Designing for austerity

1 December 2008 at 8:56 am Leave a comment

paris_velib_station

Andrew Curry writes:

Alice Rawsthorne has an interesting article on the impact of recession on design in the International Herald Tribune. It seems it’s all good news. This shouldn’t be a surprise; innovation thrives on scarcity and constraint, and design is no different. And certainly the historical evidence bears this out. The Bauhaus and the Modernist movements emerged in the 1920s and ’30s, and the Italian post-war design boom from the depths of its post-war austerity.

The current financial and economic crisis requires that we think again about how our systems work, and – as she writes – designers excel at simplifying complex issues and collaborating with other disciplines. Rawsthorne anticipates that designers will help companies to cut costs by thinking about new ways to use materials and by imagining new service models (for example part-ownership or ‘renalism’ rather than outright purchase, as is happening with the Parisian Velib bicycle initiative – or Streetcar and Zipcar, come to that).

Beyond this, there are whole new approaches to service and system design, and she commends the work of Live|Work, which has redesigned support services, for example in its work in Sunderland, to put the user at the centre and access resources from multiple agencies rather than being caught between them.(It also works in the private sector).

The final bit of good news? The market for expensively designed objects has tanked. Half of the lots at Sotheby’s design auction last month went unsold.

Thanks to core 77 for the tip. The picture of a Velib station at the top of this post is from an article about the Velib scheme in Post-Carbon Cities.

Entry filed under: design, economic downturn, innovation. Tags: .

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