We live in a society of consumption. Our voracious and seemingly endless appetite for more, better, bigger, and easier is leaving our planet overrun and creating an environment that may not be able to sustain human life.
As designers, are we partially responsible? Are we helping or hurting?
The common and understandable perception is that designers just make more stuff the world doesn't need, but this is unfair. Good designers—conscientious designers—work with sustainability in mind. They know they need to create products, services, and environments that make sense for clients, and work for and with our earth. In other words: Profitable sustainability.
How is it to be done?
A simple—but not sufficient—answer might be to design more environmentally friendly products and processes. This might be called the 'diet chocolate cake' approach: Keep doing what we are good at and giving people what they want, but somehow do it less harmfully. At the other end of the spectrum is the abstinence approach: Plead guilty to the charge that designers spend a lot of time designing 'elegant landfill' and stop doing it. The great designer Dieter Rams, for example, called for a less wasteful approach in his monograph, 'Less But Better.'
Matching Sustainability with Profits