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STRAIGHT FROM THE DESIGNER: ESRA LEMMENS ON Saving the planet one design at a time

Designers of the past have left their marks all over the world — skyscrapers, cars, factories, plastic bags. In fact, some people go as far as to suggest that designers have played crucial roles in some of the largest, most destructive events in the age of mankind. They say that while man in general is guilty of things such an industrialism and climate change, some men (meaning the creators) are more guilty than others… but does this mean that designers are to blame for such tragedies?

On the other hand, if design has the power to cause the downfall of the planet, can it also be the determining factor in saving it? Such is the question circulating the design world at the moment. Can designers work together to save the planet?

Absolutely, I think.

Designers can work to control the messages that are projected into the world. They can use the power of design to change people’s opinions and perceptions, and provoke responses and action. The right design can create a message that will stay with it’s audience, and leave a lasting impression. It is this power that needs to be harnessed to save the planet.

In this respect, we should also consider the emotional value in the design process. People need to love something, in order to find the passion and purpose to save it. If we simply communicate the impact humanity is having on the world, most of the time our words will fall on deaf ears. But, if we can use design to muster feelings deep inside of people and make them feel purpose, inspiration and perhaps a sprinkling of guilt, they will be more likely to want to change the world around them.

Most of all, the best way to save the world is through education. As a planet, we have more access to technology than ever before. Most of us carry a tiny computer with us within our phones, and take it every where we go. Any question can be keyed into a search engine, and answered in a matter of milliseconds. Behind every control panel, user interface, website, and mobile application stands a designer, working to understand their consumers, so that they can create the best possible interface.

By building a thorough, visual communication experience for those seeking further education, we can assure that the right information is being consumed to those who seek it. We can work to broadcast planet-saving messages in simple, effective ways. We need to understand the human experience, and the greatest channels for distribution.

However, the mammoth act of saving the planet should not rest entirely on designers. Whilst architects and product designers need to consider sustainability in their creations, and design communications can focus on delivering the right messages, other occupations need to rally around them.

Designers can contribute to the creation of a better world. However, they cannot be alone in their efforts. Together we must strive for a better world, and a better future.

(Image caption: Massoud Hassani, Mine Kafon)


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