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Sustainability 2: The Universality of Design

Updated on August 30, 2019
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Rick consumes current information about science, technology, culture, and the ways our lives and world keep changing, and shares insights.

In Harmony with Nature

The harmony of a summer's day.
The harmony of a summer's day. | Source

Design Matters

Many of us wonder how we can go about creating a more sustainable future for ourselves, our societies and our descendants. Key to any striving for sustainability is design, and design is a universal human pursuit, restricted to no single profession or trade.

Each of use designs our body through such means as diet, exercise, rest, work, style, fashion and choice. Each of us also designs our personality through mimicking and learning, apprenticeship and training, conversation and humor, education and socialization, aspiration and actualization. As we begin our families, we design our children through the choices we make on their behalf, and through the example and support and training we provide them.

How We Shape Our World

We design our perceptions of the world through philosophy and religion, politics and culture, art and literature, news and gossip. We design our cultures through language and history and society and politics. We design our careers, our foods, our pets, our homes, our cities, our vehicles and our belongings. At all times, and in all places — consciously or not — we are busy designing our very futures, as well as the future of the world around us.

Furthermore, design is undertaken universally, by humans of every age, size, shape, color, ethnicity, faith, nation and culture; no one group or subset holds the reins of design in exclusivity. A young hacker creating a nifty software packet is no less a designer than a cadre of architects shaping a city center. All that differs is the type and scale and impact of their designs. The impact of design may be felt bottom-up, as in the case of that young hacker independently inserting a bit of computer code onto a network, or it may be felt top-down, as in the case of that cadre of architects working at the behest of a public commission. Who is to say that, as the world turns, the nifty software packet might not change our collective future more than the gleaming city center?

Design Improves Life

Design affects how we use space, and the enjoyment we get in doing so.
Design affects how we use space, and the enjoyment we get in doing so. | Source

Design is Universal

Each and every one of the better attributes of good design — correctness, fitness, proportion, balance, harmony, narrative, focus, intent, contrast, efficiency, impact, meaning, clarity, vision, and so on — may thus be applied to virtually any of life’s pursuits, bottom-up or top-down, from virtually anywhere. Throughout this series of articles, I will therefore discuss good design as applied — variously — to our selves, our bodies, our clothes, our homes, our belongings, our careers, our vehicles, our professions, our cities, even our cultures. And I will discuss ways in which good design may be applied by virtually anyone anywhere. You need not ben an artist or architect to redesign your life and world.


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