Sustainable design education rethought: The case for Eco-Modernism

Eric Benson, Peter Fine

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article will detail the methodological and pedagogical components of an emerging design movement the authors call Eco-Modernism. This method of design thinking combines the most successful aspects of the Outlaw Designers (Jay Baldwin, Buckminster Fuller and Stewart Brand) from the 1960s and 70s with the reform-based hopeful pragmatism of the Modernists. Eco-Modernism demands a more detailed understanding of the discipline's history and encourages designed objects and systems created with the logical inspiration of nature's cycle built into its goals. Eco-Modernism urges designers to unplug from their world of pixels and reconnect with the nuances of our natural environment so designers can better understand the materials we use, processes we employ and appreciate the importance of our natural resources. Instead of the a linear approach to a design process, based on Fordism and Taylorism, Eco-Modernism embraces nature's model of "waste equals food" (William McDonough and Michael Braungart) and Cradle-to-Cradle coined by Walter R. Stahel in the 1970's (during the Outlaw Design Movement) where design and manufacturing aim to "close the loop". The resulting material and immaterial creations hope to better unite technology, humanity and nature The pedagogical component of this movement places more classroom emphasis on an increased appreciation of the design process and its history, which is central to how future design problems are understood and how sustainable solutions are executed. This Article will further explore the necessity for a return to a reform-minded vision of design's role in society and a deeper investigation of the designer as a mediator between production and consumption. Important components of this vision include: a more holistic and deeply collaborative pedagogy that emphasizes creativity and innovation as the basis for inspired solutions that are centered within commerce, and a redefined craft that explores new materials and processes to confront issues of sustainability.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)163-176
    Number of pages14
    JournalDesign Principles and Practices
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - 2010


    • Design education
    • Eco-modernism
    • Ethics
    • Methodology
    • Modernism
    • Outlaw designer
    • Pedagogy
    • Pragmatism
    • Sustainable design

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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