3 Great Examples on How to Thematise the Climate Crisis in Design

…without it compromising the aesthetic or function.

The environment is arguably one of the most relevant issues today and while everything gets worse and worse. Something about the climate crisis is over us and while everything is worse and worse.

“Eco no longer means ugly…” Vora writes in regards to architecture, and this is also becoming more and more true in product design. The ecological style has often been a raw and hippie style. As environmental issues become a bigger and bigger challenge, more and more people are becoming interested in doing their part. This feeds new products appealing to more people, making it easier to choose sustainability and aesthetics.

Bringing the theme into our everyday lives living and playing with it can remind, engage and interest us in the consequences of the climate crisis, as a warning and as an encouragement to do better.

Poster with name of exhibition “Re-think, Re-use, Re-duce”, who is exhibiting, where and when
The poster for the exhibition at DAC

In the exhibition for The Cabinetmakers’ Autumn 2019 at the Danish Architecture Center, the focus was on new sustainable designed furniture. With the title “Re-think, Re-use, Re-duce” DAC combined three of the “R’s” in the series of variations of the sustainability mantra, presumably those of which were relevant to the furniture exhibited.

Three individual designs thematised the climate crisis in a striking way without making compromising the function or aesthetic of the product itself.

“Flooded” chair by Monique Engelund and Mathilde Witt Mølholm on a mirror in a white room
“Flooded” chair by Monique Engelund and Mathilde Witt Mølholm — Pic from the SE19 Catalogue

Flooded is a very literal translation of the theme of the chair, where the rising sea levels are painted on the wood from the legs up with a blue, seethrough paint symbolizing water. The wood can be interpreted as the land, of which the watery paint overlaps; symbolizing overflooding. This simple theme takes nothing away from the chair, apart from potential other themes, but gives it a subtle uninterrupted ornament.

By itself, the chair is very simple, and almost harshly geometrical, suggesting the human intervention with nature. The chair itself is, of course, sustainably produced, made from locally sourced Douglas pinewood. The execution of the theme is amazingly simple, letting it stand as an aesthetic piece on its own. The simplicity and subtle colours make it easy to style it in ones home and it gives one a story to tell.

“PLAN B” stool by Sommer & Frederiksen — Pic from the SE19 Catalogue

The rising sea levels are here thematised less directly, where the floating cork stool with a playful paddle inside makes for a small raft when folded out. The designers describe it as “a sustainable must-have in any home for when the sea levels begin to rise”. While the stool’s function as a full-on raft is probably questionable, then it could be useful for a Titanic, Jack and Rose situation. It’s definitely fun and could be a great learning tool for children.

Its function as a stool is quite versatile. When folded, the stool is round and has a quite nice sitting surface for comfortable use supported by the cork construction. Made of six main pie-shaped pieces connect by rope, the stool can be unfolded into a line of six smaller stools, supporting children.

Cork is an amazing and versatile material. It regenerates quite fast and the harvesting process is among the most environmentally friendly.

“STOP STOOL” stool by Philip Bro Ludvigsen — Pic from the SE19 Catalogue

This last stool is also an amazing use of cork. It differentiates itself from the other two examples by not referring to the rising sea levels and by directly encouraging better behaviour. Just using the stool properly, with your phone in the slot under the cork cushion, will make you cut your CO2 emissions.

Examples like this show that design thematizing environmental challenges doesn’t have to come with the cost of aesthetics. This is not always a straightforward feat, as both good design and sustainable production aren’t easy by themselves in the first place.

I will urge you to see the rest of the exhibition as there is some amazing inspiration to get there.

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Designculture graduate enthusiastic about the link between Design and Culture and the effect it has on you.

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Morten Thorn

Morten Thorn

Designculture graduate enthusiastic about the link between Design and Culture and the effect it has on you.

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