What is design for sustainability? It is a conference taking place today at Stanford. It is also a culture, as in Mio, a Philadelphia-based design company founded in 2001 by brothers Isaac and Jaime Salm with the objective of combining business rigor with environmentally and socially progressive design experiences.
We met with Jaime and Isaac last June to discuss how to re-imagine the meaning of 21st century urban cool. Sustainability, in Jaime's words, is not a formula, it's a process; one that must be accessible to all as in open source. A sustainable product starts as efficiency and becomes eco-intelligence. Just as the social fabric, technology and ecosystems change daily, so a sustainable product is one that adapts itself to its context, including geography and climate. Joel Makower wrote a very interesting riff on his blog on why Americans don't go green.
This is Mio's Bendant silver Lamp. It is made from recycled laser-cut, powder coated steel and is designed to ship flat and get maximum use of standard metal sheet goods. The user is a co-designer as the lamp can be assembled to create unique light and shadow arrangements.
Jaime Salm talked about 'ideal solution paralysis', which is gaining more significance as ever. In a comment he sent me last night by email, Jaime explains:
I believe that with so many "bureaus" providing sustainability consulting in so many areas, it is critical for companies to evaluate themselves. It is great to get help in achieving sustainability, but I believe that companies must first look at what efficiencies and resources are within the company to do so. If anything this will make the work of consultants more effective since you have taken care of all the things that are within your power. That is precisely my point... Sustainability is within reach, but it's a process that must start within the company or organization.
For their presentation, MIO used an Interactive Service Platform. Developed in collaboration with recognized interactive design expert Slavko Milekic MD Ph.D., this is the first content-flexible, gesture-based universal browser available in the market. This system is currently undergoing a redesign as MIO rethinks some of the applications, size and specs.
I confess, when I saw how it was used, it looked like magic to me so I can't wait to see the next generation at work.
I have invited Jaime and Isaac to comment on this post so stay tuned.