The New Simplicity

These days, green design is about modesty, restraint, and community.

It used to be that sustainable-product design was mostly about materials. (“It’s made of corn!” “It’s recyclable!”) Now the dis­cus­­sion is maturing. Many designers are placing a high value on sim­pli­city and restraint, as seen in Naoto Fukasawa and Jasper Mor­rison’s Super Normal exhibition, which has been touring for the past few years. The everyday objects included there—from a paper clip to a plastic bucket—are so well conceived that they could hardly be improved upon. It’s the same instinct that drives the appreciation for certain timeless design classics, and for handcrafted furniture made of solid wood. What could be more sustainable than a product that will last an entire lifetime?

Others are looking to more socially responsible business practices. Patagonia provides consumers with detailed information about its garments’ life cycles. For the past two decades the Tufenkian company, which specializes in handmade carpets from Tibet and Armenia, has supplied its employees and their families with food, clean water, housing, clinics, and schools. Here’s a selection of recent and classic products that reflect these new directions in green design.

Design Classics
The pure union of function, form, and quality means that these objects are here to stay.
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Sustainable Wood
Distressed or planed, light or dark, its presence is a calming reminder of nature in our man-made surroundings.
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Super Minimalism
Design without the “design,” stripped down to basic shapes and functions
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Ethical Design
Objects designed and manufactured to do no harm to people or the environment [view related products]

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