Imagine a new world where we break with the past and start again. For many, the post-pandemic world is causing changes in human behavior and design is following suit. We call it Designkind, where humanity is on the move, pushed to its limits, experiencing the vulnerability of life and rethinking the value of what is important. This will create a new design language focused on rebuilding a more resilient and inclusive world, where humanity sustains itself in these extreme times. Here are three themes that imagine a restorative future and embrace design as a solution.
Sustainers value circularity, zero waste living and strive to reach the ecocene, a time when 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 human destruction of the Earth’s natural resources, has overburdened our planet’s ecological footprint. If ecocide continues, our planet will become uninhabitable, and scientists say we are heading for the sixth mass extinction. Supporters want to reverse this decline and reimagine the earth as a place of food. It will take a new supportive mindset to use design strategies for human survival. Speculative design allows us to envision a new and regenerated future. Designers are already creating urban vertical farms and apartment buildings that grow food. Forests now grow in the Sahara desert. Eco-bridges are built to reconnect wildlife to the natural habitat. Indigenous wisdom is driving new design solutions in architecture* .
The decline in the living conditions of humanity is linked to the decline of the natural world. There are economic inequalities, with 700 million people living in poverty. Millions of people are refugees, displaced by climate change. Two billion people do not have drinking water. There is global instability caused by the lack of resources, opportunities and healthy environments. Designers strive to restore fairness and justice by designing for social impact. They design for underserved populations while addressing inclusivity, human health, aging populations, and climate change. Architects design climate-resilient structures and examine how we use buildings to connect to the land and to social issues, such as fostering local engagement. They respond to the aspirations of the community, not just the client who hired them. Designing for social impact sits at the intersection of sustainability and humanity, where design justice can improve place and the planet for all.
How do we repair our relationship with materials in this new era? Currently, the resources used to manufacture all of our buildings and consumer products exceed renewable natural resources. We make synthetic objects that will be the fossils of the future, unless we can reset our relationship to “things” and practice circular design and manufacturing, or design for end of life. Designers dematerialize and adopt biomaterials. These materials originate and return to nature, made from sources such as fungi, corn, algae, and hemp. New forms in these biomaterials open up a new path. They repair not only our view of materiality, but also our relationship with design and nature. It’s up to us, Designkind, to create these new Ecocene materials.
About the Author: Royce Epstein
Royce Epstein is the Director of A&D Design for Mohawk Group. Royce shares his passion and vision for design, cultural trends and the meaning of materials in a broad context. His role is to evolve and share the Mohawk Group’s design vision with the A&D community, and leverage product design with what A&D desires. Constantly on the lookout for new trends in all aspects of culture, Royce nurtures this vision of the touchpoints of our industry. A seasoned materials and product specialist, Royce spent two decades working in A&D companies prior to Mohawk. She is based in Philadelphia.
*Lo-TEK: Designed by Radical Indigenism by Julia Watson, Taschen, 2019