Design is not just for beauty’s sake… it is fundamental to function, and it is the foundation for all process. Wherever there is a system failure, it is always the result of a failure of design. Therefore, I believe good design serves us not only aesthetically, but, even more importantly, functionally. It’s principles are universal, and it is the platform upon which we build our lives. Ideally, a system (regardless of type) functions smoothly and with no wasted energy, and operates within a closed loop.
As human beings, we function within a greater natural system, and have done so since the beginning of time. But ever since the industrial revolution, we have been increasingly approaching the verge of system failure: our level of resource consumption is rapidly exceeding available supply, and we now face the unprecedented possibility that the planet upon which we depend will no longer be able to sustain us over the long term. I believe that our current system, and how we will live on a planet with limited resources, is undergoing a necessary process of change, and as a designer, I see it as my responsibility to future generations to do my part, however small, to encourage choices that will help us consume more intelligently and move as a whole toward sustainability. This means understanding that bigger isn’t automatically better, and also that our lifestyle choices have an impact that is greater than we might currently realize.
Looking at the natural world as a model for system design, one can observe that there is no such thing as “garbage”, because one element’s waste is another’s fuel, and the energy that sustains the system comes from resources that are continually renewed. While our human existence is a very complex one that includes many factors, I see this type of sustainability as an elegant goal towards which to strive. Though we are still some distance from achieving this ideal, I believe we can and must begin now to take some thoughtful interim steps, ones that don’t necessarily mean sacrificing quality of life, but that begin to acknowledge our part in a greater whole. This means, in part, realizing that efficiency in design can help reduce consumption, that quality can take the place of quantity, and that using local and vernacular resources helps to build and sustain a vibrant economy at home. Human settlements are a necessary part of human existence, but they don’t necessarily have to come at the expense of all other life on earth… and the intelligent choices we make today can help to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy life on earth as much as we have.