Back to the Future

I can’t believe that everything that we covered about sustainability was covered in one semester. As I think back on the semester it seems like so long ago that we began the course, however it all flew by. I am leaving this course with so much more insight to the concept of sustainability and sustainable design than I ever thought I would. I honestly wasn’t too thrilled at first that this was a course that was required. I was worried that the class would be “hippie” and that I would grow tired of it quickly. But I was surprised. First of all, Dr. Armstrong, you were a fantastic professor. I love that this course wasn’t simply a lecture. The interactiveness between all of my fellow students was so helpful for me to really understand some of the concepts that we covered as they relate to design overall and not just simply to interiors. So, thank you for making it a fun learning experience and for coming up with creative ways to help us learn the material. The LOLA shows, the design slams, and even the readings (although they were tricky) were all so beneficial and worth the while.  I can now say that I have confidence in defining what sustainability means, and define it in terms that are understandable. Sustainability is the concept of designing, using, producing, and disposing of products and materials with the entire life cycle of the product in mind. Sustainability should focus on benefiting the environment rather than creating harmful consequences to the environment.

There are a few concepts in particular that stand out to me as I think back on what concepts and ideas in particular aided in constructing my understanding and interest in sustainability. Empathic design made the most impact on me. I researched the idea of empathic design in my LOLA show article and it made so much sense to me. It seems so logical that in order to ensure that a product will make it for the long term that the design of the product should be created with the end user in mind. Empathy, or putting yourself in another’s shoes and feeling what they feel, is the basis behind this idea. For example, my LOLA article was about the production of baby products. Parents were asked to keep track of their daily parenting routines. Designers then stepped in the shoes of the parents and performed these same tasks. Parents were then asked to suggest items that would make their lives a bit easier. Since designers had experienced what some of these parents had experienced, they were able to better understand what types of products and designs would work best for the consumers. This seems so easy and so logical to me. I know that some products exist out there that make no sense to me. And I wonder, “who ever thought that was a good idea? No one is going to want that because it is impractical.” Creating products that are practical and will last and be used for the long term is an easy form of design that helps the issue of sustainability.

Biomimicry was my other favorite topic concerning sustainability. First of all, I sound really smart saying it and saying that I know what it means. : ) And second of all, it is another easy concept to understand. Biomimicry is simply mimicking nature. Nature is the purest form of sustainability. Everything in nature has been created for a specific purpose. If we use nature as a model for our production processes and outcomes, the things we are making will make so much more sense and will hopefully perform their job better and be used for a longer period of time. And using natural ingredients or things that can be biodegraded after the product life cycle is over is a form of biomimicry because the items being created can be absorbed back into the earth without any harm to the environment. We learned about many different types of items, in particular shoes stand out to me, that are designed with nature in mind. Who ever would have thought that shoes that can be buried and will biodegrade and become a plant would ever exist? Well, they do! It was fascinating to me to learn about things, such as these shoes, that seem outrageous but turn out to be very fashion forward and functional.

This last week’s learning material was relevant and useful because it showed that there are a lot of similarities in the apparel and the interiors field as far as competencies or roles that we as the designers need to perform. The class discussion was helpful this week because it helped to open my eyes to how important it is to be knowledgeable in more than one area. Yes, it may be important to be a specialist in a specific area, but it is still important to be educated on all aspects of design and how to be sustainable in design.

I learned so much in this course about sustainability that I never even knew existed. With that being said, I wouldn’t even know what to say that I want to learn more about other than some of the things that we touched on in this class. Because we did fit so much in to one semester, we were really only able to focus on each topic for about a week. For this reason, I feel that I would love to dig deeper into the topics that we discussed this semester and become better acquainted with them before I tried to learn about more topics concerning sustainability that we weren’t able to learn about. I feel confident that, with what I have learned and will be taking away from the material of this semester, that I can go out into our field and make more educated decisions that will help in the efforts to raise awareness about sustainability. Being able to look back on what I have gained from my experience in this course, I am going to be able to move into the future with sustainability in mind!






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