compostmodern 2009 logo

I had the opportunity to attend the Compostmodern conference in San Francisco this past weekend. Compostmodern, a product of the AIGA Center for Sustainable Design (CFSD), was a great opportunity to explore the range of design thinking necessary to create a socially and ecologically responsible society. During the one-day conference, we were inspired to think about sustainability, bring about change and activism, fire our passion, and learn how to do something about it. Speakers from multiple design disciplines brought their takes on how designers can change the way our society uses diminishing natural resources, impressing a sense that designers can make a difference, but also, that there’s a sense of urgency about making these changes.

Some designers at a lunch workshop I attended expressed frustration about how graphic designers face in bringing about change because of limits imposed by clients. Allan Chochinov, an evangelist for sustainability in industrial design, offered that designers should acknowledge that we do have the power to change things, that there are consequences (good and bad) associated with what we design, and that we should take the initiative to make changes where we can, without waiting for permission from our clients. As Allan said in the question and answer session after his presentation, “You’re on this planet and it’s falling apart: You have permission.”

Inventor Saul Griffith showed during his presentation how we can’t possibly create enough energy capacity with renewables to replace the energy we currently get from oil, gas, and coal. So what’s the solution? Get people to use less energy. We must help turn the world from waste, design our way out of problems we’ve created, and increase awareness of how every consumer can make changes to turn us away from unsustainable lifestyles.

The conference was a great chance to take time out to work on design thinking. And, after an energizing day, I’m ready to fire up my passion for the environment and do something about it.