Ignoring the cereals box

In autumn 2000 I started studying visual communication at 'Bezalel' academy in Jerusalem. On the first week I attended 'creative thinking' class with Ruben Cohen, a mythological design teacher. Just before the class ended, Ruben told us that there are two things we need to remember: The first is that we have a responsibility towards the environment; 'Always keep in mind', he said, 'what happens to that serials box you designed after it has been used'. The second thing he said was equally important, but not relevant to this post. That was the first time I heard about what I now frame under the term 'sustainability' during my design education, and unfortunately, also the last.

I've learnt many things during the four years I've been a bachelor student in the design school: professional crafts, concepts creation and visual communication to list a few. It was a life changing experience that effected the person and the designer I am today. However, the effect of my work on the planet was never a part of the conversation. The fact that eighty percent of the environmental impact of the products, services, and infrastructures around us is determined at the design stage (according to the UK design council 2002), seemed to be irrelevant to the design education I received.

20 years have passed and many things have changed in my world. I became a professional designer. I became a mother. I became a student once again. I see the climate changing in front of my eyes, and I can't avoid thinking about the world I am going to leave to my children, and what can I possibly do about it. Ignoring my own footprint on the planet doesn't seem to be possible anymore.

The understanding that design has a part in creating the climate crises we are experiencing becomes more and more common. As design scholar John Thackara writes: "We designed our way into this crises, now we have to design our way out of it". Among many other things that needs to be done to face the current situation, designers needs to adapt sustainability as a professional standard. The cereal box can not be ignored any longer.

Sustainability is an emerging topic in design education. Some study programs on a master level are dedicated exclusively to this theme, while others are experimenting different ways it could be approached and applied. However, this is only the very beginning of tackling such a complex challenges.

I decided to explore this topic in the context of my master thesis in Service System Design at Aalborg university. In the following months I will collaborate with the Visual Design institute at The Danis Academy for Art and Design (KADK), to explore and develop a framework of sustainability for their education. This is a work in process so in the upcoming posts I hope to tell more about it and share some findings and reflections along the way. Your own comments, thoughts and ideas are very welcome in this ongoing conversation.


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