Design for Need

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With ever‐increasing levels of consumption and disposable income in the decades following the end of the Second World War, there were a growing number of critical voices including Vance Packard, Victor Papanek, and Richard Buckminster Fuller. Such critiques of industrialization and consumption had been long‐standing, from Victorian writers such as John Ruskin in his critique of material over‐indulgence, The Stones of Venice, continuing through the 20th century to the writings of Naomi Klein, particularly No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (2000). The design profession was understandably slow to respond to many of these concerns, implicated as it was in mediating between producer and consumer. In 1969 ICSID (International Council of Societies of Industrial Design) held a conference in London entitled ‘Design, Society and the Future’ at which leading designers reflected upon the social, moral, and economic consequences of their actions. The oil crisis of 1973 brought about by the Middle Eastern War, coupled with the inability of American technological superiority to bring the Vietnam War to a speedy resolution, raised a number of fundamental questions about the nature of progress. Once again the design profession sought to address such issues through another ICSID conference. Mounted in London and entitled ‘Design for Need’, the Third World, alternative technology, and design for disability were among the topics addressed. Design for disability was not widely practised though one major Swedish consultancy, Ergonomidesign, specialized in many aspects of the field. Two of its leading members, Maria Benktzon and Sven‐Eric Juhlin, were pioneers in the field and sought to devise aesthetically pleasing and stylish design solutions for everyday products, so bringing the disabled into the mainstream of consumption. (By 2003 Ergonomidesign employed 27 industrial designers, engineers, and ergonomists.) From the 1970s onwards debates about design for need were increasingly concerned with environmental and ecological questions, stimulated by growing concerns about the finite nature of fossil fuels and the consequences of global warming.See also Ergonomics; Green Design.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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