The Challenges of Teaching Sustainability: The RCA’s Approach, by Clare Brass and Octavia Reeve: ”
Rich Gilbert’s Energy Trumps, a creative tool to think about energy at the start of the design process. They provide a fast visual reference for embodied energy to facilitate easy comparison of materials.
It is normally taken for granted that economic growth is vital for maintaining economic health, but research has shown that wellbeing depends less on material goods than on our lifestyles. The New Economics Foundation in the UK publishes a global Happy Planet Index, which measures the combination of environmental impact and wellbeing, to quantify the environmental efficiency with which—country by country—people live long and happy lives.
So what can we as educators do to enhance those valuable skills that designers have and get them using those skills to redesign not only the products that we buy but also the lifestyles that we live and the systems that organise our lives, making them better for people? Design education needs to position itself in such a way that designers are trained to design good customer experiences with the lowest possible environmental impact.
We encourage our students to aim their designs at people not industry. We believe that designers can play a valuable role in the difficult but necessary process of changing consumer attitudes and values by articulating new desires and dreams.
Conventional design education trains designers to drive consumerism, which drives growth, and is the established way of achieving prosperity; like many art and design institutions the Royal College of Art is beginning to grapple with the apparent contradiction in the sustainability debate, and is looking for ways to encourage students to explore what this might mean in both their work and their future lives.