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.

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(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.

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(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.

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(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.

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(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?

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(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.

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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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