Conscientious Objects

One of the issues facing designers is the ethical consideration of sustainability. The choice of materials, the costs and effects of manufacturing processes and the quality of experience by the user are all significant. What ends up in the landfill begins on the drawing board.

I was reading an article recently about Ray and Charles Eames, the brilliant American husband and wife design duo that brought us the iconic innovations in furniture, fabrics, multimedia design, domestic architecture and thinking about the role of design itself.

Their incredible success with large corporate clients like the IBM, Westinghouse, Boeing and Polaroid, as well as large-scale commissions for the US Government was propelled by the growth of consumerism after WW2.

I was struck by a quote from Charles Eames from 1971 “The scary fact is that many of our dreams have come true. We wanted more efficient technology and we got pesticides in our soil. We wanted more cars and television sets and appliances and each of us thought he was the only one wanting that. Our dreams have come true at the expense of (the environment). That doesn’t mean that the dreams were all wrong. It means that there was an error somewhere in the wish and we have to fix it.”

The role of designers is pivotal in fixing contemporary ills. They can be heroes or villains. Without making a conscious choice to be the former, they typically default to the latter.

What do you think?

The Eames Office


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