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Marcus Fairs’s new book Green Design is fully aware of its own contradiction. As Tom Dixon asks in the foreword, how are designers to “encourage consumption, while at the same time reducing environmental impact?”
Dixon doesn’t know the answer, nor does Fairs or any of the designers featured in the book, nor possibly anyone. However, while the verdict on what “green design” is and its inherent contradictions remain unresolved, Fairs’s book is evidence that designers are thinking hard about the answer.
Going multidisciplinary, Green Design is one of the first books to give a thorough overview of the high-profile work done in the lighting, homeware, furniture, textiles and materials, products, transport, interiors, and architecture sectors. Catalogued according to specific works, the green checklist is left intentionally broad to include environmental impact, sustainability, social benefits, natural surroundings, sheer experimentation and more.
An “objectified” synopsis of these concerns is achieved and, with the objectification, comes desire. Aspirational, beautiful, luxurious, ingenious, cool, humorous, flamboyant, modest, lo-fi, minimalist, maximalist, high-tech… There is “green design” for every persuasion of every consumer. No longer an eccentric affectation, “green design” has become the playground of design rockstars – even elevating lesser-knowns to that strata – and one can hardly wait for the mainstream trickledown effect.
Yet, is seeing “green design” as a capitalist trend cynical or its very absolution? Who knows the answer? As Fairs chides in his intro: “It will take a major sea-change in consumer attitudes to – and in particular the economics of – green technologies before they become mainstream.”