Ecology

Laura Scherling
A Tale of Long Island City: Between Industrialization, Innovation, and Gentrification
The multi-faceted aspects of development in Long Island City, with creative and technological development deeply ingrained in it’s rich urban identity and history.


Steven Heller
The Plastic Wars
Thoughts on the plastic wars from Steven Heller.


Andre Barnet
The Age of Wreckers and Exterminators
For many people, the sudden appearance of Carson’s and Jacobs’s brilliant and prescient books was one of those moments that seem, in retrospect, to have changed the very order of things.


Laura Tarrish
Hunter | Gatherer: Botanicals
Each of us has a connection to nature — a primal response to certain landscapes — yet we don’t always use it as raw material for our own work.



John Thackara
Food As A Commons
People go hungry not because of a shortage of production, but because the food available is too expensive, or they lack the land to grow it on. In California, the prototype of a combined social, political and technical solution has been launched which promises to unlock the food system crisis.


John Thackara
Keep Your Stuff Alive
What would fashion be like if it was more than a an act of consumption with no meaning beyond the point of sale? What kind of system would improve the quality of our fashion experience without increasing the quantity we consume?


John Thackara
A ‘Wild Mirror’ For Desk-Bound Workers
A new scheme in England connects office workers with living systems by means of a ‘wild mirror’: each workspace is twinned with an equivalent area of ecosystem regeneration.



John Thackara
Summer Xskool in Sweden
This year’s Doors of Perception Summer Xskool explores what it can mean in practice to move from a ‘do less harm’ approach to sustainability to a practice of leave things better.



John Thackara
Caloryville: The Two-Wheeled City
In China, ‘battery-bikes’ are outselling cars by four-to-one. Pedelec sales are soaring in Europe, too. Is this the start of system-wide phase-shift in transportation?


John Thackara
Ecuador, Open Knowledge, and ‘Buen Vivir’: Interview With Michel Bauwens
John Thackara interviews Michel Bauwens, founder of the P2P Foundation, is to lead a strategic policy project for Ecuador’s government called Free/Libre Open Knowledge (FLOK), also known as the social knowledge economy project.


John Thackara
John Thackara on Avatar
John Thackara is a writer, speaker and design producer, and director of Doors of Perception. In addition to this blog, he is the author of twelve books including In The Bubble: Designing In A Complex World and Wouldn't It Be Great If….



John Thackara
Between Sorrel And Supertanker
John Thackara reviews the recent Doors of Perception xskool.


John Thackara
Green Tourism: Why It Failed And How It Can Succeed
At a conference with 300 travel industry professionals, John Thackara ponders the successes, failures and potential in the Green Tourism industry.


John Thackara
Trust Is Not An Algorithm
By some accounts the world’s information is doubling every two years. This impressive if unprovable fact has got many people wondering: what to do with it?



John Thackara
A Roof, A Skill, A Market
The Nubian Vault Association has evolved a unique approach to housing in West Africa that creates three kinds of value within local economies: a roof, a skill and a market.


John Thackara
The Ecozoic City
How humans are reintegrating their endeavours into a larger ecological consciousness.


John Thackara
Healing The Metabolic Rift
John Thackara on the possibilities and issues global business leaders will face at the 2013 World Economic Forum.


John Thackara
Venice: from Gated Lagoon to Bioregion
A review of the options that Venice faces in trying to shore up the city.


John Thackara
From Autobahn to Bioregion
A review of the projects submitted to the Audi Urban Future Award.



Observed
Design Indaba Online FilmFest
Design Indaba's online film festival features 10 of the Focus Forward short films.


Rob Walker
Killing for Beautiful Objects
A report on the ivory trade reminds us of the uniquely human willingness to kill for beautiful objects.


John Thackara
How To Manage a Constellation
To solve complex and interconnected human-environment challenges, like the death of the Baltic Sea, we need to build ‘social-ecological coalitions’ or ‘constellations’.


John Thackara
Old Growth
The tale of a furniture giant and the possible ecological happy ending.


John Thackara
Top Down Nature
An overview of Bordeaux 55,000: a project to explore ‘how best to transform 55,000 hectares (136,000 acres) into natural areas’.


John Thackara
The Other Green Economy
People the world over are divided between radically different conceptions of their future: resource-intensive production on the one side, versus regenerative land-based enterprises, and mosaics of micro-enterprises, on the other.


John Thackara
Istanbul: City of Seeds
Rather than dream up exotic visions of “what could be”, an xskool looks for social and natural assets that already exist – and grows from there.


John Thackara
Oil-Powered Thinking
Why is it that countervailing facts don’t change things in our evidence-based world? And what might we do about it?


John Thackara
Zurich Eco Lab
A report on the Zurich's thriving urban eco culture.


John Thackara
Design In The Light of Dark Energy
A shortened version of a talk on why the world has to reduce energy consumption, the five per cent energy solution and some of the people around the world who are leading the way.



John Thackara
A Reading List for Mr. Mario Monti
A (mostly) online list of readings for the new Italian Prime Minister, Mr. Mario Monti, and anyone else who is ready for a cold hard look at our energy resources and options.


John Thackara
From Druids to Biorefineries: Innovation in a Small Nation
Small nations can be flexible in ways that big one cannot.



Courtney Drake, William Drenttel, and Deirdre Cerminaro
Design and the Social Sector: An Annotated Bibliography
This bibiography surveys the literature of social design — the spectrum from design process and thinking to the zones of social innovation.



Julie Lasky
MSC Greenhouse Project
On learning about science, nutrition and politics at the Manhattan School for Children.


Chappell Ellison
How Do I Know It’s Faux?
If you want to go faux, you might have to call in a fur expert.



John Thackara
Green Issues in Communication Design
Why do companies get environmental awards for polluting less, even though they are still polluting?


John Thackara
A Lesson from Cornwall
I've always loved lichen. I found this one in Cornwall’s Biodiversity Action Plan and chose it as a beautiful asset that already exists in the county.



John Thackara
Could Green Energy Kill the Desert?
Large scale wind power might not be as green as you think.



John Thackara
Whole, Whole on the Range
As a juror on the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge, John Thackara reviews the highlight.



Timothy Jack Ward
Gardens and Their Designers
When I loaded up my Budget truck and moved from New York to our nation’s capital, the last thing on, and the first thing off, was my plants.



Mark Dery
Paradise Fouled
Review of Crude, Joe Berlinger's documentary film about a lawsuit filed against Chevron by denizens of the Ecuadorean Amazon.



John Thackara
Fish Systems and Design
Though gloomy predictions say we could see the end of seafood by 2048, several initiatives are rethinking the way we acquire fish.



John Thackara
Make Sense, Not Stuff
John Thackara presents a three-step plan to connect design schools to the green economy.



John Thackara
Design for (Im)mobility: Interview with Domus
John Thackera defines and explains the importance of ethnoecology.



John Thackara
Global Place — Or is it a Hat?
We must view the world with a new slant and take advantage of a huge design opportunity to create sustainable structures for the future.



John Thackara
Cities, Design and Democracy: Conversation with Sunil Abraham in Cluster
John Thackara and Sunil Abraham sit down for an in-depth interview with Cluster Magazine.



John Thackara
Interior Design at War [April 2003]
Report on design in the war in Afghanistan, the Pearl River Delta in China, the Media Lab Europe (MLE), the 50th anniversary of the German Design Council, New Mobility, and more.



Observed | June 19

Remembering the Bantam paperback of The Greening of America with its truly relentless deployment of Bookman Swash Italic. Quintessential 70s. RIP Charles Reich, 1928-2019. [MB]

Here’s your chance to hear Debbie Millman on the other side of the mike. Recorded live on stage at the famous Design and Advertising festival in London in May, Debbie is interviewed on episode 14 of This Way Up. [BV]


Observed | June 17

The School of Visual Arts has donated nearly 100 of its beloved Subway Series posters from the past three decades to the brand new Poster Museum, opening Thursday, June 20. These, as well as all new posters created in the future, will live in the Museum’s permanent archival collection. [BV]

Can a small Italian village point the way to more livable modern cities? A conference of urbanists aims to find out. [BV]


Observed | June 14

The late William Helfand had an incredible collection of medical prints, posters, and advertising emphasized "quack" pills, potions, and snake oil cure-alls. Hear his daughter, and our co-founder Jessica Helfand pay tribute to his "quackery” obsession. [BV]


Observed | June 11

“Beer cans are officially the new record sleeve.” The rise in craft brewing has spurred a beer aisle design renaissance. [BV]


Observed | June 10

Seeking 1000 people who eat. ZOE‘s experts are marrying nutritional science with machine learning to perform the world‘s largest study of individuals‘ unique nutritional responses. Visit joinzoe.com to sign up. Read this NYTimes article to see why. [BV]

A new exhibit at the Saint Louis Art Museum celebrates amateur photography from 1890–1970 through the recent gift of 150 amateur photographs from St. Louis collectors John and Teenuh Foster. John Foster assembled this collection of anonymous found images over the past 20 years, some of which can be seen in his Design Observer column. [BV]


Observed | June 06

An in-depth look at an urban mall designed to revive downtown San Diego that is set to be destroyed, from Alissa Walker. [BV]


Observed | June 05

Congratulations to Susan Kare, Patricia Moore, MIT D-Lab, Tom Phifer, Tobias Frere-Jones, Tobias Frere-Jones, Derek Lam, Ivan Poupyrev, Open Style Lab and all the winners of the 2019 Cooper Hewitt National Design Awards! [BV]


Observed | June 03

The first in a series of articles about the early days of the space age, in celebration of this summer’s 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing:
How NASA selected the first astronauts (and why no convicts have walked on the Moon). [BV]


Observed | May 30

Felice Frankel has donated hundreds of images taken during her early career as a landscape architecture photographer—Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute, Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, Richard Haag’s Bloedel Reserve, and Dan Kiley’s Miller Garden—to MIT libraries to create a learning resource. [BV]

As a kid, I had no idea that Peter Max was so derivative (Heinz Edelmann, Andy Warhol, Push Pin). I just knew his work was everywhere, and he got to sign it. To me he was the most famous artist in the world. That makes this story so depressing. [MB]


Observed | May 29

London Street Photographer Nick Turpin highlights five photographers making candid public photographs on the fringes of street photography. [BV]


Observed | May 28

An essay from Rob Walker on the tension inherent in what we do with the time we have, and how we try to make more. [BV]

NBA players are no longer waiting for shoe companies to give them personal logos — they are creating their own. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | May 24

Congratulations to Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand! The Observatory made dezeen’s list of 14 of the best architecture and design podcasts to subscribe to. [BV]


Observed | May 23

From Atlas Obscura: 18 of the world’s most wondrous public transportation options. [BV]

Iceland’s environmental ministry says Justin and his Belibers have nearly ruined Fjadrárgljúfur canyon. But even for the non-famous, selfies are ruining national parks and the great outdoors around the world. Go outside but leave your phones at home. [BV]


Observed | May 22

How do you create a logo for a presidential candidate? On this week‘s The West Wing Weekly: West Wing & fonts. The guests are our co-founder Michael Bierut, who designed Hillary Clinton‘s 2016 logo, and Leslie Wah, who made the campaign logos in Season 6 of the West Wing. [BV]


Observed | May 21

Wanna play with some Brutalist buildings? Skyline chess has a new offering of London’s most-notable architecture from the Brutalist movement including the Trellick Tower, Petty France, Centrepoint and Cromwell Tower. [BV]

Design Observer co-founder @jessicahelfand is heading to Malta this week as an external critic working with Professor Vince Briffa, recipient of the Tribute to Art and Innovation award at this year’s Venice Biennale. [BV]


Observed | May 20

Book lovers will want to pay close attention to a new collaboration between Designers & Books and Peter Kraus’s Ursus Books & Gallery in New York. This installment: A Flowering of Creativity: Ladislav Sutnar and F. T. Marinetti. [BV]


Observed | May 15

We can‘t wait to explore Boston this fall when we host The Design of Business | The Business of Design conference at MIT. Bike-commuting, T-riding, and monorail-tweeting around Boston with transit-oriented 20-something NUMTOT founder Juliet Eldred. [BV]


Observed | May 14

What year is it? Why does it matter? While chronology and dating might not be exciting, they are the stuff that history is made on, for dates do two things: they allow things to happen only once, and they insist on the ordering and interrelation of all happenings. [BV]

“We should not be excessively interested in books”, wrote Roy Gold, biblio-graffiti outsider artist, and a bookish man. [BV]


Observed | May 13

You may not love sports, but it’s hard not to enjoy sports photography, especially for it’s innovativeness. Case in point: Sports Illustrated photographer Neil Leifer hit a grand slam when he set out to capture a double play on film. [BV]


Observed | May 10

In the 1950s and 1960s artists from the Soviet Union looked to the skies and foresaw a Utopia in space. [BV]


Observed | May 09

Early cinema is often remembered as an exclusively black-and-white affair—the bold and often fantastical colors that flickered across the earliest film reels are frequently left out of our greater cinematic history. More neglected still are the women responsible for those dazzling hues. [BV]


Observed | May 08

We’re addicted to likes, retweets, and reshares, and our addiction makes us distracted and depressed. Tristan Harris believes that tech is ‘downgrading humans’ and that the words we use to describe the problem are tepid and insufficient. It’s time to fight back. [BV]



Jobs | June 20