Kyoto Treaty of Design: Designers' Call to Arms


TreeHugger thinks the notion that design can leverage positive change is a really important one. We want the world to be less reactive and more proactive; if we can help them think about how to incorporate Cradle-to-Cradle-esque design components, source greener materials, and reduce the impact of manufacturing, we'll be making progress toward a solutions-focused, greener world; this is something we've touched on before, with design challenges here and here. Ah, but the great designer's dilemma: each new design means more stuff and (usually) more waste, something which none of us want. In an attempt to address and curb the vicious cycle of disposability and waste, the folks at frog design, in their latest DesignMind newsletter, announce a "Kyoto Treaty of Design", a "call to arms for the creative community around environmental stewardship". Why?

In the same way that we approach design challenges -- not by purporting to have all of the answers, but instead by assuredly asking the right questions -- we must recognize that we don't have the solution yet because our formula has been wrong. Our addiction to sweeping change has hobbled us from seeing the most obvious opportunities for improvement.

By creating independent "green design" practices that exist adjacent to traditional industrial design, engineering, and digital media design offerings, we only marginalize the issue. To effect real change, we need to apply a green lens to all of our activities, not just some of them. Environmental intelligence needs to be fully assimilated within the entire design process, across the entire field.

The result, to this point, has led to "these basic tenets, but these are just a start. We ask each member of the the design community to commit to these principles and join with us in building upon them:


  • Helping craft a larger social equity protocol for the design community

  • Publicly ratifying that agreement, and committing to its compliance

  • Contributing to the communal knowledge base for sustainable design

  • Advancing the intellectual understanding of environmental issues from a design perspective


  • Offering green analysis to clients, or partnering with others to conduct this analysis

  • Providing material alternatives for sustainable product development

  • Investigating manufacturing processes and rewarding green innovation

  • Minimizing environmental impact from prototyping or model-making activity

  • Publicly reporting the carbon footprint of our firms

  • Becoming educated about the environmental impact of our work

Yowsers...that's a lot to bite off all at once, but we find it to be an essential step in getting "sustainable" fully incorporated in "sustainable design." Designers themselves, whether an individual dreaming up one new product, or an entire firm responsible for thousands of new ideas and designs a year, have a huge opportunity to help close the loop and end the cycle of designed obsolescence and excessive waste in favor of designs that incorporate ideas like upcycling instead of recycling and reuse instead of waste. Read more about these ideas in the latest DesignMind, and learn more about frog here. ::The Designer's Dilemma and DesignMind via ::Core77

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