The Power of Design

Let me preface this by saying that my love affair with design has not always been this way.

Sure, I built sculptures out of discarded trash and even put some of them up on street corners. And I did start the Swap Box Project as a “let’s see what happens” type of social experiment. But for the longest time I found myself carrying around a deeply pessimistic view of humanity’s creative potential. If art can be the result of a few flashes of creative genius, then good design is to art what a fog-lamp is to a strobelight. It carries with it a certain sense of control and determination needed to see a work through.

Years ago I picked up a dull text on the water systems of the Classical Greeks as part of a book report and was blown away by the extent to which Greek cities had efficient and well-organized means of water reuse (which trump many of our present-day systems). And it took an industrial design professor (who constantly bombarded us with fascinating books and guest lecturers) to turn me onto the power of design. It was probably William McDonough and Michael Braungert’s “Cradle to Cradle” (a book which not only lays out a vision of more efficient design based on reuse rather than recycling but which is also printed on waterproof plastic sheets) which started me chasing the path that I am on today.

I’m a firm believer in the power of small-scale projects in which funding comes not necessarily from governmental bodies but from interested wealthy private citizens or from a large number of small donations…which is why I love the X Prize Foundation. If we are to save this world of ours we’re going to need a whole lot of maverick thinkers with varied and unorthodox skillsets. As I said to a hardcore activist friend of mine a couple of weeks ago, it’s not enough to have people on our side who know how to install plumbing and electrical wiring and know how to build greywater systems. We need people who know how to build engines and machines or who are keenly interested in how these things work. I myself am getting interested in metalworking, sculpture and modular wood construction (when I have the time, that is) and am looking for both a studio space and grant money…

But on to the green design…
Ling Fan’s grass bench

Harvard Labs’ Microbial Fuel Cells
Rocking Chair that powers reading lamp
Seedballs in matchstick form!


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