A

s stated in the introduction, design is both part of the problem and part of the solution to sustainability agendas. The history of design is inconsistent in terms of impacts, both positive and negative, along social, environmental, and financial criteria. Designers and developers have created amaz­ing and wonderful things for the world and for people. Unfortunately, we’ve also created some solutions that have hurt people and the envi­ronment in a myriad of ways. However, this doesn’t have to be the future of design.

We don’t get to create meaning or change society very often, and we need to set realistic expecta­tions about how long change takes and what part we can play in it. We’re neither the only cultural actors nor the most influential. How-ever, be­cause we’re involved in the process of creating new solutions, communications, and under – standings—at significant points—we can have considerable influence if we choose to use it.

Designers need to decide which values they want to reinforce. There will always be a mar-

ket for styles based on trends and fads. It’s up to each of us, however, to decide to what extent we want to support these and how ap­propriate they are. The same goes for cultural messages we respond to and reinforce.

For example, I consider the term retail therapy to be one of the most dangerous concepts ever invented by marketers and reinforced by de­signers. The idea that people will feel better if they buy something new is sad and menacing. When we help people believe that they will be happy, or feel younger, or be more attractive by buying something, most of the time we are lying to them. There are exceptions, but these good expectations occur when we align emo­tions, values, and meanings with product and service attributes and trigger these effects le­gitimately.

We can choose to work for organizations with conflicting values from us (these are different for everyone: for some, these might be cigarette companies, for others, toy companies), or we can choose to work on projects that support,

create, and sustain the world we envision. When we work against our own values, we dishonor ourselves. When we work to deceive our customers about themselves and their lives—and they often will never realize it—we do a grave disservice to them and to the world.

Designers need to decide which val­ues they want to reinforce.

There are times when design does make us look and feel better about ourselves and the world— for example, a dress that accentuates a curve just so, a scent that reminds us of a treasured memory, or a poster that reminds us we’re not alone in our outrage or admiration. Where our skills are employed with legitimate means, these are when we use our skills to their best—and most sustainable—potential. But there are other times when we carelessly (or carefully, even) use our skills to convince the insecure (such as teenagers) that they’ll be sexy and attractive if they just buy this sham­poo or that a new car will make them feel bet­ter in the morning. Emotions dissipate quickly

and playing shallowly to them isn’t sustainable. Customers feel dissatisfied and deceived when the things they were convinced they needed desperately or would make them feel special fall short and disappoint them. In addition, these are more things that didn’t need to be produced in the first place since they performed no lasting purpose and gave no lasting benefit. This is the least sustainable kind of design of all.

I consider the term retail therapy to be one of the most dangerous con­cepts ever invented by marketers and reinforced by designers.

We never truly had the luxury to make (liter­ally) tons of stuff, move it around the world, and sell some of it to people who didn’t need it, the rest heading for a landfill. Today, these costs we never paid in the past are finally com­ing due—some quickly, others gradually. They are environmental, social, and market costs, and with an ever-increasing population that is ever more interconnected, these costs aren’t hidden any longer. Design and related fields no

longer have to be a contributor to these costs. We have the technology. We can make things better than they were before (in all aspects)— better, stronger, faster, and more sustaining of culture, people, profits, and the planet.

There is no design industry, really. The few organizations that connect designers are not official, nor powerful, nor controlling. Design has always been in the hands of designers, ev­ery one of us, and we have the power to, collec­tively, change the course of design. The frame­works and strategies described in this book are one set of tools to use to direct design in a more healthful path. They aren’t the only tools, for sure. But, only we can choose to employ them in our personal and professional lives. There’s no one standing over us judging us. There’s no international body directing us how to de­sign. No one is forcing us to reinvent or ignore our own values. We are the only ones who can make a change…

…and there are a lot of us.

Appendix A