Design shapes our lives in ways we may not notice on an everyday basis. It’s the little things — that go a long, long way — that we want to pause and pay attention to. Oddly Enough is a celebration of the many ways in which design intersects with our daily lives.
Today, the world around us is changing, and a climate crisis is rapidly unfolding. The temperature and the waters are both rising, and all signs point to a grim future. But instead of despair, perhaps design can lend its hand for a more fruitful outcome. With Oddly Enough Nº3, we were looking at how design responds to climate change.
Undoubtedly, much of what has contributed to the worsening climate has been propelled by forms of design. But design can also offer solutions — in the form of sustainable architecture, innovative ideas, or spreading awareness. We were discussing these design-driven possibilities for a more hopeful future.
Our panel comprised experts equipped to think about what design can do for climate change, whether through education and awareness, through research, or through architecture. We had Bijal Vachharajani, a children’s book author and editor at Pratham Books and Ayush Chauhan, who is co-founder of Quicksand, a design research and innovation studio.
The panel discussion was followed by a mixer, co-hosted with Moonshine Meadery. Here were some of the takeaways:
Bijal spoke about the times she’s encountered a “gloom and doom” reaction— where one switches off and feels helpless — to climate change in her interactions with children. But instead, she pointed out, good design can spark action and, at the same time, reach more people. She also touched upon how information about the crisis needs to be made more accessible to people at the margins of our society, citing Pratham Books’ Storyweaver platform that publishes opensource children’s books with translations in numerous regional languages, made widely available and affordable.
Ayush dwelled on how behavioural design can change the ways in which we can make a difference. With Quicksand’s project to reduce plastic bag waste in Cambodia as an example, he explained how plastic bags today are not just a simple packaging solution but also a sign of a rapidly transitioning society, culturally and economically, and perhaps getting plastic banned is not the best possible option in this case. Instead, the studio offered an alternative solution: one large, durable plastic bag that would replace the 17-18 smaller bags used during a single market visit, which focused on reducing excess plastic usage. Design solutions need to factor in informal economies, especially in developing countries, which often rely heavily on cheaper, versatile materials like plastic.
Both panellists concurred that designers are storytellers and should perhaps be inspired by the successful nationwide marketing campaigns of the past and use the available technology, resources, mediums together with their skill to spread awareness on climate emergency.
Ayush also pointed out, that at the outset, designers need to educate themselves. “If you feel like design has the power to affect change, then you need a seat at the table, where decisions and choices about our everyday lives are made.” He went on to explain how these critical decisions are often made at higher levels — whether in policy or governance or in the highest echelons of business strategy. “You need to be able to understand how policy works, how business works, and I think that’s a callout to designers,” he said.
Our panellists suggest:
When Bijal Vachharajani is not reading ‘Harry Potter’, she is Editor Scissorhands at Pratham Books where she dreams up picture books. A journalist, Bijal writes children’s books about the environment, including ‘A Cloud Called Bhura’ and ‘So You Want to Know About the Environment’. The former editor of ‘Time Out Bengaluru’, Bijal has worked with ‘350.org’, ‘Fairtrade’, ‘Humane Society International India’ and ‘Sanctuary Asia’. She has a Masters in Environment Security and Peace from the University of Peace in Costa Rica, and is now a certified climate worrier.
Ayush Chauhan is one of the co-founders of Quicksand, an interdisciplinary consultancy that facilitates the creation of meaningful experiences through design research and innovation. Ayush leads the studio in new business, strategy and project management. He is a strong advocate for transformative roles for design within public policy, international development, social enterprise and innovation, for which he was also granted the prestigious Yale World Fellowship in 2012.
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