Jill Fehrenbacher – green designer and Founder/Editor-in-chief of Inhabitat
2010 seemed like a weirdly stagnant year compared to years past, didn’t it? Despite a lack of flash and excitement, 2010 was a year where measured consideration and thoughtful design ideas were bubbling beneath the surface, and I believe that this year we’ll see a resurgence of excitement about new approaches to design in 2011:
1. THE SLOW DEATH OF FAST CONSUMPTION
For too many years, the relentless marketing push around “newness”, along with race-to-the-bottom consumer prices (and corresponding labor/manufacturing costs) has elevated fast consumption to an unsustainable level. Thanks in part to the economic downturn, consumers are finally beginning to feel nauseous from stuffing their faces and houses with too many unneeded products — and are becoming pickier about the things they bring into their lives. While economists and politics bemoan the current state of the economy, it has so far been great for weeding out stupid products and companies that have no good reason to exist. I predict that in 2011 we will see increasing skepticism. comparison and research on the part of consumers in deciding what they want to purchase, which will lead to better and more thoughtful products. We’ll see consumers foregoing thoughtless impulse buys in order to invest more in quality products that will stand the test of time.
2. RESTORE / REPAIR / NURTURING – the rise of service design
When consumers value the things they have more, they’ll invest more time and money in maintaining their things. Companies that help maintain, repair and restore products, such as Denim Therapy (which helps people repair their fraying blue jeans), cobblers and bike repair shops, will continue to see growth.
3. SHARE & SHARE ALIKE
As many of my green design comrades-in-arms have mentioned in this article, sharing services like Zipcar and Netflix are exploding right now and that’s because consumers like the idea of being able to try, use and enjoy something without the commitment and costs associated with ownership. (When space is at a premium, they also like to cut the clutter and forgo trying to find storage for objects.) I foresee that in 2011 more and more consumers will warm up to the idea of ‘sharing’ and will sign up for car sharing, bike sharing and even pet sharing services. As a result companies which are skilled at designing great systems and services will flourish, while many traditional ‘object designers’ will need to turn their focus towards systems design and user interaction design in order to find a market for their skills.
4. THE RISE OF DESIGN IDEAS
Related to the above point – in 2011 elevation of ideas over objects will continue to grow. This means there will be a growing demand for experience/interaction design skills rather than traditional product design skills. More attention will be paid to how something works and how it makes a user feel rather than how it looks.
5. THE RISE OF THE AMATEUR
I predict 2011 to be a year where more and more average consumers and hobbyists get involved in the world of “design” by creating, crafting and engineering their own products. The rapid growth of Etsy and Instructables have shown that interest in DIY and craft is growing by leaps and bounds. Not only have creative tools such as software, publishing platforms and DIY instructions become increasingly available and easy to find online, but there is an innate satisfaction that individuals derive from making things, and in our post-industrial society (where we’re increasingly distanced from the process of making pretty much everything) many people are craving a closer connection with the process of creation. This means that there will be more and more stuff available out there and more “noise” as increasing numbers of individuals get into every possible niche, but also there will be more interesting things for consumers to choose from as both supply and demand grow. I think it also means we’ll all be more creative and fulfilled in our personal lives as more and more of us turn to crafts and DIY projects.
Finally, I’m really really excited about the emergence of consumer-friendly electric vehicles in 2010. In 2011 I believe that these pop electric cars will completely revolutionize our society and make huge strides in reducing carbon emissions. All hail the Volt & Leaf!
Emily Pilloton – Green Designer and Founder/Executive Director, Project H
In 2010, I was happy to see more and more designers working within the realm of social impact and environmental responsibility. In 2011, however, I hope to see not only the volume of such designers increase, but the quality of such work continually improve. This will be the year for us to all to be critical, brave, sharply idealistic, and allergic to mediocrity – design “for the greater good” doesn’t automatically make it “good design”. In short, design can change the world… but only if it’s excellent.
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