DSGN 160 - Special Topics in Design - Norman [WI22]

The world is in a mess. Climate change? Yes, absolutely, but that is a symptom, not the cause. The main difficulty is believing that the earth's resources are infinite so that we can freely take them from the ground and then, during manufacture and use, discharge waste materials into the waterways and atmosphere. People have been doing this for thousands of years, starting long before the profession of design existed, unwittingly leading to many of today's crises. But even these are symptoms of the economic practices that reward short-term vision and use measures such as the GDP that rewards spending, even when the spending pollutes the earth. These beliefs, policies, behaviors, and actions are all the result of well-meaning but inappropriate design.

But if it is design that got us into today’s mess, perhaps it is design that can get us out, though not the way design is conceived of and practiced today. We need a new form of design, one that understands and can work with the vast variety of issues, people, politicians, and business people across the world. Yes, it is a design problem, but not what people usually think of when they think of design. Appropriate design needs to start with the recognition that each person is a component in the complex system that we call the world, comprising all living things, the earth, land, sea, and sky, where each component impacts the others. For humankind to exist, the system must be sustainable, resilient, repeatable. Today, it is none of these.