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#Futuress Keynote

On the Contradictions of Sustainability

Nov 22, 2022 | 6 pm CET | with Danah Abdulla


On the Contradictions of Sustainability

This talk explores the contradictions of sustainability: between greenwashing, politics of production, and overconsumption.

As the earth burns and drowns in front of our eyes due to our overconsumption, we, designers, promote the discourse on designing for a better world but carry on with business as usual. In an era of instant gratification—made easier by access to cheap credit and contactless societies—designers are utilizing their power to conflate need and desire more than ever, but branding it as sustainable to evade responsibility.

Through entries from Danah Abdulla’s recent book Designerly Ways of Knowing: A Working Inventory of Things a Designer Should Know, this talk will explore the contradictions of sustainability: the way brands greenwash their practices to signal their good and ethical practices, and how they continue to create products and services branded as sustainable that we just do not need, but never challenging the systems that created the problems, to begin with. The talk will conclude by considering how we can design over time and confront the effects these products and services we think we need have on the world (and the worlds within that world).

Danah Abdulla (she/her) is a designer, educator and researcher interested in new narratives and practices in design that push the disciplinary boundaries and definitions of the discipline. She is head of Graphic Design at Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon Colleges of Arts (University of the Arts London), and a founding member of the Decolonising Design platform. Her first book Designerly Ways of Knowing: A Working Inventory of Things a Designer Should Know was published by Onomatopee (2022).

This event is possible thanks to a generous grant from ProHelvetia.