As PI of the BaSF project I had the great pleasure of delivering one of the keynote lectures during the University of Southern Denmark’s week-long, campus-wide ‘camp’, Sustainability: Design and Entrepreneurship, last week. My talk bore the title ‘Green is Beautiful: Design History as if Nature Mattered’, and sought to explore examples of how design history has engaged with issues related to the environment and what design history could look like if such approaches are pursued more systematically.
Design is garbage. Your electric vehicle and your ‘conscious cotton’ t-shirt are only marginally less detrimental to the environment than are their conventional counterparts. But whereas design certainly is part of the problem, it may also be part of the solution. In the anthroposcene, we can no longer talk about design (and) culture without also talking about design (and) nature. This acknowledgement has significant ramifications for design history as well. In this talk I will make a case for a new type of design historical discourse that takes seriously design’s complex interrelations with nature. The cultural turn and the material turn have resulted in rich accounts of how design mediates the human condition and our material world. What is still missing, though, is an environmental turn taking us from focusing on ‘Man-Machine Interactions’ to a better understanding of ‘Man-Machine-Nature Interactions’. In short: studies of design history as if nature mattered.