Design for good – Design of the Year 2015

Design for good – Design of the Year 2015

One of my greatest loves in life is good design. Something well made, practical and beautiful will instantly be an object of my desire or admiration. As I’ve learnt more through the ARTS Project, I’ve added sustainable to that list.

As the design world falls in and out of love in cyclical motions between LEDs and eddison bulbs, at opposite ends of the green spectrum, I was pleasantly surprised when I went to the Design Museum in London, one hour away from the transition region of interest of Brighton, and saw that three of the designs nominated for Design of the Year 2015 tackled three important green issues. Energy efficiency in the architecture prize, ocean dumping in the digital prize, and food waste in the graphic prize.

Highlighting the architecture section of the award is the centre for innovation at the University of Chile, designed by the Elemental studio. Whilst the studio may be part owned by the polluting state-owned Chilean Oil Company (COPEC), it seems there may be some glimmers of hope in Chile. As the nation is increasingly affected by rising sea levels and changing weather patterns as a result of our destruction of the environment, air conditioning useage rise to keep the situation bearable. As air conditioning rises, usage of fuels to power those systems arise. It’s a cyclical problem once more.

What Elemental chose to do, was create a building that maximised light capacity whilst using as little glass externally. This means less cold-air loss, lower cooling costs and lower energy usage. An environmental success for the future innovators of Chile, and a beautiful modern concrete building with low running costs for the university.

Winning the digital section of the award is a project entitled “the ocean clean-up”. As in the coastal city of Brighton, and across the coastal cities of the world and the oceans between them, our seas are becoming more and more saturated with plastic rubbish. The project and its research focuses on the extraction, prevention and the interception of the great pacific garbage patch.

If you aren’t familiar with the Great Pacific Garbage patch, you’re in for a horror story. The word patch doesn’t do its magnitude justice. This is a piece of the ocean that has become saturated with sludge, plastic and slime that by conservative estimates is the size of the state of Texas. Scientists have been aware of its existence, and growth, for almost two decades now. A true modern day horror story if I’ve ever heard one, and the antithesis of good design.

In steps The Ocean Clean-Up. By tracking the patch and setting up areas to capture it, instead of trying to fight the ocean to get to it, within ten years the patch should be halved in size. It is a promise and remarkable piece of design, conducted by hundreds of volunteer engineers, scientists and technicians of many forms.

The third piece of design recognised by the Design Museum that is relevant to this blog, was commissioned by France’s third largest supermarket, Intermarché. I have been critical of supermarkets in the past on this blog, and their persistence in putting environmentally-unfriendly design over the needs of our planet. Intermarché seemed to agree with my stance, and decided to sell its “less appealing” produce at reduced rates to reduce waste.

In addition to this, their advertising campaign highlighted that imperfect is not unbeautiful, or useless. Produce is produce. It’s all the same in a soup, as a poster of a “disfigured” carrot claims.

Food waste, ocean-dumping and energy efficiency are three fronts that the cause of sustainability must win to win for the future of our planet. The fact that British institutions such as the Design Museum and the acclaimed panellists that choose these awards recognise that good design can no longer be wasteful design, should give you hope that we are transitioning. The transition from waste and excess will not come as quickly as we would like, but one award, one poster, one app and one building at a time – it will come.

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Miriam is a student at the University of Sussex in Brighton. She can be found at @ThatMiriam on twitter.

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