DESIGNING A BETTER FUTURE: Shouldn’t green & ethical design try harder?

DESIGNING A BETTER FUTURE: Shouldn’t green & ethical design try harder?

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...
ETHICS UNKOWN: Do we need an ethical labelling system?

ETHICS UNKOWN: Do we need an ethical labelling system?

Do you choose the ethical or sustainable alternative as often as you can? It feels good making a purchase that helps people or the planet. But do you choose things that aren’t? I mean, do you choose a product based on the fact that it isn’t ethical? Or do you choose it because you like it, it’s cheap etc? i.e. You ignore the ethics or sustainability of the product? Obviously, there are schemes out there such as Fairtrade (who do great work) that tell you if something is ethical. But these schemes are like a switch. You either are or you aren’t part of it. What if a business was trying to be ethical, but wasn’t quite there yet? Or what if they ignored ethics entirely? If you were buying an appliance in the UK, would you choose the product that was the least energy efficient? No, of course not. It’s difficult to even buy an appliance that isn’t highly rated for energy efficiency because it’s what consumers want. There are many stories about brands that say they have Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), but then we hear about them using child labour or factories that collapse on their workers, or used factories that forced pregnant workers to get abortions, or confiscating migrant workers’ passports, unsafe working conditions, sweatshops, etc. They apologise, say they ‘will do better next time’ and then it happens again. And again. Often products are outsourced, then that company outsources, and the chain of custody is difficult to trace. That doesn’t let the corporations off the hook. The issue is that they squeeze the supply chain for...
APPLE & E-WASTE

APPLE & E-WASTE

Apple’s constant line of small improvements is driven by profit in an upgrade society. The old phone, computer or device etc. ends up as waste along with all the things that attach to it. Apple’s new iphone has attracted a lot of criticism about its lack of a headphone socket, but the issue is bigger than that. It’s a shame that Apple hasn’t been brave enough to innovate in ethics and the environment with its phones and put them at the core of it’s thinking. Some computers are so cheap and badly made that they become obsolete quite quickly. Our Macs have been reliable and are quite a few years old now but Apple doesn’t update their computers in the same way they upgrade their phones in a fanfare of publicity. They are built and designed to last. But with phones, because they are on contracts, often offered for free, with offers of upgrades every year or two, they tend to end up as waste. Apple (and other phone manufacturers) create a desire for the new with their phones, unlike any other item. Phones have become the tech version of fast fashion. Software that is not updated also renders many items obsolete (we gave away a scanner recently that would no longer work with our OS, but at least it went to a good home). So what are the solutions? Do we need to make brands listen or should there be tougher regulations? Do we need to move from an owning economy to a using or sharing economy? What if we rented phones/computers and they became the property (and responsibility)...
WHY YOUR BRAND NEEDS A STORY…

WHY YOUR BRAND NEEDS A STORY…

In 1902, US President Theodore Roosevelt went on a hunting trip in Mississippi. One day he went back to camp and his party went on and cornered an American Black Bear before calling him back to take the kill for himself. When he arrived he looked at the bear, and looking at it’s state, refused the kill, calling it ‘unsportsmanlike’. Newpapers picked up on this, creating the cartoon by Clifford Berryman, above. Morris Michtom saw the cartoon and seised his opportunity, creating ‘Teddy’s Bear’ (with the full permission of the President to use his name). Michtom founded the Ideal Novelty & Toy Co (today called Ideal, which was once the largest toy company in the world. All you early adopters who had the first Rubik’s Cube, the name on the box was…yes,  you guessed it, Ideal). The rest they say, is history. I bet everyone reading this has heard of, owned, or seen a Teddy Bear. But have you heard of a Billy Possum? The next president of the US after Theodore Roosevelt was William H. Taft. The toy market was buzzing after the Teddy Bear became so popular, but many believed the teddy bear was a fad. In 1909 Taft was having a dinner, and at his request, was tucking into ‘possum and taters’. After the President Elect had stuffed his belly, he was presented with a stuffed possum toy that he was told would replace the Teddy Bear. The bear was named ‘Billy Possum’. Taft liked the toy and the Georgia Billy Possum Company was formed. It was hailed by the press, the market was flooded with all sorts...
WHAT CAN HIGH STREETS LEARN FROM SHOPPING MALLS?

WHAT CAN HIGH STREETS LEARN FROM SHOPPING MALLS?

High streets are important, both for community and for place. They help define an area as being more than a collection of homes, but over time many they have lost their way, and yet shopping malls wouldn’t be around today if it wasn’t for the high street. SHOPPING MALLS EVOLVED FROM HIGH STREETS.  My childhood was spent in a small town in North Devon. My local high street had free parking, but it was only a 15 minute walk from home, it had 2 cinemas, record shops, food shops, clothes shops, shoe shops, 1950’s style diners, ‘ye olde tea shoppe’, general stores, toy shops, 3-4 sweet shops, fishmongers, butchers, ‘fruit and veg’ shops, bakers, (note the plurals) stationers, amusements, book shops that specialized in certain different types of books, a library, restaurants, lots of bars and hotels and various markets. The signs were often hand painted, real works of skill, there was pride in how the shops looked and how goods were displayed. What worked especially well was that the bakers were close to one another, ‘fruit and veg’ shops were close to one another and all the restaurants were grouped together. The pavements were narrow, but because similar shops were nearby (and we used our own bags back then which were easier to carry) it made it easier to shop. The high street was logical, it made sense, the service was friendly, we knew many of the shop owners by name, there was a feeling of community and it looked great. If a shop didn’t have what you wanted, they would order it for you. In addition to...