Greener By Design 2009: William McDonough and Designing with Intent

bill mcdonough greener by design keynote photo

Photos by Jaymi Heimbuch

Wouldn't it be great if we designed products in the same way that living things are designed? This is a question often posed by William McDonough, and was again asked today at Greener by Design. In other words, what if the products we design do what living things do, and that is grow, use free energy from the sun, and have an open metabolism in which what is consumed is also returned. McDonough pointed out to the audience that to do this, designers must keep intent in mind when dreaming up new ideas. And the first question designers need to ask themselves when getting started is quite a doozy.If our intent is to, by design, fill the oceans with plastic, create products that cause cancer and birth defects, acidify the oceans...then we're doing a really great job, McDonough stated in his keynote. But, he continued, clearly this isn't our intent. Designers are therefore in charge of taking our actual intents - a globe that is clean, healthy, and inhabitable for an infinite amount of time - and creating products that fit within them. So what is the ultimate intent? What do designers need to ask themselves when getting started on a new design?

How do we love all the children of all the species for all time?

This is the basis of McDonough's thinking when it comes to design and business, and it has lead to the creation of some very healthy creations. Now, the trick is getting companies and designers to think along the same lines, or better.

More on William McDonough
The Green house of the Future in the Wall Street Journal
Bill McDonough Gets Trashed in Fast Company
Bill McDonough Designing Green Googleplex
Quote of the Day: William McDonough on Design Humility
More on Greener By Design
Greener By Design 2009 Will Explore Greener Products for Leaner Times
Greener by Design 2009: Putting Designers in the Center of Cradle-to-Cradle Thinking
Greener by Design 2009: Joel Makower and The New Normal

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