Lecture #06

The third lecture I watched and would like to write something about is the one from Sylwia Ulicka. She is a designer and lecturer from Puebla in Mexico and her major focus lies on sustainability. 

In the lecture she is trying to convince us to question the material culture we are living in, because she thinks that we as designers have the power to make a change, what is actually a very nice thought of her IMO.

She starts and ends the lecture with two almost similar quotes that basically have the same meaning: A human made artifact is symbolic of the world view held by the society in which it is created. That sounded quite meaningful to me and gave me a very new perspective on the world we are living in. 

Sylwia further states that politicians have been talking for quite a long time about the topic sustainability now, but nothing has really changed, because the idea of an endless economic growth seems more important to them. 

Professor Ulicka goes on by explaining that real sustainability means that the economic, the ecological and the social factor in a society are well balanced — and that is definitely not the case in the world I am living in. 

She explains eco-efficiency as an approach that adds more value to goods and services by reducing the use of resources and decreasing the level of environmental polution — basically it means to produce more with less. Eco-efficiency was in the beginning thought to work out with new technology and it probably would have worked out, if the global consumption wouldn’t have increased as it has since then.  Due to the overconsumption high-income countries are living and due to the increasing overpopulation since 1970 to 2010 the CO2 emission increased by 60% and the biodiversity decreased by 30% what is indeed very very sad. 

I can remember when I was a very young child that when I visited a friend of mine I saw a sticker in the house of his parents that said in German something like „We won’t recognize that we can’t eat money until there is no single animal and no single tree left“. As I grew up I always kept that quote in my mind, cause it hit me at this very young age with such a low amount of words. Anyway Sylwia talked on about that in 2050 we are estimated to waste the resources only three planets could deliver us. She also stated that it is the responsibility of high-income countries to rethink the consumption patterns, because their ecological footprint is approximately five times as big as the one from low-income countries. 

The lecturer from Mexico thinks that we as a new generation of designers should use discursive design or speculative design as she calls it too to make a change. This kind of design is clearly disconnected from our economic system and its’ major goals are to reflect and to evoke discourse about problems of our society. Discursive design is focused on behaviors, emotions and meanings and if we try to design sustainable we need to question the status quo of our behaviors, emotions and meanings. 

She relates in her lecture about three objects students designed as projects to learn something about discursive design:

-HUGO; Hugo is an hugging pillow with arms and is about social isolation in times of permanent social connection in virtual space. 
-TRASH-HOUSE; Students thought of the waste that is produced by political campaigns and they build a house out of the trash. 
-PEPPER-SPRAY; Due to the fact that femicide-rates are enormous in Mexico and women only are legally allowed to defend themselves when they are hurt students designed a pepper-spray that has needles on the trigger-button, so that the women is always hurt before she uses it. 

For me personally this examples are rather art than actual design, because for me to evoke discussions about something was always something that was in the nature of art and I can’t really see a difference to it here. Nevertheless (I really don’t care if its art or a new form of design) I think that everything that makes people communicate about real problems is something that is valuable and needs to be supported. 

As a conclusion I would like to repeat Sylwias conclusion: Modern consumption-patterns are the real problem and design can contribute to change them. If I think of an approach how to change consumption-patterns I always like to think of products that are so well designed, that they last forever and never get out of fashion — that is a different approach than Professor Ulicka told us about, but I like the idea so much. 

Because… in the end design is an expression of how we think about the world that we live in and what we value in it.