Imagine a new world where we break with the past and begin again. For many, the post-pandemic world is causing shifts in human behavior and design is following suit. We call this Designkind, where humanity is in flux, pushed to the limits, experiencing the vulnerability of life, and rethinking the value of what’s important. This will create a new design language focused on rebuilding a more resilient and inclusive world, where mankind sustains during these extreme times. Here are three themes that imagine a restorative future and embrace design as the solution.
Sustainers value circularity, zero-waste lifestyle, and strive to reach the Ecocene, an epoch where humans and their design practices identify ecological frames of reference. This is the utopian vision of life after the Anthropocene, where we not only sustain but thrive. The Anthropocene, our current era of decline due to the human destruction of earth’s natural resources, has overburdened our planet’s ecological footprint. If ecocide continues, our planet will become uninhabitable, and scientists say that we are heading towards the sixth mass extinction. Sustainers want to reverse this decline and reimagine the earth as a place of nourishment. It will take a new sustainer mindset to utilize design strategies for human survival. Speculative design allows us to envision a new and rewilded future. Designers are already creating urban vertical farms and apartment buildings that grow food. Forests are now growing in the Sahara Desert. Eco-bridges are being built to reconnect wildlife to natural habitat. Indigenous wisdom is driving new design solutions in architecture* .
Related to the decline of the natural world is the decline of living conditions for humanity. There is economic inequality, with 700 million people living in poverty. Millions of people are refugees, displaced by climate change. Two billion people don’t have clean drinking water. There is global instability caused by lack of resources, opportunity, and healthy environments. Designers are working to restore equity and justice by designing for social impact. They are designing for underserved populations while addressing inclusivity, human health, aging populations, and climate change. Architects are designing climate-resilient structures and looking at how we use buildings to connect back to land and social issues, like fostering local engagement. They are addressing aspirations of the community, and not just the client who hired them. Designing for social impact lives at the intersection of sustainability and humanity, where design justice can improve place and planet for all.
How can we mend our relationship with materials in this new era? Currently, the resources used to make all our buildings and consumer products exceed natural renewable resources. We are making synthetic things that will be the fossils of the future, unless we can reset our relationship to “stuff” and practice circular design and manufacturing, or design for end of life. Designers are dematerializing and embracing biomaterials. These materials come from and return to nature, made from sources such as mushroom, corn, algae, and hemp. New forms in these biomaterials are creating a new path forward. They are not only mending our vision of materiality, but also our relationship with design and nature. It’s up to us, Designkind, to create these new materials of the Ecocene.
About the Author: Royce Epstein
Royce Epstein is the A&D Design Director for Mohawk Group. Royce shares her passion and vision for design, cultural trends, and the meaning of materials in a broad context. Her role is to evolve and share Mohawk Group’s Design Vision with the A&D community, and to leverage product design with what A&D desires. Constantly on the watch for new trends in all aspects of culture, Royce feeds this insight to our industry’s touch points. A veteran materials and product specialist, Royce spent two decades working in A&D firms before Mohawk. She is based in Philadelphia.
*Lo-TEK: Design by Radical Indigenism by Julia Watson, Taschen, 2019