Design and Responsibility
Dinner 4:Friday 13th November
Intentionally or not, design solutions can have ramifications beyond their original remit. Are designers taking enough responsibility for their creations?
Jamar Hunt, RSA Journal
Design is as moral as a hammer. It is adaptable to whatever ends are necessary. Just as a hammer can build a house or break through a window, designers make choices with every act of design. Those moral choices do not ineluctably lead to morally defensible outcomes. How could they?
Think about the automobile industry. Many of us lead a life of remarkable mobility and geographical freedom as a result of the automobile and its attendant infrastructure. So while it is hardly immoral to design for Ford or Toyota or Land Rover, doesn’t a designer bear some responsibility for the fact that the World Health Organization ranks “road injury” ninth on a list of leading causes of death between 2000 and 2012, or that the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that at least 10% of global greenhouse gases are directly traceable to emissions from the transportation industry? Or more recently the scandal at Volkswagon who has admitted to fitting half a million diesel cars with code that tricker regulators into under- recording noxious emissions. Who was the designer and what is their responsibility?
Let’s also look to sustainability and the non-ignorable fact that we can no longer continue to create the level of waste that we currently do. The take, make and dispose economy needs to be transformed into a means of production that promotes better use of resources and energy. Manufacturers and designers may be able to make a product that can be easily disassembled at the end of its life but with our current waste infrastructure there is a very high chance it will still end up on the e-waste mountain. So of course designers cannot be responsible for it all but considering that 80% of a product’s environmental impact is determined at the concept design stage, it is clear that designers have a critical part to play in a move towards a circular economy.
For our fourth dinner we created a table centre piece based on a grid system, and served tapas style courses from small serving plates and bowls. These encouraged chat about what the individual dishes were, leading to a relaxed atmosphere.