What's Wrong with the "Green" Design Revolution

In an interview with the British inventor James Dyson, Ben Schiller discusses the future of engineering and design in America and the fallacies behind much "green" design.

March 3, 2012, 5:00 AM PST

By Ryan Lue


James Dyson has a few ideas about the relationship between engineering and efficiency, and rightly so – over the past twenty years, his company has garnered international attention for a small collection of products built on highly innovative designs.

For one, he sees serious problems with academic trends in the West, claiming that American universities produce nine times as many lawyers as engineers. "Other nations have lower manufacturing costs, and generally lower expectations of profit," he explains. "They can make me-too products much more cheaply than we can. So, we've got to produce products with better design and technology."

Moreover, Dyson calls out superficial attitudes about green design as "lazy engineering": "People install a small motor and say, 'This is green, it's good for the environment.'... But that's just a cheap marketing trick. It's not answering the real problem..."

As Schiller suggests, we don't "need a design revolution if we want to cut energy use and conserve scarce materials. We just need to go back to making durable products, and get people interested in engineering again. The rest should take care of itself."

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 in Fast Company

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