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The Designers Accord Makes a Statement
Sarah Kuck, 6 Jun 08


Designers are uniquely positioned to save the world. Or so believes Valarie Casey , who commented during her recent Compostmodern presentation that

Designers change habits and behavior. They create accessibility. They look to nature for inspiration. And they're suckers for detail.

As a call to arms for designers to reduce their trades’ negative impact, Casey founded The Designers Accord. Since January, she has been assembling a coalition of designers, educators, researchers, engineers, business consultants and corporations who want to work together to integrate sustainable design into all levels of practice and production.

Casey says signing the Accord means making a statement about collaborative, meaningful change. And truly, it is just a statement. The Accord admits it's no LEED certification for design. And on the surface, it doesn't appear to be much more than lip service. To become a member of the Designers Accord, adopters must:

* Initiate a dialogue about environmental impact and sustainable alternatives with each and every client
* Educate design teams about sustainability and sustainable design
* measure and pledge to reduce your carbon footprint annually and
* Help advance the conversation on sustainable design by contributing to a communal knowledge base.

(That last one is controversial for traditional designers, as the industry doesn’t typically take kindly to knowledge sharing.)

Critics are quick to point out that it takes little more than intent to join this self-regulated cause. Designers have little to lose by becoming members and much potentially to gain from their allegiance with a sustainability group, as more and more consumers decide to spend the extra buck for ‘green’ products.

We can't help but wish there could be something more radical done to help the design industry progress toward firmer goals and standards; much of what is unsustainable in the world is at some point a product of design. The Designers Accord was obviously born from this realization, and perhaps firmer goals and standards will come as the organization grows and develops.

But, the Accord states, the barrier to entry is deliberately low in hopes of creating a critical mass. And after reading the Casey’s thoughts behind the creation of the Accord I don’t see how you could be anything but inspired to join.

It all started in 2007 with Casey’s eco-epiphany and her resulting manifesto titled the “Kyoto Treaty of Design”, in which she states:

As we redefine the role of design in this new world order, we must look to each other for ideas and inspiration. Individually greening our companies is not sufficient. By pooling our knowledge, we can create a network in which every client is compelled to engage in a discussion of sustainability - no matter which firm it selects as a design partner. Together, we can advocate for the improvements - large and small - that will produce lasting change.

The Kyoto Treaty of Design ends with a call to action for the creative community to participate in environmental stewardship. From this rough sketch, the Accord was born. It quickly garnered the support of giants such as the American Institute of Graphic Arts, Architecture for Humanity and the Industrial Designers Society of America, as well as attracted more than 100,000 design firms, corporations and institutions from almost 100 countries to join the movement.

The Accord’s next project is an open Web platform. This online forum will be a place for designers to share knowledge, exchange information and discuss ways to engage clients in conversations about environmental impact. The Accord believes this cooperative model of competition will inspire even greater innovation.

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Is there any interest from this group in incorporating aspects of participatory design into their program, at the levels of user and worker?

Posted by: donald on 7 Jun 08



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