CATALYZING The Conversation: Designing Desire
By Dr. Mary McBride
Issue 7 Spring 2011
The desire for more is deeply designed into modern material cultures.
Without more we feel less. We express need, frustration, joy and love in material form. We are what we wear and share, Tweet and toss together as lifestyle statements. We are truly material girls and boys. We live large and our impact is significant. Can we balance our desire for material expression of who we are with our desire for a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable world? We think so. But we must mature and deepen our understanding of the political, social and economic consequences of our material choices.
We have come to imagine our biosphere as a vast mall of material “resources” and increased our use of those resources by 1000 percent in the last half century. The living systems which have sustained us have been degraded and exploited.
There are very real risks associated with the design of our material expression. Materials matter. Design matters. Life matters. Strategists attempt to minimize risk and optimize opportunity. Material shortages alert and sober us as regimes fall, economies falter and nation states square off for the rare earth materials that provide the infrastructure of our virtual worlds. More apparent material shortages highlight new opportunities to design different and more meaningful material expressions and to deepen our relationship with our material world.
The design of our desires requires some re-thinking. It is time to look at the way we consume objects, experiences and our world. We are disrupting and deregulating the rhythms that stabilize our climate and establish the seasons upon which the planting cycles of the world’s people depend. This has consequences. They are designed in.
They can be designed out.
In this issue of Catalyst, we re-imagine our relationship with our material world. We map a world that is already emerging. A world designed by those intrigued by the challenge of making material choices that are benign by design. A world filled with meaning, shaped by design and expressed in the language of objects and experiences. We take a new look at TED and examine its method for spreading ideas, the material of our mental lives. We examine how the well designed use of micro finance can help to flow the material resource of money to communities where it has rarely reached. And we follow fashion as it begins to boldly move forward with sourcing strategies that can help style glamorous and prosperous lifestyles for the few and for the many. We invite you to meet the material girls and boys who are challenging the norms of wasteful cultures and designing the new narratives of desire. They are helping to mature and deepen our understanding of the strategic role of design.