Design as The Glimpse of A Better Life

In our western society, we have currently gained the luxurious position to discuss the drawbacks of our own prosperity. Global warming, traffic jams, obesity, and other urgent issues in western societies, they all represent the consequences of extreme luxury. And often consumerism is appointed guilty. While we were expanding the borders of our individual ownership, we conveniently ignored the consequences of this for our community and environment. However, now that many of us own a television, a dishwasher, and a smart phone, it becomes painfully apparent that our materialistic image of happiness was actually a pretty limited one… Or wasn’t it? A few years ago, ‘shopping’ was considered an enchanting activity; it even was often mentioned as one of people’s most favourite hobbies. But we are slightly distancing ourselves from this activity that is so full of moral objections. “This fruit bowl is made of old tires from India.” “I only buy cosmetics at the Body Shop.” “Oh, I already recycle my wardrobe for a year now. I noticed that it is not about having, but about being...” 

Sustainability, in both environmental and social sense, is clearly gaining terrain, and thankfully. However, the claim that we need to ‘be’ rather than to ‘have’ is, according to me, a superficial claim. It implicitly states that we buy products just to own them, to show them off to others, or to have more and better ones than our neighbour. It explains greed as the main driver for the desire to have, which, in my view, is based on imprudent observations. We do not buy to have… do we? I do not buy too many body lotions, just to have. I do not buy new clothes to own more than other people do. I do not buy all these new notebooks to impress my friends. I buy new products because they imply change, and because change may mean improvement, as little as this may be. And although I do agree that this superficial and even wasteful way of acting upon our desire to improve should be stopped, I do not think we will succeed in this until we found new, cheap and effortless ways to experience hope for improvement. The question thus becomes: how can we re-design these glimpses of a better life?

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