Sustainability and simplicity are key to social innovation

Our focus on handmade type this week is not an aberration. It heralds a growing interest in all things handmade as designers balance the new forms of expression technological developments afford with a return to authenticity.

Our focus on handmade type this week is not an aberration (see feature on font’s). It heralds a growing interest in all things handmade as designers balance the new forms of expression technological developments afford with a return to authenticity.

The typography of Dutch group Autobahn may be quirky, with its use of spinach, ketchup and the like. But it’s only putting a contemporary take on a traditional craft – and not so contemporary when you consider the fruit and vegetable dyes used in previous eras to colour paint and plaster, and still used for fabrics in many cultures.

Authenticity is a word creeping into all communications as recession tightens its grip, not just in design. When times are tough, people seek comfort, and craft is a way of achieving it, either in the enjoyment of crafted graphics or artefacts, or in their making.

Developing countries like South Africa and the South American states are building on indigenous craft skills to build not only their economies, but also a sense of identity and personal pride in their people. Ordinary folk are gaining stature through their efforts, often led by designers such as New Yorker Stephen Burks and Brits Tom Dixon and Barber Osgerby, to interpret traditional skills in a modern way.

Designs of the Time 07 showed that the UK is not immune to this way of thinking. Industrial and technological revolutions notwithstanding, local communities can be created and inspired through co-design projects that aren’t just about making, but about shared thinking and experiences.

The Audi Design Foundation is among those tapping this mood of social innovation through design. Its Sustain Our Nation initiative will build on experiences in the South African townships and favelas of Brazil, but with a particularly UK twist (see News Analysis).

Collaboration is key to Sustain Our Nation, with a host of complementary organisations involved. It offers a welcome chance for design to lead the movement for social change.

Latest articles

Remembering Jon Daniel: 1966-2017

We look back on the life and work of the Design Week columnist, independent creative director and social activist “who helped put black participation on the political map”.