Welcome to the second edition of the talk about design between myself and Satyendra Pakhalé, international designer and cultural nomad based in Amsterdam. This time we will talk about sustainability, a subject highly relevant in a time when the climate change is on the lips of each and every one. It is quite easy to just continue down the same road as everybody else but we will try to add a personal approach to sustainability. Do you agree to what we say or do you have another opinion? We would love to involve as many readers as possible in our talk. Just write the words from your heart in the comment section below.

david and satyendra

Here we go!

(Satyendra Pakhalé) What is sustainable design for you David?

(David Carlson) There is a lot of talk going on concerning sustainability in design which is good. But sometimes I feel that the very point of the discussion is a bit out of tune.

The best way to make sustainable design is to concentrate on quality, both concerning design and material. To produce better products. Mass consumption and sustainability doesn’t go very well together. I would love to see more “design classics”, the kind of products your children can inherit.

I think we have to see design in a new context as well. An interesting way forward could be to re-use and re-design instead of just adding more and more products. Most new chairs will still have four legs… I’m longing for cooler and better second hand shops but also some true remodelling of everything from furniture to gadgets into new, smashing and desirable products

By the way Satyendra, did you see any signs of the new “green” trend at this years Milan furniture fair?

(SP) No I have not, and I’m glad that I did not. I mean that we should focus our attention on good work and create products/objects that are meaningful and fulfil utility and more. Perhaps talk less about so called “green trends”.

But, I recall a month or two ago I was invited to Geneva Motor show and invariably every other car or prototype had green – eco friendly labels on it. We all know that the product development time in the transportation industry is at least 3 to 5 years. It takes significant amount of time to develop a new transportation which has so called eco-friendly fuel consumption or anything like that, but just because of the Al Gore’s documentary every other company had green labels on their cars. That is not the kind of green trends I’m looking forward to see.


(DC) How do you see the issue of sustainability in the industrial context?

(SP) I think we need to look at things differently without making big fuss about so-called sustainable design. First of all, each industry has various needs and conditions in which it works and performs and it’s important to look at the kind of product line they have. To really focus on key issues and products and then gradually open up new chapters, rather than creating catalogue of products which do not say anything.
There is a confusion between re-use and re-cycle, these words are often used interchangeably without realising its implications.


(DC) Are there any new research topics that industry could look into?

(SP) There are many new topics, but the concern is – does it make sense just to open up new topics? What we need to look at first is how to do things better with given conditions and possibilities and then certainly we can talk about new topics as well. Perhaps take a fresh look at some existing situations.


(DC) According to you, who has the biggest responsible concerning sustainable design, the designer or the producer? Or maybe society, which actually has a strong power by the possibility to use its money as a vote for which kind of world we would like to live in?

(SP) The trouble is that if sustainability becomes another buzzword, then we will loose the real meaning of it. I think that in every design project it should be somehow dealt with, without almost mentioning it.

But I could think of a few which have great potentials. Danish company B&O, and few others like that, have the heritage and kind of sustainable thinking for long time. The challenge is how to keep up with new innovative digital technology without losing it all.


(DC) That’s true. We are seeing more examples of greenwashing all the time. Cynical business leaders take advantage of a good thing. But it will not work in the long run. Consumers of today demand transparency.

Do you see a trouble with our market economy when creating so called trends and fads?

(SP) Real meaning and real concerns that’s what matters and not passing trends and fads…..specially in the field of industrial design. It is indeed high time that we get back to base and really not make big fuss about the trends and fads….. We all know, that to do a serious meaningful product it takes years of planning, designing, prototyping, testing and product development. It’s a silly idea to say we have follow so called trends. It’s a shortsighted idea.

David, please tell me your thoughts on how we could speak with high technological industry on these issues?


(DC) It’s an important question, because there is demand for sustainable design in the high technological industry. As I wrote about in the recent issue of the David Report bulletin, one of the biggest challenges in the future is to find a way to adapt sustainable thinking to technology gadgets. They fuel the wear and tear mentality in society today. A mobile phone has a life-span shorter than a year. It’s a challenge for the industry to both develop better long life products and also bring forward better systems for recycling for the existing ones.



The top image shows me and Satyendra Pakhalé in the Cappellini exhibition in Milano (I’m sitting on the Fish chair designed by Satyendra. Thanks to Michael Koenig for taking the picture!). Rest of the images show assorted products by Satyendra. Next edition of the David and Satyendra talk will by up within a couple of weeks. The subject will be “sensorial products”. Meanwhile, please let us know your opinion on sustainable design.

Earlier talk on design with the topic “humanistic and cultural values” by David Carlson and Satyendra Pakhalé.

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  1. tim power says:

    May 15, 2007

    Thanks for the thoughtful interview. I agree with most points that Satyendra brings up on the need of a designer or company to be careful not to overemphasize ‘greenness’ or ‘sustainability’ in design projects. Clear conceptual thinking in design and quality in materials and production tend to last for a long time, and the idea of an object lasting for more than one year, one decade or one generation is paramount to true sustainability.
    Lets take for example this upcoming show ‘haute green’? Although I will not be attending the NY show, I would be very curios to hear other peoples thoughts on the show – is there a sense of quality that will last for a long time in any of the pieces? I suppose the shows curators should be applauded for taking into consideration sustainability – but time will tell if they have succeeded. Unfortunately, I have my serious doubts.
    In any case, i feel that alongside the issue of the lack of true quality in so much ‘design’ being produced today, there is a lack of responding to any true question.
    What is the main question facing us today? What are the main problems that need to be addressed? What are our cultural desires and aspirations? What are we responding too?
    So although I agree with Satyendra on his desire not to banalize sustainability, at the same time the perils facing the earth are perhaps for the first time in history becoming more and more evident to the mass public, and thus, in some way, i feel the question of how not to further damage mother earth must be answered in some way by every ‘design’.
    The design work we do here in the studio has never been overtly ‘green’…..our response has always been to try and produce archetypal forms and respond to archetypical functions using materials and techniques that will last, hopefully for a long long time………..another thing we are doing, perhaps erroneously, is designing far fewer ‘objects’, and designing far more ‘places’; as there is already so many things and objects out there.
    But I am glad to see Satyendra and many other friends and colleagues out there producing thoughtful, entertaining, useful, wonderful and I believe, long lasting things.

  2. ali Ghanbarian says:

    May 15, 2007

    Keep up the good work david!


    Ali Ghanbarian

    Publisher/SOMA MAGAZINE


  3. David Carlson says:

    May 17, 2007

    Tim, I really believe that the words you are ending your comment with is extremely important (and often forgotten). “Long lasting value” should be one of the key attributes in every design brief out there.

  4. David Carlson says:

    May 17, 2007

    Ali, Thanks for the nice words!

  5. Xanthe says:

    May 18, 2007

    “Long lasting value”
    I just want to add that value needs to be emotionally durable as well as physically–products designed for easy repair and upgrading (if applicable).

  6. David Carlson says:

    May 18, 2007

    Xanthe, as you are saying easy repair and upgrading is important. I would really like to see a new kind of consumer electronics with a much better possibility for upgrading. It’s also interesting to see the new industry that are growing around the iPod like http://irepair.ca/, http://www.podswap.com/ and http://buymybrokenipod.com/.

  7. Prof.Prakash Unakal - Industrial Designer says:

    May 18, 2007

    Dear Satyen and David,

    The coversation is very informal and can connect to someone like me sitting thousand miles away in bangalore itself speaks for it’s profound impact.

    Designing by Heart – whose core being Value upheld by end user at last is according to me utmost important.Trends/jargons will keep coming and going.Classics will remain for long time.
    David’s quote – sustainability in design which is good…The best way to make sustainable design is to concentrate on quality, both concerning design and material. To produce better products. Mass consumption and sustainability doesn’t go very well together. I would love to see more “design classics”, the kind of products your children can inherit ” makes sense.
    Satyen’s comment – we should focus our attention on good work and create products/objects that are meaningful and fulfil utility and more. Perhaps talk less about so called “green trends” hits nail on head.

    Keep the doing the good work you guys are doing …

    prakash unakal

  8. David Carlson says:

    May 18, 2007

    Prakash Unakal, thanks for joining the conversation. As you are saying it is nice to involve people from around the world. I think you are right – designing by heart is uttermost important. You need a certain degree of passion in all creation and never forget to give the end user value. Otherwise they will turn away and find something else….

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  10. [...] edition of my conversation with Satyendra Pakhale here at the David Report blog we were discussing sustainable design. Then I came across British company Specialbike which is refurbishing old bikes with precision [...]

  11. Abhay says:

    Oct 15, 2009

    Great conversation Satyen and David.

    I love image number 6. What’s the product called?I’ve put it up at NiceMaal.com but I need the title and some background about it.

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