In a recent speech that he gave at Parsons School of Design in New York, Business Week's Bruce Nussbaum explains why there has been a backlash against design. According to Nussbaum, the design movement shows signs of faltering for two primary reasons -- designers are arrogant and designers are ignorant. They are arrogant when it comes to understanding the whole "Design Democracy" movement empowered by Web 2.0 and they are ignorant when it comes to understanding issues like eco-sustainability. To challenge the preconceptions of his audience when it comes to sustainability, Nussbaum points out that the mink coat is actually better designed than the Apple iPod:
"Let’s take your favorite toy, designed by one of today’s design gods, Jonathan Ive and his team at Apple—the iPod. Apple does fantastic things with materials. Amazing things. And it has recycling programs for its products. But what it doesn’t do is prioritize cradle-to-cradle design. It doesn’t design a long-cycle product that you can open and upgrade over time. It doesn’t design a process that encourages the reuse materials again and again. It doesn’t demand sustainability. [...]
Challenge Your Assumptions. Think about the mink coat. It is beyond cool. It’s sustainable. You feed those little rat-y things with garbage that you throw out or food you grow, you create something that is comfortable, beautiful and gives you warmth for your entire life, you pass it along to another generation or recycle it or simply let it disintegrate. It’s organic, after all."
Nussbaum also explains why "innovation" has become a broad umbrella term that includes "fashion" and "design" as well:
"A final point on language: Innovation and Design. Business men and women don’t like the term “design.” I think they think it implies drapes or dresses. Even top CEOs who embrace design don’t want to call it that. They want to call it “Innovation.” That has a manly right to it. It’s strong, techie. These folks are perfectly willing to use the word “vision,” whatever the heck “vision” is. They like “Imagination,” whatever the heck that is. But they don’t like “design.” Go figure.
I solve this problem by calling it all a banana. Innovation, design, eco-imagination, just call it whatever they want to call it and do your design thing. Because your design thing is a glorious thing that has the potential of changing our lives in a myriad of ways in a myriad of places."
[image: Bruce Nussbaum]