulness and simplicity here - just create really stupid ideas and run with them because you never know what kind of intelligence they really hold.
7. Redistribute - then reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Chochinov points out that we already have plenty of resources in the consumer stream, so you don' t have to design something brand new. Take what we already have and design a different use into it.
8. Broaden your market.
Don't design something that will use up resources in production just to go to a tiny segment of the population. One product can go a whole lot farther if more people can use that one thing. An example was one of his students came up with buttons attached with elastic for people with prosthetic arms could get their dress shirts on more easily. But going beyond that very specific audience, it could also be useful for people with arthritis or other mobility issues. And broadening the market even more, the student designed them with the ability to be retrofitted to dress shirts a consumer already owns.
9. Indulge in discursive design.
Go for thought provoking once in awhile so that it gets people talking about sustainability. It doesn't always have to be perfectly functional.
10. Talk to anyone who will listen.
After all, there's no better way to spread good ideas.
One of the most engaging things Chochinov said during his talk is the important role designers play and how they must use it. He stated that if a designer can't get the client to see how much better sustainable design is, then they shouldn't be in the business. The consequences of what you design that gets mass produced is too big for you not to be able to shift your client to sustainability.
More on Compostmodern:
Compostmodern Setting the Sustainable Tone for Design Industry
John Bielenberg Gives Designers 48 Hours to Change the World (Video)
Eames Demetrios Discusses Looking Beyond Sustainability (Video)
Joel Makower Says We Have Just 5,000 More Days (Video)
Michel Gelobter on Designing Our Way Out of Global Warming (Video)