BOSTON—Vancouver-based designer Eric Karjaluoto, founder of the Design Can Change website and campaign, challenged his peers at the How Design Conference in Boston yesterday to make sustainable design a higher priority and to wield their purchasing power to make a difference.
It’s not enough anymore to “slap a green logo on [your work] and feel better about it,” he told an engaged audience in a session entitled Designing Change: One Studio’s Effort to Combat Climate Change. “It just isn’t that easy.”
Karjaluoto even took a (polite) swipe the designers in the crowd, questioning their seemingly insatiable love of swag from suppliers in the nearby exhibit hall. “Are we taking it because it’s there and it says ‘Free’ on it, or are we taking it because we need it?” When one audience member pointed out that at least the swag bags are reusable cloth, he noted: “But now I have 1,000 cloth bags at home that I’m not using.”
Yet Karjaluoto said he was far from perfect himself, citing his role as the shopper in his family. There’s no perfect answer when it comes to sustainable design, he conceded. “Don’t worry about doing it perfectly. Do something.”
As an example, he referred to a project his firm smashLAB completed for a client that for several years had used a brochure bound in a vinyl binder. Eliminating the brochure completely was a thought, but was unacceptable to the client. So the designers came up with a smaller 5” x 6” brochure that was less expensive, easier to ship and avoided the use of vinyl. The new approach “is not sustainable, but is so much better than before.”
Design Can Change was launched by smashLAB last spring (see May 9, 2007 upload, “A community-minded approach to sustainable design”). The campaign’s website, DesignCanChange.org, offers resources and also includes a five-point sustainability pledge designers are asked to take. Once designers take the pledge, they can be added to the site’s membership directory, which now boasts 1,800 designers in 80 countries committed to sustainable design. The project made Time magazine’s Design 100 list in its special Design issue in April. Contact: www.smashlab.com