‘Sustainability has been driven by organisations, some frms and
inspirational individuals. Designers need to be more ambitious’
—Catherine McDermott, Design lecturer
The tension between ethics and design is as old as the industry. Butbehind the abuse is an opportunity: for designers to use their creativ-ity, originality and strategic thinking to help the world, not harm it.“So far, sustainability has been driven by institutions (especially theEuropean Union and the state of California) and a few inspirational in-dividuals and companies acting on rational economic grounds,”saysMcDermott. Almost everyone believes designers should take a lead. The question,which has bedevilled the industry since the 1840s, is how this is to beachieved.The industrial revolution made Britain the workshop of the world butthe social cost of this economic miracle was condemned in CharlesDickens’s Hard Times (1854), a state of the nation novel set in theimagined yet grimily realistic Victorian town of Coketown.Dickens’s outrage was shared by John Ruskin who, in his book TheStones Of Venice (1853), drew a direct connection between art, natureand morality. To Ruskin, moral art was nature expressed through man;machines dehumanised the worker and “all cast from the machine isbad, as work it is dishonest”.William Morris turned Ruskin’s ideas about nature, art, morality and
the degradation of human labour into a unied theory of design that
became a manifesto for the Arts and Crafts movement. Victoriandesign was, at its worst, characterised by an over the top ornamentalstyle, an early form of bling if you like, which Morris loathed.