The environmental impact of our consumer lifestyles is tied to a very simple idea – companies want to us to spend more money, so they try to make more and more stuff for us to buy, at a cheaper and cheaper production price, which is why environmental concerns in the manufacturing process come, (with a couple of notable exceptions), a lot lower than they should.
If companies could convince us to pay more in return for less (physical stuff) and more ‘experience’ this would surely be the way out of this mess. Think about anything you buy or use regularly and consider how you could re-design it as a service or as a lighter-impact product, yet at the same time add value in the process and be able to leverage a premium price for it. This is surely the golden formula which would satisfy the markets rapacious need to make money, and the planets need to not get filled up with shit.
Service design is an emerging sector which any designer (of any discipline) worth her salt should be thinking about, if only to have an opinion on it. The RCA’s interaction course, and similar courses throughout the world have produced a generation of designers of ‘experience’, rather than ‘product’. Having seen the output of a couple of professional service design projects, my only concern is that if we try to merely replace product with service, we are missing a massive opportunity. The sucess of design for a product-light world lies in creating something from little or nothing, which is an infinitely more attractive and seductive alternative to more ‘stuff’, not just a replacement.