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...
HAPPY INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE

The 21st day of September has been marked since 1981 by the United Nations as the International Day of Peace. You can find out more about it here: http://internationaldayofpeace.org We thought it would be nice to celebrate it with an olive branch, but with a local flavour. That’s why we chose the Robin. It would be lovely to see designers from all over the world celebrate it with birds that represent their countries, especially as birds...
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)...
SOME THOUGHTS ON THE NEW THE CO-OP BRANDING

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE NEW THE CO-OP BRANDING

We love the Co-op. Or the Co-operative as they used to be called. Well, except they weren’t called The Co-operative. I called them the Co-op, everyone I know called them the Co-op, when I saw people write about them online, they wrote ‘Co-op’ rather than ‘The Co-operative’. I remember when the Natwest was called the National Westminster Bank. But everyone called them ‘Natwest’. So they changed their name accordingly. Sometimes you have to look back to move forward. This is a brave move by the Co-op. It shows confidence in who they are and who they really want to be. The old identity was rather sterile and brash at times. It was incredibly corporate. Funeral care was branded in the same way (with a colour change) as a convenience store. I never understood this as a strategy, as funerals are about helping people through one of the most upsetting times in a lifetime, yet the stores looked like they could be selling fridges. It felt totally at odds with a business built on ethics, co-operation and member benefits. The overly corporate approach has led to other problems. In recent years, due to the banking issues they have faced, the whole brand has become tainted. Having a brand that is overly corporate is far more susceptible to issues with reputation than ones that mix it up a bit. Brands are a bit like and eco system, it’s never good to plant just one variety of plant. They need some variation, a bit of rotation and change to feel fresh and new amongst the overall structure of the business while never losing site of...