December 1, 1995
We live in a designed world. Everything from where we live, to how we get to work, to what we eat is the result of an endless series of decisions by countless individuals. But rarely is thought given to whole processes or attention.paid to how systems should work together. As a result, much of the design in our world is flawed, and with each new technological advance we find ourselves faced with yet another unintended consequence.
In Deep Design, David Wann explores a new way of thinking about design, one that asks “What is our ultimate goal?” before the first step has even been taken. Designs that begin with such a question – whether in products, buildings, technologies, or communities – are sensitive to living systems, and can potentially accomplish their mission without the seemingly unavoidable side effects of pollution, erosion, congestion, and stress.
Such “deep designs” meet the key criteria of renewability, recyclability, and non-toxicity. Often based on natural systems, they are easy to understand and implement, and they provide more elegant approaches to getting the services and functions we need. Wann presents information gleaned from interviews with more than fifty innovative designers in a wide variety of fields, he describes numerous case studies that explain the concept and practice of deep design. The design pathways he describes – including low-impact chemical pathways, pollution prevention and recycling in the computer industry, renewable energy systems, and sustainable agriculture systems – clearly illustrate thought processes that optimize goals while minimizing effort and impact. If the potential of these pathways can be realized, the result will be a sustainable study-state society.
David Wann is a policy analyst for the Environmental Protection Agency and the author of Biologic (Johnson books, 1990).