by Holly Burns
If you couldn’t make it last Friday, just after 3PM a group of students and other interested participants, gathered at Pace University’s PIERS Conference on the Environment, The Good Life: Imagining Alternative Futures, to take part in a discussion about the role of strategic design in relation to the “Good Life”. Speakers on the panel were Mary McBride, chairperson of the Design Management Program and Catalyst advisor, Catalyst Managing Editor Kevin Rorick, one of Catalyst’s founders, Erin (Weber) Skurdal, and Catalyst Executive Editor Adam Zoltowski acting as mediator.
In a world with staggering numbers of unemployment, poverty, and environmental concerns, design plays a critical role in the future of the world. Catalyst panelists talked about how design can make a difference in the quest for the “good life”. “As environmental concerns and mass consumption has increased, a spotlight has emerged on designers’ influence over consumption habits and quality through material choices, manufacturing choices, etc. Designers are now recognized for their influence over the possibility of a good life,” Skurdal pointed out.
“As environmental concerns and mass consumption has increased, a spotlight has emerged on designers’ influence over consumption habits and quality through material choices, manufacturing choices, etc. Designers are now recognized for their influence over the possibility of a good life.”
The panelists also touched on the gaps in our education system, spotlighting the need for a collaborative education system that teaches design thinking and the principles of innovation to children to ensure that the American economy can continue adding value to a world where historic manufacturing jobs are often now exported. McBride said, “We’ve got to think of a different way to educate people for the lives they’ll really lead and the lives that they want to have, the good life that they want to have.”
McBride also emphasized the idea of creating economic value first through design, solutions which then provide social and environmental benefits to communities. In places like Africa, simply installing a new well does not solve the larger problem that leads to widespread poverty and hunger. Systems need to be designed that help those communities generate their own capital, which then leads to poverty alleviation and a better quality of life.
At closing, the panel asked the audience to disclose their reasons for attending the event. Audience members included local high school students who are on a quest to get a green roof installed at their school, a recent graduate of Pace’s Environmental Studies program, and various other community members from the surrounding area that have an interest or general curiosity about strategic design.
Catalyst would like to thank all of those people who were able to attend the event and we look forward to participating in similar events in the future.