Our Accountability to Sustainability

BDES 1201 — Week 11

In this article we will be using the two texts “The Environment, Product Aesthetics and Surface” by Stuart Walker and “Design for a Sustainable World” written by Victor Margolin in the exploration of sustainable design.

In Stuart Walker’s “The Environment, Product Aesthetics and Surface” he discusses the relationship between industrial design and environmental degradation and the importance of dealing with sustainability and the environment within product design. Walker reveals to us concerns for the environment are rarely found within client demands due to higher costs associated with products being created “environmentally friendly”. One of the main factors that must be considered in the need for environmental responsibility in product design is, “the alleviation of negative environmental effects caused by inherently unsustainable concept of constantly increasing production, consumption, disposal, and use of products.” (Walker, 180) We must readjust our priorities in a product in order for it to become more sustainable for us such as, “longevity, durability, ease of maintenance and repair, and upgradability.”(Walker, 180) this would be a positive change in the design of the product as well as the aesthetics to create and environmentally elegant product. The life cycle of a product is something to highly consider when striving for sustainability and becoming more environmentally conscious.

Our second text “Design for a Sustainable World”, Victor Margolin discusses what can be done to achieve sustainability in design. He addresses that although it is a challenging endeavour, designers hold the key to taking on global issues, such as the environment. Margolin describes to us how within consumer culture it is firmly embedded that design is “an art of giving form to products for mass production”, it was seen to be personal relationship with manufacturing products to go on market (Margolin 83). The author frequently references Victor Papanek within his text, Papanek claimed that design contributed to the decline of the environment. The model of expansion drove global economics and political agendas in spite of the increasing recognition of it destruction. Positively, the “culture of sustainability” arose from this recognition, and guided designers to call into question their roles in sustainable design. Margolin states that designers need to reinvent design cultures to not only give form to objects but generate ideations first before embodying the idea within a product (Margolin 87).

Sustainable environmentally friendly design is a huge concern that has increasingly become a priority in our society. This ranges from packaging, to production, to ingredient sourcing, to the product itself. The idea of “Clean Beauty” has become a large market for the cosmetics industry and more companies are striving to create ethically sourced and sustainable products for consumers. A brand that has risen in popularity recently is “Shea Moisture” They are a natural sustainably-produced, and use fair trade through Community Commerce, they are chemical free, and never test on animals. “SheaMoisture was built on the core belief that only commerce can bring true economic independence to our communities and empower women to break the cycles of wealth disparity.” This companies values and and products are ones that consumers flock to and creates a loyalty from consumers with the brand. I hope to see more brands learn from companies like SheaMoisture and work towards becoming more sustainable.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. Should it be the responsibility of the designer to push for sustainability? Or should that role belong to other positions at play?
  2. In what ways do we see sustainable design present in DXD?

Works Cited:

Week 11 Walker, Stuart. “The Environment, Product Aesthetics and Surface.” Design Issues, vol. 11, no. 3, 1995, pp. 15–27.

Margolin, Victor. “Design for a Sustainable World.” Design Issues, vol. 14, no. 2, 1998, pp. 83–92.

Word Count: 535




Student of the DXD program at George Brown.

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Maya Sonya Sowinski

Maya Sonya Sowinski

Student of the DXD program at George Brown.

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