DESIGNING SOCIETY: OUR POWER TO INFLUENCE CHANGE

Are you proud of the work you produce? We explore how our industry has the potential to change the face of the planet.

As designers, visual communicators, marketers and creative thinkers, we have the ability to shape what is desired by society. Many designers are hired to use their creative abilities in the production and selling of superficial goods and services that have detrimental effects to our planet in the form of landfill, toxic wastes as well as the abuse of human rights in child labour, poor working conditions and more. The concern is that we are using our creative talents to produce worthless products. As addressed in the infamous First Things First Manifesto; “We have negated our professions’ potential for positive impact, and are using up our time and energy manufacturing demand for things that are redundant at best, destructive at worst” (FTF 2014). While we do not immediately bear the consequences of our work, it is our responsibility to ensure that what we do is aligned to our ethos. Therefore it is critical as designers to consider the user experience of our designed product. Our creative abilities have the power to create demand, but how can we use our skills in a meaningful and influential way?

Shuhei Hasado is a Japanese designer whose work shows an intrinsic connection to the natural world. Hasado was born in 1962 and was a designer working mostly with construction materials as a craftsman. By his mid-thirties he changed the way he designed by returning to traditional Japanese plastering and clay to immerse himself into materials that reflected his appreciation for beauty in the natural world (Tada K. 2010). Some of his other works include The Earth Table, and Pinecone Shaped Vegetable Storage Building where all materials used were found objects in the natural environment. (Tada K. 2010)

Pine Cone Vegetable Storage Building Full Shot
Pine Cone Vegetable Storage Building Full Shot
Pinecone Shaped Vegetable Storage Building
Pinecone Shaped Vegetable Storage Building

In particular his haptic design ‘Geta’ takes a traditional Japanese shoe worn barefoot and transforms the experience by marrying a variety of natural textures to the sole of the wearer’s foot. This concept may seem barely usable to the mass public, however it is profoundly significant in transforming our relationship with our planet. Traditionally, we walked barefoot on this Earth and thousands of our receptors picked up important information from the textures that we tread upon. Indeed our feet were perhaps the only constant connection we had with the Earth itself in primordial times but that experience has now changed (Ho. K 2014). Hasado’s design rekindles this tangible experience, commenting not only on our separation from our planet, but also  culture and human ego itself. The Japanese Geta is a representative of the cultural platform that places us above Earth rather than within it.

As a user of Geta, we become immersed in a variety of sensations that physically and emotionally connect us to nature. The experience created is one of sensory awareness and this is an integral first step of creating an awareness for the Earth that we inhabit.

Geta
Geta
Geta
Geta

This design and concept may seem simple, but it encourages a mindset that appreciates nature. This is incredibly valuable, because without building and nurturing that connection to nature, there is no drive in society to take responsibility of our planet.

What we can learn from Hasado is that regardless of scale, we can all incorporate an environmental, humanitarian ethos to our work. Our skills lie in different areas but if we do them, to the best of our ability, to the best cause, society will grow as a result. The most important aspect is to understand the psychological consequences to the work we make public and how society will respond in turn. By prioritising building demand for ethical goods and services, we as designers can be a part of a movement that makes us proud of what we do.

Our power to influence change begins with thinking; thinking about our designs and what their consequences will be, how will the user relate to my product, how will their experience with nature change? How will their values change over time if our industry starts producing products with a concern for the environment?
It is clear, that as long as things are marketed well, society becomes a reflection of these things, and it all starts with encouraging a mindset. As a designer that is a responsibility, because you have the choice to create what will be desired by the rest of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

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