Design for Climate

Earth as an Occupational Organizing Method

Work is an organizing factor for humans. The type of thing that we work on is one of the ways* that we determine our place in the world. As designers we tend to silo the work that we do into categories. When asked we say: interaction designer, interior designer, graphic designer, industrial designer, product designer, information designer, strategist, book designers, art director, creative director, architectural designer, print designer, brand designers, type designers, social media designers, motion designer, 3D designer..... It's sometimes followed by the industries that we work in: software, fashion, cultural institutions, DTC, Web 3.0, AI....

We all know why this work is valuable. The problems posed by climate change have gone from being off in the distance to impacting us directly. The urgency of the moment is just very real. Right now there's a need to approach these labels in a different way. Instead of thinking about the type of work that we do we should focus on working towards fixing the world. Instead of thinking about the industries that we work in we should think about reshaping all industries. We should think about the type of things that we want to be bringing into the world. Designing for climate is about misfits from other industries and disciplines getting together and working towards the future.

This isn't new. There is precedent for this moment from the past. We can see how design work by designers (and writers and architects and artists...) during the environmental movements of the 60's and 70's created real change. The impact they had on the world is immense and the ways of living that they thought about have proved to be aspirational to those who followed. Design pointed in the right direction can be a positive force.

When we think about that work we think about the local. The earth was definitely the motivator but it dealt with subjects that were happening at home, recycling, smog, pollution.

What makes right now different is that we're thinking about technologies that will create global change. We're at that stage. We need to make bold moves since the acceleration of GHG emissions is too much.

The most shocking thing about reading about climate change is the dates. You'll read something about Greenland and think to yourself "I can't believe this is happening" and then realize it was written in 2003. You'll read about a climate justice action and be like "that's so great someone is doing something about this" and it will be from 2016. An Inconvenient Truth came out in 2006. Greta skipped school in 2018. That's 5 years ago. You thought this was an important issue to you but you realize it wasn't important enough. People have been working really hard on this for years. But it's not too late, this is the work that needs to be done. It's the most pressing design work that anyone can be doing right now. It's most pressing work anyone can be doing now across skill.

Design for Climate isn't about creating a style or a movement. It's about using the skills of design (and writing, and art, policy, legal, finance) to actively work towards a better future in whatever way we can. There's a tendency to see this work as niche or "Climate Tech" but lets not fall into that trap. The goal is to make companies working in climate to be just...companies. To normalize them. Sustainability isn't the end state, we're looking beyond just "sustaining". We're not looking to just get by, we want to thrive.