I deeply excited by the designs that we have been coming up with here in Mt. Province. Purses made from wrappers, bamboo bikes, solar coke bottle chargers, Ecobricks, organic cement, glass bottle furniture and more. Because I am based here in a small mountain village in the most humble province in the Philippines has been nothing short of revolutionary for me. Not just in terms of the creative process, but deeper: philosophically.
Designers have traditionally striven to achieve a harmonious balance between Form and Function. However, here in my village, it is clear that there is something drastically lacking in this design philosophy. Look around us. We are surrounded by a sea of once-great form-and-function-obsolescence that are now contaminating the biosphere.
Sure, a designer might have achieved the perfect balance of form and function with your design, but what about when it dies? When it breaks or is obsolete? Where will it or its materials be in 100 years? Where the heck do I put that thing here in my village? Where do the other villagers put it? Multiply this predicament by the millions of people living in places with out proper disposal or recycling and you have, well, an environmental catastrophe.
And then what about the making of product? Its so easy for designers to send their design files off to a factory in China that most designers are cut off from the actual production process. How is the casing plastic made? That sure ain’t an organic material! And how about the copper for the wiring and integrated circuit? Well, there is an open pit mine somewhere where those metals have to come from.
There is this great new concept of Cradle to Cradle design. As articulated by William McDonough it means deasign products that are completely reused at their end. It means getting away from Cradle to Grave thinking and move into circular, closed loop systems like mother nature. Furtheremore he challenges the designer with a bold ethic: “How do we love all of the children of all species for all time?” Exactly. I encourage you to check out his TED talk or this lecture.
However, Cradle to Cradle pretty specifically focuses on materials. It also strikes me as short sighted. Like it or not, even after 100 hundred cycles of cradle to cradle recycling, a creation must return to dust. So, for my own whole picture design philosophy I have begun to think of the process with four F’s.
Good design then incorporates a two axis balance of form, function, fabrication and funeral. I like the word funeral, because it conjures an image of a coffin being buried. And, hey, like it or not, you might design the most amazing product, but 500 years from now, that baby is going to be buried in some way or form beneath earth or sea. So, rather than incorporating toxic plastics, concentrated heavy metals, phenols, phlates, dioxins or what not into form and fabrication, let’s give it a little bit more thought. Rather than fabricating things in a big box factory where humans are treated as robots, let’s think of another way there too. And of course, let’s keep balancing form and function.
Form, Function, Fabrication, Funeral. Find the harmony.
I’m a designer. I want to talk about design itself because I think that design is the first sign of human intention and if you look around today at the tragedies in the making, you realize that the question is “Did we really intend for this to happen? Is this something that we designed?”