Thursday, 12 November 2009

Vision 2020

Over the dates 11th to 30th October I attended a Design Camp at Design Skolen Kolding that looked towards future design in the areas of fashion, transport and communication.

The two weeks involved lectures and project work based on the processes of the design consultancy, IDEO. We were guarded through their methods of creating a pitch and success critera, stakeholder mapping, user research, personas, concept generation, user journeys and prototyping.

I was involved in the Fashion Rethink part of the camp. I found this way of working very different to what I am used to and found it very useful in creating products and services, however I feel it would be less relivant in straight fashion design.

The user centred research I found fascinating and particulary enjoyed, even if it was nerve wracking talking to complete strangers. From our initial interviews to testing our prototypes this user research was invaluable.

I didnt enjoy the user journey element of the task, and especially found the building of a mini persona and touchpoints out of clay and pipecleaners particularly unnecessary.

It was a shame the camp did not last an extra week, as I feel the amount of work we were trying to produce was not given an accurate time scale. Some of the processes seemed rushed, it would have been great to be able to spend more time on them and perfect them.

I went to the camp thinking there would be a strong principle of sustainable design enforced, however was disappointed that it was somewhat overlooked. However saying that, I do think the groups made an effort to consider sustainable and environmental issues.

Just to let you know, my group (see our blog) designed a mobile phone application that connects to your wardrobe and your friends wardrobe to encourage swapping and the desire to keep hold of your clothes for longer. A shopping application also diverts you from actually shopping to swapping.

Finally, Kolding was a wonderful town and I really felt at home there. The Design School had fantastic facilities, lecturers, students and of course canteen!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Teach-in: Ecological Literacy in Design Education

On Monday 12th October I attended the Teach-in conference at the V&A which focused on ecological literacy. The event was organised by Eco-Labs as a catalyst for design institutions to embrace ecological literacy into their design education.

But what is ecological literacy?

Ecological literacy can be defined as the understanding of natural systems that make life on earth possible. By mimicing these natural systems within design we can surely ensure the longivity of the product, also known as biomimicry. Also in following natures example we can hopefully lose our dependancy on fossil fuels.

Speakers included Richard Hawkins (Public Interest Research Centre) who gave an extremely informative overview of how the climate has been changing with some scary graphs and images regarding the arctic.

Andrew Simms (New Economics Foundation) discussed the economy regarding nature. This was interesting as I know little about the economy. Orthodox economics states that 'we are happier when we buy things', which is clearly very brash. Buying things has no relation to the way we live our lives which ultimately decides our level of happiness. The conclusion was that is nature does not grown indeinately therefore so should the economy.

Emma Dewberry (Open University) was inspiring to listen to from a design perspective. She stated that quick fixes do not solve problems and that a whole rethink of design was in order. Sustainability should not be an add on to design, design is within sustainability.

Bill Gill (BioRegional) talked of his environmental charity which is about 'bringing local sustainability into the mainstream'. This charity is about creating building to either work or live in that drastically lower the inhabitants carbon footprint in order to move to one planet living. Projects have included One Plant Sutten, One Brighton and Sonoma Mountain Village.

Jonathan Crinion (Crinion Associates) discussed looking to the past, present and the future (like Scrooge) of design. He talked of how change is difficult as we are constantly seeking approval, however in order to change we must have a vision of where we are going, create symbiotic relationships and ephemeral (that go back to the earth when finished with) products.

Stephanie Hankey (Tactical Technology Collective) showed various projects aimed at grabbing peoples attention and encouraging them to explore and understand issues for themselves. This included BayVsBag targeting the excessive consumption of plastic bags. She also promoted 350 which is about people from around the world joining together to call for string climate action on October 24th.

John Thakora (author of Doors of Perception and In The Bubble) gave a brief action plan which was all about focusing on the 'true cost' of a product or even what we already have. His action plan included:

1. map resources
2. co-create new services
3. design equipment
4. design tools for sharing
5. connect with the key actors

Overall the day was very inormative and I learnt a great deal across the spectrum from geography, economy and design. Activities included looking towards the future which was interesting to hear peoples opinions as well as peoples opinions on strategies for change. Hearing John Thakara speak was a fantastic opportunity after hearing of his work. I also learnt of new companies,charities and reports that I plan to research further.

To top the day off, I even got a free magazine:

Friday, 9 October 2009

Project 3090 & The Uniform Project

I have been researching sustainability projects recently for an assignment at university and came across two gems that I'd like to share:

Project 3090
An environmentally consious music festival held in New Orleans took place on 5th September 2009. The website states that the festival is 'the intersection of sound and sustainability'. Acts included (only US bands, I think) Ghostland Observatory and Grace Potter and The Necturnals.

Huge steps were made to ensure the festival maintained its environmentally friendly initatives, here are some of them:
  • The power for the two stages and lighting came from solar powered and wind turbine powered batteries.
  • Clearly labelled recycling, composting and landfill receptracles.
  • Paperless tickets.
  • Soy based printing for organic cotton t-shirt merchandise.
  • Biodegradable cups, plates and utensils.
  • Organic/biodegradable cleaning products used.
  • Pre-owned furniture on festival grounds.
  • Partnership with local recycling firm.
  • Green ambassadors to answer questions.
  • Education; kids village to reach children, labelling of green efforts for customer awareness, sponsers to explain to customers of green efforts.
I thought this sounded fantastic! I also read on the website that the organisers were influenced by Cradle to Cradle (from my previous post). After attending a handful of festivals in the UK, and reserching them on the internet, I have never came across such a transparent set of green incentives. I would have loved to have seen how the festival worked, however I don't think that i could justify travelling such a distance (airmiles++++), plus I don't know any US music!

The Uniform Project
A fundraiser were one woman (Sheena Matheiken) has pledged to wear the same dress everyday for a year, each day styling it differently to create completely unique outfits. There are actually seven dresses, each one identical for every day of the week.

I think this is a great way of encouraging people to make the most out of what they already have in their wardrobe, and attempt to put a stop to over consumption. Also, perhaps its an opportunity for designers to create more functional garments rather than the seasonal, throw away fashion people have become accustomed to.

All proceeds of the fundraiser go to the Akanksha Foundation.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Cradle to Cradle: Remade the Way I Think

Before enrolling onto my MA (fashion and the environment), I was sent a reading list. This first book that I brought was Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by Micahael Braungart and William McDonough as a friend had previously recommended it.

The book was incredibly easy to read, almost like a novel, and written in a humorous way. The writers' reveal their own experiences of designing sustainably, in turn offering advice and case studies (notably Henry Ford).

I was both shocked and amazed by what was written about production, the amount of chemicals put into products are emitted, making our homes probably more dangerous to be in than outside.

Their idea of creating pure products, for example a plastic book (the first edition was a replicla of this), that could be melted down safely and formed into a new book was interesting and made sense as a way of saving trees and recycling paper (a hugely energy intensive process).

A design process they suggest is mimicry, looking for inspiration from nature:

Our products and processes can be most effective when they are resonant with information and responses - when they most resemble the living world.

This Book is well, well, well worth a read. It has certainly made an impact, at a recent event I kept hearing individuals referring to the cradle to cradle approach and as mentioned in the intoduction to the 2008 edition, large companies like Phillips and Haewlett-Packard are pursueing the strategy.


In this blog I aim to cover emerging sustainable design and processes. I want to promote this design not only because it is vital to protect our planet and its resources, but also because the thought processes that go into designing a product that is sustainable is emense and should be celebrated!

Due to my background in fashion my posts are likely to focus on this industry, however I am always interested in exploring how other industries are emerging and changing their practices.

Posts may also include some of my own projects, past and present.

I hope you enoy and are inspired by what you may read...