Of Superheroes and Designers: Can Design Save The World?

Cc3472cd3c28da88d8e6b1eaa4bdc93b?s=47 Mili Sethia
December 03, 2012

Of Superheroes and Designers: Can Design Save The World?

This talk was presented at the Indo-German CERC-GIZ Sustainability Conference. The purpose of this talk was to determine how design can be used for various social causes.


Mili Sethia

December 03, 2012


  1. Of designers and heroes exploring how design can be used

    to impact society and culture
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  3. •  Design  WON’T  save  the  world  poster.  

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  6. The key entities in design •  The business (or employer

    or investor or producer or manufacturer) •  The designer •  The recipient of design ie the consumer/
  7. The key entities of design •  The business (or employer

    or investor or producer or manufacturer) •  The designer •  The recipient of design ie the consumer/ user •  The state and its law or policy makers
  8. 1. First things first, let us consider the role of

    design, and maybe redefine it.
  9. Role of the designer:

  10. The two designers •  A designer is there to beautify

    things. •  Design as 2d and 3d craftsmanship •  A designer as follower of guidelines •  A designer as having responsibility only to his/her own client (the producer)
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  13. 2. Let us consider the consumers, recipients, or users of

  14. Consumers vs. Users (deCerteau) •  Consumption, like democracy, offers a

    set of options that you can choose the best one from. •  Consumption as a passive declaration of choice. •  Choosing the product being a definitive guideline of what one wants.
  15. 3. Let us consider sustainability.

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  18. In more boring terms, sustainable design is: •  Context- and

    culture-specific design •  Design with local and non-perishable resources using the best and most efficient technology •  Design with no afterlife •  A proactively transparent and accountable form of disseminating information •  A live practice for both the user and the creator. •  Certifiable and cross-checked
  19. Redefining design There are 3 things that need to be

    negotiated in order to let “new” design enter into our lives:
  20. Designers: Possible elements of new practice •  It is important

    to demand these things from one’s education or to educate oneself. •  Develop a working understanding of and policies directly affecting your work wherever you are •  Make an investment in a functional (cradle to cradle) understanding of your product •  Talk to customers, lawyers, clients.
  21. Businesses: Advantages of being or employing a “new” designer • 

    Empowering the client and yourself through better communication. •  A more ethical practice on social, ecological and economical grounds •  Success not by creating a need for and producing more products via planned obsolescence, but through also earning through value-added services and maintenance.
  22. “Designers who devote their efforts primarily to advertising, marketing and

    brand development are supporting, and implicitly endorsing, a mental environment so saturated with commercial messages that it is changing the very way citizen- consumers speak, think, feel, respond and interact. To some extent we are all helping draft a reductive and immeasurably harmful code of public discourse.
  23. “There are pursuits more worthy of our problem- solving skills.

    Unprecedented environmental, social and cultural crises demand our attention. Many cultural interventions, social marketing campaigns, books, magazines, exhibitions, educational tools, television programs, films, charitable causes and other information design projects urgently require our expertise and help.
  24. “We propose a reversal of priorities in favor of more

    useful, lasting and democratic forms of communication – a mindshift away from product marketing and toward the exploration and production of a new kind of meaning. The scope of debate is shrinking; it must expand. Consumerism is running uncontested; it must be challenged by
  25. “In 1964, 22 visual communicators signed the original call for

    our skills to be put to worthwhile use. With the explosive growth of global commercial culture, their message has only grown more urgent. Today, we renew their manifesto in expectation that no more decades will pass before it is taken to heart.” First things first, 2000
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