How Can Graphic Design Help Save The Planet?


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I’m very pleased to have been asked by AGDA to speak at the first Design A Better World conference in Sydney with the tricky topic, “How Can Graphic Design Help Save The Planet?”

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what my position on that question is yet. I think it’s basically, “no”. But it depends on whether you emphasise the “help” part or “save the planet” part.

Graphic design alone can’t save the planet, but graphic (and other forms of design) can contribute to the process. Design can influence small behavioural shifts that amount to a big change when multiplied and that can be a powerful mechanism.

Most of the problems we have now are accumulations of many small behavioural changes – everything from packaging to energy usage. The standby light and mode on a TV is a design feature. It’s small and must have seemed like a great design decision at the time. Now we know it leeches small amounts of power in millions of homes and is a terrible waste of energy. So whilst it seems like designers only have the power to make minor changes, we’re in a position to influence behaviours (a highly debated topic at present) that magnify into big change.

Design can, however, make a big difference to individual people’s lives and that has a knock-on effect that is perhaps under-estimated. I plan to talk about some of those ideas and examples.

I hope that will be something different – it’s pretty scary being lined up against the excellent range of other speakers, many of whom are real graphic designers. As an interaction and service designer I think I might have different views, so it will be interesting to see how that conversation turns out.

In any case, it’s not really about saving the planet but our own species. This rock we’re spinning around on will be orbiting the sun long after we’re gone.

How Can Graphic Design Help Save The Planet? is going to be held at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney on the 3rd August and all the details are on the Design A Better World site.

Time Bomb – Interactive Graffiti

Graffiti and technology are all the rage these days. Holler’s Lukasz Karluk and Sydney sculptor/painter Maddi Boyd (KissKiss) have created a work for Creative Sydney called Time Bomb that will exhibited in Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art on May 27th.

Nine urban artists contributed to the TimeBomb piece over the course of four days. Their painting of different layers and styles was captured with time-lapse time-lapse photography, creating an animated film of the whole process. The exhibit will show the final work and a projection of it side by side. Using camera tracking and the fluid dynamics distortions, interactors can poke through into the history of the artwork, scraping back the layers via their distortions and movements. Like many interactives, the video above shows it much more clearly than is possible to explain in words.

The project uses OpenFrameworks together with memo’s extraordinary Fluid Dynamics library to create these distortions in the footage.

There will be a second film once the exhibition has opened to focus more on the interaction. Lukasz, the man with a surfeit of consonants, has more technical details on his blog post about Time Bomb.

Tickets for the event are free, but you have to register for them here.

(Thanks to Holler’s CD, Tim Buesing for the heads up on this).