Product design, content creation and creative direction by Gareth James

Menu

Filter

Social

Design is a game of whack-a-mole

Inspired dismayed by this:

Design is a game of whack-a-mole 
Increasingly the projects I have planned in my backlog are sustainability focussed, if not in function then increasingly in execution. And this has marked an important turning point for me.

I design and make to solve problems (train display, room minder, lego house) but when I look at many of my past projects now my heart breaks because they are riddled with unsustainable stuff like plastic – as good as they are at their intended purpose, they are disasters in their unintended impact. I’m can’t justify these things in the context of their environmental impact, even if, in their intended use, they are a success. 

How can I claim the title ‘designer’, solver of problems, if I’m contributing to bigger problems elsewhere? It’s no good solving locally if I’m creating problems globally. Fixing one person’s problems only to shit on someone else. The design process needs to be viewed as all-encompassing.

Accepting that, let’s look at electronics. Electronics are generally appalling in terms of sustainability – built-in obsolescence, over-packaged, non-modular, aesthetics-over-impact. Designing with electronics, therefore, needs some special attention.

I need to change my process to avoid being (and aspiring to be) one of these mass producers of landfill. I need to design and make without unintentionally destroying.

Consider this question, for example: Is PLA bio degradable? ...the answer is no. fuck. I thought it was. Well it turns out it does break down but only in industrial composting, it's friendlier to make than oil-based plastics but its still problematic in a big way. One option is willow flex, i'll look into that, its Inherently biodegradable, so not good enough but better.  

When it comes to manufacturing and making, rather than go straignt o 3D print, what I’ve decided to do with my current project is to use sustainable or recycled stuff. I always prototype and iterate, thinking in physical form is non-negotiable, but instead of 3d printing bits, I’ll be using old bits of plastic, tubs, bottles and offcuts. And…

  1. It’s quicker to prototype like this than model, then wait, for 3d prints
  2. The aesthetic is rougher, but I think this could be its beauty

I need to move away from the ultra-high-tech-fetish-finish of glass and aluminium. (that I really worked hard to get in my last make but I’m already annoyed at the heavy-on-the-environment process that this took to achieve.)

I’m gonna continue to be as modular as possible with electronics, I always hoard and break up old binned electronics from the street (much to the annoyance of my family) so ‘innovate’ with what I’ve got. A true hackers approach. If I have to buy bits I’ll at least try to get them from local suppliers and desperately try not to fly them over from the far east. (I need to start looking for sustainable producers too. Anyone? )

I realise that while I’m writing I’m forming some kind of manifesto for my self – Embrace the aesthetic of the materials – Prototype with trash – Tear down and reuse electronics – Think before using plastic – Always be looking for sustainable suppliers.

This is just a start but I’m excited to move towards what I see as the true nature of design and avoiding the whack-a-mole of solving one problem only to create another one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*