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Design West Michigan Meets at Kendall to Discuss Sustainability

Posted January 25, 2011 in Events


Several hundred design professionals and Kendall students gathered recently in the Student Commons to hear a panel discussion organized by Design West Michigan (DWM) and Kendall on Design Leadership in Sustainability.


The topic of the conversation ranged from the importance of all encompassing, long-term vision to the need to chip away at the little stuff.  For example, Dave Muyer, IDSA, talked about how the 1939 World’s Fair Futurama exhibit showed a vision of a country with suburbs, major highways and sprawling urban landscapes. 


This vision eventually became our highway system and is responsible for many of the issues we have today.  Muyer proposed we create a new vision for how we live and work and move from place to place that is more sustainable. 


The panel was led by John Berry, the Executive Director of DWM. Five representatives from the design community gave different views of the issue that will most likely dominate the professional lives of the students in the room.


Probably a third of the program focused on the question: What is Sustainability and what does it mean to you in your profession?  Very quickly it became apparent that it is a complex question with lots of different points of view.


The panel’s responses ranged from the future of transportation to rehabbing and reusing buildings. How to select materials and how to change the public’s perceptions of sustainability were also part of the conversation.   Interior designers must figure out how to be fresh and new and yet not generate waste. What role do graphic designers play?


Interesting little facts like the average Google search uses as much energy as heating one cup of tea made me sit up and ponder. 


Yes, we live in a complex world and taking care of it will require design professionals to think carefully and to work hard to make a positive difference.  Joe Jeup, a Kendall alum and a local furniture manufacturer says, “Sometimes it is obvious like using a recycled glass product, but many times it isn’t.”


Lee Davis, who teaches interior design at Kendall and operates her own firm says, “If you give clients good options, they will make good choices.”  Yet, it is hard often to “do the right thing.” 


The audience listened intently and asked many probing questions.  Clearly,  it is a complex topic that merits many more open discussions like this to arrive at solutions.


John Berry summed it up with this statement about dealing with the complexity.   “We have huge problems made up of many little problems. We need to keep chipping away at the little problems.” 


All around the room heads nodded in agreement.


–Susan J. Smith 


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