The Design Council must keep pushing sustainability

It is ironic that the Design Council should axe the post of Leader Sustainability at this time (see News, page 3). Just days before Clare Brass was made redundant design Council chief executive David Kester had highlighted sustainability as ‘the only issue’ in design.

Kester was speaking at the council’s ‘Wake up to sustainability’ breakfast and gave no indication that it might have run its course at the council. It has long been a theme underpinning the council’s campaigns and featured in the Cox Review, penned for Government by Design Council chairman Sir George Cox.

Indeed, the Dott 07 initiative, a collaboration between the council and regional development agency One North East, has sustainability at its heart. Projects such as the Town Meal in Middlesbrough, prepared from home-grown food, and the Eco Design Challenge are part of this.

The spirit of Dott echoes that of the Audi Design Foundation’s Designs of Substance student contest, its aim being to help people in desperate need in developing countries to lead better, safer and more fulfilling lives (DW 20 June).

Last week ADF’s 2007 winners, Max Frommeld and Maki Okawara from Ravensbourne College of Design & Communication and Nirmal Menon, representing Kingston University, visited the South African township of Mdantsane in Buffalo City Municipality to demonstrate their designs to local people and get their feedback.

The outcome from both local government people and ordinary folk was positive and there is a strong possibility that the designs – a clothes washing system, a security screen and a device to make a paraffin stove safer – will be adopted.

It is great to see design working in this way, whether at home or abroad. Sustainability is surely as much about creating communities and jobs to enhance life as it is about reuse and recycling. You’d expect to Design Council to continue its leadership role in this rather than give out the message at this point that it is no longer engaged in promoting sustainability.

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