The Root of the Problem

Sustainability encompasses far more than just selecting recyclable materials and managing our water and energy consumption. Currently, most of our ‘sustainable’ practices only help to reduce the consequences of design, rather than address the root of the problem. As Bill Reed, the founder of USGBC, puts it in his discussion on Regenerative Design, we are working towards carbon neutrality, but that isn’t enough to consider our current processes ‘sustainable’. To fully fix the issues, we must begin to look at the social issues driving the problem.

This week I have learned that most of today’s designers focus on what they believe is best for the consumer based on their knowledge of design, but they don’t think about what the consumer actually wants. In “Introduction to User Experience and Empathic Design,” the author calls this a legislator. By thinking more empathetically about the consumer, designers can better understand what it is that the consumer wants, which could create less waste. The author suggests that by designing more empathetically, consumers would be more emotionally attached to products, which means longer lifecycles for products.

This is relevant because it alters the way we think about design. Rather than designing products that the consumer doesn’t need and convincing them that they do through marketing, we could begin to design products that the consumer already wants, which could mean less money spent on advertising and less overproduction therefore creating less waste.

After participating in class discussions and completing the required readings, I would like to know if there are already companies who have started to transition to designing more empathetically and how successful there business is doing since.

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