Lecture #6 – Sylwia Ulicka

The third lecture I want to write about is Lecture 06, where Sylwia Ulicka is questioning material culture and convincing us to do so as well. Sylwia Ulicka is a Mexican designer, researcher and professor with focus on sustainability. In her lecture, she talks about the fact, that we constantly desire to achieve more sustainability, so we as designers are trying to figure out which methods and tools would be the best. Various publications define sustainability as followed: “Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

To really change something, politicians must make a move and set regulations. Although they are talking a lot about sustainability but never make enough effort, since economic growth always seems to be more important. Nevertheless, sustainability must consider ecological, social and economic factors. Over the last decades, a lot of different sustainable approaches have been developed. One of them is eco-efficiency, which considers production with reducing the use of resources and decreasing the level of environmental pollution. But still, this has not generated the expected results. Due to the increase of global population and the increase of consumption, CO2 emissions have been increased by 60% between 1970 and 2008. Sadly, the global biodiversity decreased by 30% in the same time. Sylwia states that, in 2050 we will need the resources of three planets, to meet our demands. This is mostly the fault of high income countries, since their consumption is 5 times bigger than that of low income countries.  
To make a change we as designers should not only focus on problem solving but also use approaches of discursive design. This includes the reflection and definition of our well-being, regardless the current economic system. This means, with our design we should reflect and evoke discourse about problems of our society. 
Sylwia presents projects from her students, tackling this approach. One of the projects is HUGO – the hugging pillow. It refers to the problem of social isolation and loosing physical contacts, such as a hug, due to the excessive use of new communication technologies. 
Lastly, Sylvia Ulicka calls for the new generations of designers to use the power of protest and provocation. Because: „In the end, our designs are expressions and testimonials of our worldview, of how we think about the world and what we value in it.“

To reflect on this topic, I got to say that I like how Sylwia Ulicka is talking about the fact, that designers shouldn’t only think about sustainability but also question our society. I really like the approach of provocation und protest, so people would start to think about our values and behavior. Though I’m not sure about why she chose to only talk about the approach of eco-efficiency. In my bachelor, I dealt a lot with the topic of sustainability, especially with circular economy. And I must say, I still think shifting to a circular economy is the only way how to make a change. Also, the ideal thought of reducing and changing our consumption pattern is more wishful thinking, I don’t think the society is able to do so, it’s in our nature to always want more and possess new things, to prove ourselves. This is okay in a circular economy, because it says that everything must be designed in a way, it does not harm the environment or any stakeholder along the value chain. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation a circular economy is defined as followed: “Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural, and social capital. It is based on three principles: design out waste and pollution; keep products and materials in use; regenerate natural systems.” One of the biggest obstacles though is the fact, that within a circular economy growth is made on a long term, making it a higher risk for businesses. Hopefully people will start to realize the potential this approach has, to build a safe foundation for our future.