Sunday, March 15, 2009

Compostmodern and Ideas for a New World

Compostmodern 09, held on February 21st at The Herbst Theatre couldn’t have come at a better time – amidst the gloom and doom that has become the daily news, here was a day filled with innovative minds trying to do amazing things so that when the tide is ready to turn we’re in the right place to start over.

Presented by the SF chapter of AIGA, the day was broken into a series of 30-minute lectures from a wide variety of experts including climate strategist Michel Gelobter, John Bielenberg and Pam Dorr of Project M and the HERO Resource, Eames Demetrios of Eames Office, Allan Chochinov of CORE 77, Saul Griffith of Makani Power, Emily Pilloton of Project H Design, Autodesk Sustainable Design Program Manager Dawn Danby, and California College of the Arts Design MBA Chair Nathan Shedroff. Greenbiz editor and sustainability author Joel Makower was the day’s emcee.

After learning from Gelobter and Griffith that the rate we are consuming and using doesn’t leave much breathing room, it was nice to see two artists and thinkers like John Bielenberg and Pam Dorr talk about creating sustainable and design-intuitive housing in rural Hale City, Alabama. Dorr’s team, under the project Rural Studio, not only created beautiful new homes for residents who had never been homeowners, they also found a way to do it for $20,000 a house (the cost of the allowance low-income residents received for housing).

By far, the most extraordinary story was given by 27-year old Emily Pilloton, founder of Project H. Trained as a product designer and architect, she wanted to do something that mattered so she started her own non-profit and ended up figuring out how to get the people of Africa water. What she initially planned was to simply donate a large amount of “hippo rollers” through fundraising. These large blue barrels let people in Third World countries efficiently gather large amounts of water for their villages. In doing this, she discovered how inefficient and expensive they were to ship – so she set out to figure out a new design that could be shipped more efficiently while keeping the cult factor of the object’s original design intact. In doing so, she was able to double the amount of rollers that could fit into an overseas shipping container.

CCA’s new MBA in Design Strategy is a fairly new program that has already received much interest from the global design and business community. The program’s Chair Nathan Shedroff closed the day with advice to designer in speaking the language of business. He advised designers to first stop using green, both in color scheme and terminology. Blue, the color of business, is a better choice and a better way to reach the audience needed to get sustainability projects off the ground. Designers also need to understand the framework they are operating in and most importantly, design things for use and durability. Most importantly, as designers we need to understand the concept of storytelling in design and sustainability – because it’s about us, and who we are.

For more information on Compostmodern past and future, click here.

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