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[Design Forum] ‘Sustainable design for the next generation’

How can designers design products or services that not only look beautiful, but deliver added value that can change the world?

British product designer Matthew Cockerill finds the answer in designing products “with the end in mind.”

“Designers make a product and sell the product but it’s usually somebody else’s job to recycle that. That causes the problem,” Cockerill said on Wednesday at a Herald Design Forum session on responsible design for sustainability.

Cockerill, associate design director at Seymourpowell, is known for managing various projects with Samsung since 2003 and designing Air France’s first-class seats.

The designer and creative director said sustainability issues often contrast with the definition of design because people design without the end in mind. 

One example cited by Cockerill was designing a fridge-compressor which can be reused for a new fridge but not easily separated.

He also introduced Fairphone, a repairable mobile phone made from eco-friendly materials.

“It’s difficult sometimes when you’re selling things to create a sustainable loop.

“If you consider products as a service, it gets interesting. The best way to look into the future is to talk to the next generation on their desires. Future consumer attitudes are important,” he said.

“We need to reevaluate how we do work, provide services and make products sustainable. That will be challenging, and quite complicated. Not an easy answer.”

While sustainable design can be defined from several different angles, industrial designer Daniel Kim approaches the issue from the perspective of improving the community, the environment and the world.
Daniel Kim (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
Daniel Kim (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

Kim, Asia partner of Daylight Design, a San Francisco-based innovation and design consultancy, said designers can help build sustainable neighborhoods by solving social issues in their own ways.

“Designers are more than just beautifiers. That’s just part of what we do. Design is about recognizing, approaching and solving a problem. At the end of the day, it’s all about bettering people’s lives,” Kim said.

His belief in design can be explained as spreading the “Hong-ik” spirit, a Korean word meaning “widely benefit and harmonize all.”

With his colleagues at Daylight, Kim took part in a project to build vaccination systems for families in Pakistan, where about 60 percent of infants are unable to get vaccinations for reasons including lack of information or unapproachability.

“We came up with a wearable band equipped with a time slip, which tells infants’ families when it’s time to get vaccinated. When they go to a nearby hospital, their health-care data will be stored even without Internet access,” Kim said.

The South Korean designer stressed that modern design is overflowing with products made to achieve commercial success, rather than focusing on the community and people’s needs.

“Why do you design? I’d like to tell all designers to recognize problems in a bigger picture, not just a simple inconvenience in daily life, and contemplate how to handle it as a designer,” Kim added. “It is not important whether you’re working in this industry or different sectors.”

Advertising guru Alex Schill, the third panelist of the session, applied the session’s topic to his industry.

“Designing business ideas from the least-expected players and angles is crucial to sustainability of brands. That disrupts brands faster than advertising can save them,” he said.

Schill, global CCO and partner of Serviceplan Group, compared photo service application Instagram and Kodak as an example of creative design and business ideas.

“While Instagram was being acquired by Facebook for approximately $1 billion, Kodak went bankrupt. Both involve providing photo services, but Kodak didn’t think about going online,” Schill said.

The copywriter also suggested Airbnb vs. Hilton hotels and Uber vs. regular taxis as examples of the importance of designing sustainable business models.

Discussing sustainability in a world where creative ideas are constantly being replaced by new ones, Schill said that “collaboration, involvement of consumers and convenience” should be considered.

“What I’m doing, I throw ideas out there in the world and if I’m lucky they stay for a week. How can it stay longer than a day and change the world?”

Schrill said finding the right content to fit your brand, involving customers, stopping talking about the brand and designing it well, and making it work well are some ways to approach design in a fast-changing society.

“Welcome to the communication era after advertising died and design has taken over,” Schill said.

By Suk Gee-hyun (monicasuk@heraldcorp.com)
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