Design Revolution?

ImageI recently rediscovered a book by Emily Pilloton (Design Revolution: 100 products that Empower people, Metropolis Books) which I bought back in 2010. I was originally stuck by her incredible (and some may say a tad optimistic) view of design for a better world. She undertook a project (Project H) with her partner Matthew Miller to redesign the educational system and curriculum in Bertie County, North Carolina, the poorest county in the state. The first group of students began the programme in 2010. This story inspired me to buy her book. As a lecturer in product design I found many of her comments raw and over-simplified, but non the less true…

“Today’s world of design (specifically product design) is severely deficient, crippled by consumerism and paralyzed by an unwillingness to financially and ethically prioritize social impact over the bottom line. We need nothing short of an industrial design revolution to shake us from our consumption-for-consumption’s-sake momentum.”

Paging through the book in 2013 I try to establish how much progress we have made in the last 3 years. Designers are more awareness, social responsibility is more of a priority, the sustainable tipple bottom line is almost a mantra and everyone is focused on ‘making a difference’. But do we? Do we live the change we talk about in design studios and classrooms? The world around me doesn’t seem to have benefitted much from all the ‘community workshops’, ‘design interventions’ and responsible design ethos so prevalent today. Instead I see small pockets of excellence, often driven by one or two individuals who care, and are truly invested in change. This leads me to believe that change probably won’t come in the form or a revolution, but rather as a slow current.

A great resource for design classroom, is the Design Revolution toolkit which you can download.

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