The world spins on the law of supply and demand. What the people of our various societies want and need, the businesses and governments of the world work to provide, whether it be material, commercial or social provisions. But what do you call it when our needs become so large that they require a change of thought processes, priorities and goals? And what happens when those changes need to be made in different ways, sequentially, by many industries, simultaneously?
Such a turn in lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight, but a change in the way we think and live, provoked by the rising needs of the people can be described as a revolution. The revolution described here is a cultural revolution of sorts as it requires a change of how we think and act and is no doubt supplemented by innovations in design and technology, mediums which have continually spurred human progress forward over the centuries.
So, when is our next cultural revolution coming? The history of mankind tells us that humans are only willing to make major changes when they are on the brink of extinction; when we are on the very precipice of doom are we yet willing to evolve. It is at this point that we accomplish the most. And with the Internet, smartphones and other new technology, our world has become larger, but more close-knit and therefore able to learn, adapt and evolve faster. Global consciousness promulgated by new media is now the stem of what our revolutions are based on and will likely dictate what the next cultural revolution is based on.
As the year of 2012 has come to a close, many of us recall the crises of the past couple of decades which were broadcasted and dissected around the world and engraved in the permanent wall of history that is the Internet. And with the most recent sensational doomsday panic, the end of the Mayan calendar cycle (which obviously passed without incident), some of us may inevitably find ourselves scoffing at these events in retrospect and say to ourselves, “The world will keep turning, no matter what.” Sure, it will. But it’s also up to us how we want to live out the rest of our days on this great blue ball.
With climate change becoming more than just an inflated talking point, but also a global matter of life and death, and energy becoming an increasingly hostile factor in this issue for major world powers, there is surely not much time to reconcile these two before we discover it’s too late to act.
What does any of this have to do with design? Design is a core part of our lives. Nearly everything we endeavor to create in any industry requires a designer’s consideration. As our needs become more specific, so too does our capacity to provide expand and, subsequently, the design industry grows as well. Cultural thinker Michiel Schwartz and designer Joost Ellfers recognized the substantial role design plays in the cultural revolution necessary for progress, which they dubbed, Sustainism.
Now, you may be wondering, “What exactly is he talking about and what is ‘Sustainism’?” Simply put, in their words, Sustainism is “a worldwide twenty-first century cultural movement and cultural era in design, technology, lifestyles, visual arts, architecture, media, business, development, learning, etc.”
In a book titled, Sustainism Is The New Modernism: A Cultural Manifesto for the Sustainist Era, the book isn’t traditional literature, but is laden with graphics and snippets of text describing the ideology of what they believe needs to be adopted by citizens of the world in order to move forward as an environmentally conscious, socially flexible and industrially sensible society.
This manifesto uses design to showcase the beginning of a solution to a host of many of social, economic and environmental issues our societies faces, from childhood obesity to climate change and clean energy.
The main point of what Michiel Schwartz and Joost Elffers had in mind when they created this manifesto was not to create a solid Bible-like piece of literature dictating what, how and why we need to change our ways in order to survive in the long-term, but to provide a context for that debate itself. It’s up to us to figure out what works for us and what doesn’t. Now, more than ever, we have the capacity to discover that for ourselves. To use our talents in our industry to reach this goal of sustainability through sustainism.
In an age when one app can heavily influence one’s life from health, daily habits and a person’s very environment, in general, surely we have the capability to continue to use technology in ways which revolutionize our society to a sustainable one for future generations. Michiel Schwartz and Joost Elffers tapped into a huge idea from a few perspectives using graphic design as the medium, which is no doubt interesting from a philosophical standpoint.
So, designers, let us know what you think about this “cultural revolution.” Is it a brilliant undertaking we should all work together toward? Is it already underway? Are we far from being able to implement Sustainism as described here? Comment below, we would love to hear your thoughts. Happy New Year!