The Real Problems of Today’s Design

The Industrial Revolution has seen the rise of the profession of design. This was fueled by the growing demand for objects from a middle class. Designers, interior decorators, and architects have been referred to as professionals who create beautiful spaces and products.

A origem da classe media, termo registrado por volta de 1745 na Irlanda (Bryson, Bill: Breve Historia da Vida Domestica) e que nominava comerciantes, banqueiros, editores, advogados e outras pessoas dotadas de espirito criativo; tambem injetou novos niveis de demanda na sociedade. Essas pessoas ansiavam e buscavam por inovacao domestica e decoracao, alem de objetos desejaveis para encher suas casas. De repente coisas como tapetes e espelhos que raramente podiam ser encontrados antes de 1750 se tornaram comuns.

Although almost 300 years have passed, architects and designers still do the same thing as before the Industrial Revolution: create beautiful products like mirrors and rugs that can be used to decorate commercial and residential spaces.

That is fine. This is fine. But, is this really what the world needs right now from creative professions?

What are the most pressing problems designers must solve?

CO2 Problems

Photo by Brady Bellini via Unsplash

Our industrial world is built on the assumption that we have infinite resources. Who could have predicted that eventually, oil would run out? Or forests? Oder empty spaces to dispose off the byproducts from our material prosperity?

This is exactly the situation that we are currently in, trapped in a linear economy that begins in a mine or quarry and ends in an oil rig.

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports that humanity only has three years to stop greenhouse gas emissions and prevent irreversible damage to the planet.

Experts also found that the carbon dioxide produced to date is 80% of the total amount that humanity can produce to stabilize the Earth’s temperature at 1.5degC. However, the pollutant was only 0.3% annually in the past decade.

These emissions are mainly due to the large contribution of construction, which is both the energy used for building operations and the transport and manufacturing of inputs.

CNN Climate Change Forum reports that the main sources of CO2 emissions are cities, their cars, and buildings. It is gasoline we use for transport, industry activities for building buildings (cement factories for example), and thermoelectric plants to generate energy for our homes.

Water problems

Photo by Chris Gallagher via Unsplash

According to UNICEF and WHO, billions of people continue to be affected by poor access to water, sanitation, and hygiene around the globe. Globally, around 2.2 billion people don’t have access to clean water. 4.2 billion lack adequate sanitation services. 3 billion lack basic hand hygiene.

Water is the most valuable resource in the universe. It is vital that we manage water resources, rivers and coastal areas effectively to ensure our survival and our ability to live comfortably.

Floods are also becoming more frequent in Brazil. Flooding occurs when water in a river exceeds the limit of its smaller bed and flows into the larger bed while remaining within the channel. Floods can become more common when the flow of watercourses increases.

The result of human actions on the environment is that this intensification can cause various social damages. In both cases, we found the causes of floods in Brazil. The main reason why floods occur in Brazil is due to the manner in which urbanization took place in the country, and consequently the expansion of cities.

Brazil’s rapid growth required profound changes in land use. Flooding and its harmful effects have been intensified by poor or inadequate urban planning.

More professionals are needed to study water resources in cities. This area of study equips engineers, architects, and designers with the combined knowledge and skills required to understand the whole urban hydrological cycle as well as the interrelated aspects.

Cooling Problems

Photo by Sergei A via Unsplash

Climate change is making our planet hotter. As we turn on our air conditioners to combat high temperatures, global warming is actually getting worse. We are paradoxically making it even hotter while trying to keep cool.

The most difficult aspect of this shift is to meet growing cooling needs in an eco-friendly manner. Cooling the planet is more difficult than heating it: all energy can be converted to heat and even active heating systems are not required.

According to the International Energy Agency and the United Nations Environment Program, there are currently 3.6 billion cooling devices in use worldwide. Experts predict that by 2050 we will require 14 billion units to satisfy everyone’s cooling needs.

Natural solutions to heat problems should be sought by city halls, building codes, and other authorities. These codes require that engineers and architects implement systems that prevent the use of appliances.

Feeding Problems

Photo by Petr Magera via Unsplash

Dikson Despommier (Columbia Professor of Public Health and Microbiology), says that if every city produced 10% of their food indoors, it would be possible to return 34,000 square metres of land each year to forests.

Urban agriculture projects are designed to increase green space in cities. They use vacant parking lots and building roofs to plant vegetables, fruits, and cereals.

For some time, cities have been considering urban cultivation strategies. Ana Hidalgo is the current mayor of Paris. She just opened the largest urban rooftop garden in the world. This project demonstrates that healthy food can be grown in urban areas and in community settings.

Future food does not only include large urban farms managed by local governments, or private companies working in partnership with them. You can also grow your own food. Many companies offer refrigerated home-planting strategies. This means that you can grow your food inside “refrigerators” in your homes and apartments.

In the near future, architects and designers who design urban and indoor food systems will be in high demand.

Diversity problems

Rozana Montiel - Mexico. Image © Marc Goodwin

Did you know that almost all the cities on the planet were created and designed by men since the beginning of time? Women have had little to no influence on the creation of everything we see, from urban planning to the design and construction of buildings to public transport and chairs.

Although there have been many women architects, planners, and urban policymakers in the past, most professions in built environments, especially the upper ranks, are still dominated by men. This is more than other fields like education or healthcare.

Today, 64% are female architects who have been trained in Brazil. Since 2016, there has been an increase of 42% in the number women who have graduated from Engineering. These reflexes are missing in Brazilian society.

We bring our worldview into the creation of something. Even though a project’s approach is innovative, there are still serious problems that can arise from a lack of multiple perspectives.

Gender issues aren’t the only diversity issue.

McKinsey recently released a report highlighting the benefits of ethnic-racial mix in companies. McKinsey looked at six different cultures and racial differences to determine the relationship between ethnic diversity and financial performance. According to data, companies with more ethnic diversity in their executive team are 33% more likely be profitable.

However, only 4.33% Brazilian architects are black, despite Brazil’s 54% black population. Additionally, 27% of architects and urban planners who are unemployed are black women. They also suffer 16 times more from sexual harassment at work and earn R$ 3436.15. This is almost half the amount earned by white men.

Toilet Problems

Templo Deco, Elixir Bunn Coffee Roasters / AZAZ Architects. Photo © Abdulrahman Bayshout

There are still records of latrines from 3100 BC. However, John Harington invented the first toilet in 1596. He created two units, one for himself and one for Queen Elizabeth I. It was not popular at the time. Alexander Cumming, a Scotsman, invented the modern toilet in 1775. He already intended drainage through a sewer system. Thomas Twyford, an Englishman, created the first porcelain toilet in 1885. This replaced the wooden pieces described earlier.

Industrial revolution was a significant milestone in the spread of hygiene and public health. This was not only the case in the production and promotion of basic sanitation research.

The UN however points out that 4.5 Billion people do not have basic sanitation. This means that 2/3 of the people on the planet cannot access the traditional toilet.

Bill Gates was a pioneer in the field of clean water conversion. He presented his machine that could convert poop into clean water in just five minutes. It required no water and only chemical additives.

His foundation has data that sterilizing human waste could prevent the deaths of 500,000 children and save US$233 billion annually in treatment costs for diarrhea and cholera. However, this technology is still costly and inadequate.

Technology Problems

Image courtesy of Tabulla

Urban Techs are tech companies that help cities improve their sustainability and quality of life. Companies that focus on cities, urbanism, and connecting people are some of the most prominent startups to have emerged over the past decade, including Uber, Waze. AirBnb. WeWork. Yellow.

Urban Techs are directly related to the trend of Smart Cities, also known as Cyber Cities. These cities use technology to improve their infrastructure, urban mobility, and create sustainable solutions.

What are the urban rules that will allow these companies to grow? Uber Eats is driving more bikes on the roads. What is the impact of AirBnb on local tourism? These relationships are being planned by public agencies. What about labor relations between delivery people and employees?

UTs have raised 75 Billion dollars in the past three years, which is about 17% of the total venture capital money in the world. Urban Techs attracts more funding than biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.

Richard Florida, University of Toronto director of cities, stated that the US is the most dominant country in urban startups, accounting for more than 45% of all capital invested in this area. China is next, with nearly 30%. Singapore, India and Canada are close behind, followed by the United Kingdom, Germany. South Korea, France, South Korea, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.

Brazil is not on the list.

It becomes apparent that many of the social systems we use in 21st-century society are not suitable for their purpose. They were created to meet the needs of the first machine age, and they have remained virtually unchanged since the 19th century.