People-friendly design is as important as going Green

Speaking to Brazilian designers this week, it became obvious what they, as a creative community, might claim as a point of difference. Design in Brazil is less sophisticated than in the UK or elsewhere – something that fledgling trade association Abedesign aims to remedy – and design education is not a strong suit. But there is a greater leaning towards sustainability in design than you see in most other parts of the world.

This is not just the favela chic popularised by global furniture stars Fernando and Humberto Campana, though with the rainforest issue and wood the traditional material for furniture, renewable supplies of timber are key. It is more an ingrained approach to looking at materials differently and the way things are made.

We in the UK can take much from that. Organisations such as Wrap, in packaging, and activists like Martin Charter at the Centre for Sustainable Design at the University College for the Creative Arts at Farnham, Surrey, battle to change attitudes here, but it is an uphill climb. It often takes legislation or a client’s express command to launch designers into pastures Green.

But sustainability isn’t just about choice of environmentally friendly materials. It is also about people-friendly design – dubbed ‘inclusive design’ in many quarters. This relates to products and services that are fit for all of us, regardless of age and ability, and it is something all designers should take on board.

The Royal College of Art’s Helen Hamlyn Research Centre has done sterling work in organising the annual Design Challenge with the Design Business Association to encourage practicing designers to think this way. Meanwhile, the likes of The Sorrell Foundation and the Design Council’s Red unit have been working in schools, healthcare and the like to create customer-focused services.

But there is much more to be done and Keith Bamber has it right. ‘We need to start designing for the “minority”, he says. ‘It’s better for everyone.’

Lynda Relph-Knight – Design Week

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