Currently and for most part of it, the design world is suffering from a broken system of short-sighted values and seasonal looks that are promoted to death, to sell products that are often produced without much regard for quality or ethicality.
As consumers, it is crucial that we fully comprehend the true value of our patronage and spend: its ability to bring about positive change. So let’s use it to build a better world.
It has fallen on the design consumer to break the cycle by changing their approach to how they buy design. Let’s focus on the longevity of the design investment. Instead of chasing throwaway trends, examine what styles, materials you really like and will be happy to grow with. Objects with reputable provenance would have been produced with care and consideration, not to mention a keen eye on detail and refinement. Very often, these pieces end up being investments that move with you across homes, cities and continents. Quality pieces do not come cheap; and saving to invest in a long-life piece of furniture or carpet or light is not a bad thing at all.
It means one will not be spending money on brands that make furniture that might not survive even one relocation. This alone can force mass producers to reconsider their modus operandi.
A considered approach to what you buy is also a sign of respect for the graft put into earning the resources that allow you to purchase; so buy less, but buy smart. And consider vintage, heirloom and pre-loved pieces. As they have proven time and again, they never really go out of trend.
READ THE LABEL
From repurposed to recycled and upcycled, it is crucial that we raise our collective awareness of what goes into the design pieces we love and put our weight behind brands and designers who are doing better.
From collectible design makers to flat-pack starter home brands, new-age design is exploring end of life materials including ocean plastics, offcuts and disposed fabrics to name a few, to create new work that can extend the life cycle of waste and offset the landfill crisis.
So before you charge your card, do some research into how the piece you so love is made, what has gone into it and what the brand’s ethical policies are. Sustainably inclined materials and objects might have a comparably higher initial cost, but our collective actions can help bring the planet back from the brink of a total ecological meltdown; that is priceless.
SUPPORT LOCAL TALENT
As it is, the carbon footprint of design production is enormous. Importing it further compounds the problem. It is time we apply scrutiny to the double standards that exists in the design market; we cannot be talking about sustainability without raising the local design communities in a manner that offers them a place at the table.
Supporting local brands and designers can have far-reaching impact. Consider this: supporting local talent, wherever one is, will offer a platform for engagement and visibility to more exciting and diverse perspectives, which in turn enrich the global design scene.
Local designers, especially from emerging design markets may tend to focus on regional materials and feature interpretations of regional techniques and crafts. In supporting them, we are not only reducing the carbon footprint, we are boosting local economies and giving new relevance to crafts communities that are still struggling in a post-industrial world.
Appreciation of regional design is one thing, but we need to do more than that. As design lovers and consumers, we need to actively seek out what is being made in our proverbial backyard, put our money behind it, give a home to those pieces and spread the word.
INVEST IN THE YOUNG
We will always covet the classics but it is also important to discover the new, the exciting and the classics in the making. Give emerging designers a chance. Be they architects, interior designers, product designers, app designers or fashion designers — they need patronage to explore their big ideas. We need new energy and a new outlook on design. Because if design’s true role is to solve problems, we need new minds for the issues humanity is faced with right now.