Everything we see around us is designed. Good design influences change.

MP3 players existed before Apple’s iPod. Apple made them desirable and incredibly easy to use. They changed the way we used music forever.

Electric cars existed before Tesla. Tesla made them beautiful, desirable, and a credible alternative to petrol-driven cars. Now there are lots of brands making electric cars.

Search engines existed before Google. Google made them fun, simple and elegant. Their logo changed to celebrate events, people and places. You could even play Pac-man on it.

Small cars existed before the Mini. The Mini made small cars desirable, cool and classless. It was driven by students and Hollywood stars.

Cleaning products existed before Method. Method made them desirable, cool and fun.

Vacuum cleaners existed before Dyson. Dyson made them desirable, aspirational and cool.

All of the above changed the way we thought about things. They looked and felt different to what had gone before, but more importantly, they made you desire them.

This is a power station in Norway:

It powers 1600 homes. Beautiful isn’t it? It doesn’t look green. It just looks fantastic. It looks like the future.

What if green energy choices, such as solar panels, wind turbines etc were really beautiful? Would so many people object to their presence? What if the best advertising was for healthier food? What if the most talked about marketing was for sustainably sourced clothing?

When we designed Fairtrade brand Liberation Nuts, we didn’t try to make them look worthy. We tried to make them look fun, friendly and tasty with branding they they could use in all their marketing to tie it all together.


Most of our choices are emotional. We aren’t that rational once our basic needs are met. We buy things we want, far in excess of what we need. We are seduced by design. The problem is that we are often seduced to buy the wrong things.

So how can we use design to create a greener, more sustainable future? Should greener, more ethical choices look green and ethical or should they just look more desirable than anything else? And why is green and ethical a choice? Should we be labeling things that aren’t green and ethical in the same way we label cigarettes so it’s a choice to NOT be green and ethical?

Should we have a labeling system similar to the GDA on food for all goods to show it’s environmental impact, so it’s not a simple ‘it is or it isn’t’ accreditation? Information helps people choose, and what if something is almost worthy of accreditation? We grade students, they don’t just pass or fail. They pass with different degrees of success. We talked about this last week in our post ‘Ethics Unknown: Do we need an ethical labeling system?

The Cradle to Cradle scheme does this with 5 levels of certification. You can find out more about them here.

How can we design a better future? Should green and ethical design just be the better design?

Can design make green and ethical the things children want on their wall as poster?