The 1972 report Limits to Growth, prepared at the request of the Club of Rome by the MIT professor Dennis Meadows, sounded the alarm: “Stop growth!” Researchers from around the world have been pointing out the risks of excessive consumption resulting from the all-out race for growth since the late 1960s. But how have we responded to their warnings?
Whilst numerous protest movements are expressing their outrage of experts and citizens alike, in the face of the dominant economic and social systems, the CID is questioning the role that design can play in this social movement.Condemned by numerous economists, as well as by designers and sociologists of objects, the capitalist system has undeniably entered a critical phase. In spite of the warnings expressed by such high-profile figures as Victor Papanek and Jean Baudrillard since the 1970s, the (over)production of objects, by means of processes in which ecology and ethics are swept aside or sidestepped, continues to flood the world. But we are now seeing that resistance is becoming organised.
Born into a generation whose values are changing—ownership is no longer the ultimate goal of professional success, whereas the concept of personnel development or self-fulfilment is gaining ground—young designers no longer get a sense of satisfaction from having produced a new chair or other consumer item. They are now passionate about the research process, working methods and tools that are more respectful of the environment and resources, and which promote a fairer distribution of profits. Open sourceand social design are bringing about new practices in which profit is no longer the driving force.
So can we consider design in another way? Can we use design methods to limit or reduce the number of objects and goods that are accumulating on the planet? Which projects invite us to reduce the consumption of raw materials and fossil fuels? Is there such a thing as not-for-profit design? Could design become a testing ground to reverse the dominant economic processes? Can design elude the obligation of growth?