Online Conference, 25-26 March 2021 | SDN Symposium
SDN Symposium
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10:30 - 12:00


Material Culture, Suistainability, Storytelling, Ecotourism, Community, Visual Culture, Feminism, Plastics, Oceans, Graphic Design, Social Equity, Ecology

Humans are inherently social: they interact and cooperate in order to survive and thrive. However, patterns of unsustainable behaviours have pushed us globally to a tipping point, endangering both the environment and future generations’ common good. Sustainability represents an urgent issue to address both through visual culture and design practice. In this matter of delicate interdependencies between craft and sustainability, we must attend “the urgent need for global action to meet people’s basic needs, to save our planet and to build a fairer and resilient world” (UN, 2021). This panel addresses these issues showing perspectives in terms of form and quantum thinking, eco-tourism and community benefits, as well as design practice and the development of designers’ skills to reduce negative environmental impacts.

Panel speakers

Presented papers

  • Quantum Thinking – Sustainability in and through Visuality

    by Benedetta Crippa

    Sustainability is an urgent question for the visual field, where the discourse around it remains blurry and often limited to questions of production. Visual work is expected to speak of, or do storytelling about sustainability, however what kind of contribution that very same form can bring to the table through its inherent qualities and methods is something we have yet to articulate a language for. This paper introduces the concept of visual sustainability as a co-existence-focused approach to form. Grounded in artistic research, it discusses sustainability as a matter of delicate interdependencies, and visuality as an agent of change in and of itself. The research uncovers the multi-layered impact(s) of visuality through feminist and post-colonial perspectives on form. In advocating for a quantum thinking around sustainability (rather than a binary one), it also introduces relevant strategies and methodologies for bringing responsibility as integrated approach to visual practice, with a focus on structural changes through the final form. Sustainability is discussed through an expanded, holistic lens and at multiple scales, acknowledging it requires a diverse co-presence of interventions for structural change. The research encourages to position form as a generator of counter-narratives, by implementing holistic sustainability as primary outcome of visual practice.

  • Can Plastic Be ‘Green’?

    by Geoff Isaac

    Through case studies of plastic chairs, this paper examines if product designers can successfully reduce the environmental impact of their work by embracing recent innovations in plastics. The 21st Century has seen growing interest, from both designers and manufacturers, in experimenting with alternatives to virgin fossil-based plastics, including recyclates and bioplastics. A simplified eco-audit tool has been developed to enable comparison of the environment impact of 32 chairs made from renewable carbon-based (‘green’) plastics. Preliminary findings suggest that designers experimenting with recycled materials are more likely to succeed in reducing the environmental impact of their work, compared with those working with bioplastics or natural fibres. Hybridisation is identified as a key common strategy among those working with ‘green’ plastics. This research is of particular interest for designers seeking to reduce our dependence on fossil-based plastics, supporting their central role in the systems-level change required to address the climate emergency.

  • The Impact of Sustainable Eco-Tourism by the ǂKhomani San Community: An Ethnographic Study

    by Celeste McKenzie

    The ǂKhomani San is the last surviving indigenous San community in South Africa and is under threat. Eco-tourism involves community involvement and partnerships to create a working and profitable relationship that can have both a positive and negative effect on the community. The purpose of this paper is firstly to theoretically explore the relationship between eco-tourism and sustainability. Secondly, this study reports on the ethnographic approaches used as foundation for the creative practices of design and photography. To create awareness through the creation of books, online presence, videos and exhibitions through the storytelling and traditions of this specific community. Through the processes of design and photography actively play a role in the contribution to ecotourism, to the benefit of the community and the common good.

  • Design as a Catalyst for Sustainability – An Approach to the Common Good and the Oceans

    by Dília Nunes, Joana Lessa

    Humans are inherently social: they interact and cooperate in order to survive and thrive, therefore, establishing a set of benefits where the needs of the society as a hole prevail over the needs of the individual, is essential to determine the Common Good. Recent studies indicate that consumer needs reached a tipping point, endangering the Planet and future generations. The present study aims to establish if Design practice promotes the creation of solutions that tackle environmental problems created by a consumerist society, with focus on the oceans and marine litter problematic. The methodology adopted is based on literature review and case studies analysis. The preliminary findings suggest that Design practice can positively contribute for the mitigation of the negative impact of plastic that ends its life cycle as marine litter, thus playing a role in the efforts towards a healthier environment and consequently for the Common Good. However, future work needs to be done in terms of quantitative and qualitative research to assert all their Design practice positive impacts.