Last month I was lucky enough to attend the New York party for Green Design, which is advertised as a resource to "help consumers downsize and upgrade their lives." While not a coffee-table book, the tome is a visual 'Best Of' of the green design world, including loving product shots and descriptions from retailers you've heard of (Patagonia, Adidas, American Apparel and LEGO) as well as plenty you probably haven't (Monk/Messenger, Kenana Knitters and Arre).
The introduction to the book is titled, "Can Designers Save the World?" and goes on to include chapters on Green Toys and Games, Green Objects, Green Energy, Green Fabrics, and Green Paper (the book was printed entirely on a you'd-never-know-it's recycled glossy paper). Within each chapter there's both the information about the featured products as well as thoughtful essays on design topics.
I asked Buzz Poole, who edited Green Design, a few questions about how the book came to fruition:
Starre Vartan: How did you choose the products you included in Green Design?
Buzz Poole: I wanted to put together a well-focused book that didn't come off as haphazard in terms of the featured products. During the process of soliciting writers, it became clear, based on the interests of the writers, that Green Design should focus on small products. That's why there isnothing about green architecture or green automotive design in the book. The writers were keen towrite about toys and paper and bags, and so the product selection orbited around their words. Some of the products came in through word of mouth, others through research.
SV: Why did you want to edit a book about Green Design when there are so
many web resources for that information?
BP: The easy answer is that I love books, and though I recognize that the nature of
reading is changing (again) due to technology, I don't believe that books are on their way to extinction.
Yes, there are countless web resources for green-minded folks, but as exciting as
that is for certain people dedicated to spending hours and hours sifting through all that information, it can be overwhelming for others. Green Design does not claim to be any sort of definitive guide, but it does contain many compelling ideas about the relationship between ecologically and socially responsible products and consumers. So, the book is a source, from which people can see products that fit these green models, and if they so desire they can go check out other similar products. The key to all of this is making people aware of green design, and all its many incarnations, which defy preconceptions that "green" means frumpy recycled hemp.
Lastly, it only seems logical to create a high-design green object -- the book --
when showcasing high-design green products. Do people really NEED parchment bowls made from produce? No. But do they want them because they are beautiful objects? Absolutely. The same goes for books, and in the case of this book, not only is it attractive, but it contains valuable content.
SV: Can you explain a bit about the paper you used, why you chose it, and about the 'paper bag' paper in the back of the book?
BP: Page 177 pretty much explains about the paper, as does Colin Berry's piece about
paper. Our printer had certain recycled paper options, and the designer/production person made the call in terms of budget and aesthetics. The 'paper bag' paper is a contrast to the recycled matt.
The fact is, recycled and alternative papers have come a long way over the years,
and today you can get as much pop from these papers as you can from virgin paper. So, it is not coincidence that the photographs are a central part of the book. Yes, they are beautiful pics, but they also demonstrate how well recycled paper holds ink.
Just like textiles and energy, people have long-believed that recycled papers were
inferior, perhaps good to use for classroom handouts, but useless for the sake of "design." The fact is, green design can be as sexy and effective as any traditional or conventional approach to product design and manufacturing; American Apparel embodies this idea, as does LEGO.
So, the little story I wrote on the dust jacket flaps follows this old wood through
its many paper phases, but it is also a metaphor for all the objects in Green Design, including the actual physical book, which at some point in time was something else.
Green Design is about creative approaches to consumerism. There's a lot to be said
about the ills of gross consumerism, but that's not what this book is about. Hopefully, Green Design informs and inspires readers. I think that it drives home the fact that ecological and social responsibility should be paramount considerations in all stages of product development, but in no way does this limit the innovation that goes into the design.
Green Design is published by Mark Batty publishers. I spoke with Mr. Batty at a party for Green Design and he said he is looking to publish other green-themed books in the future.