According to writer Clare Boothe Luce, “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can make you awfully comfortable while you’re being miserable.” Our reading this week, Fletcher’s Design for Change, explored this idea of the human need for happiness and how we acquire material goods in an attempt to achieve it. The chapter emphasized the importance of understanding what makes people feel satisfied so that designers can meet consumer needs and develop sustainable solutions that the public will actually want.
I was particularly impacted by the author’s description of our current “more is better” paradigm because it broadened my perception of what designers’ most important roles are and how they are changing as we endeavor to create a more sustainable society. After I read about how having material things does not necessarily make us happier, I realized that apparel designers, interior designers, and merchandisers will play a critical role in changing the current consumerist model that encourages people to shop endlessly. If we truly wish to improve people’s quality of life, we will have to design products that will fulfill multiple human needs and encourage people to adopt a simpler lifestyle. We also have a responsibility to enhance buyers’ understanding of how the “more is better” mindset is negatively impacting our ability to limit our consumption of the earth’s resources. This will undoubtedly be one of our greatest challenges, as consumer behavior is very complex and people can be resistant to change, especially if change is presented as being a complicated or arduous process.
I went to see Bill Nye speak on Thursday, and he said something that directly related to what I learned from the reading. When he spoke about global warming and how we need to make an effort to cut down on our consumption of resources, he said that in order to stimulate major change, we need to frame the “use less” model in a different way. Instead of presenting sustainable solutions as “using less,” Nye stated that we should describe this undertaking as “doing more with less.” I believe that this will be a key factor in successfully altering the current consumer paradigm. If we want the public to make an effort to adjust their habits, we need to characterize that effort in a more positive way that will make people feel like they really are doing more to impact our future on the planet.