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Valerie Casey Introduces the Designers Accord

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Jessie Scanlon‘s article sets it up perfectly. Valerie Casey (who used to be at frog, now at IDEO) was on her third cross-country flight that month and had just seen An Inconvenient Truth when it hit her. She decided to start doing some research. She came across an albatross carcass which had 1036 pieces of plastic in it. And she learned about giant sections of the open ocean where all the floating plastic in the world seems to congregate. She was suffering from acute apocaphilia (aka exposure to climate porn) and she was having something that sustainability guru Ray Anderson calls the “spear-in-the-heart” moment. Because her slides were so awesome, we’re going to include as many as we can.

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She decided to start putting together a plan that positioned designers as the leaders of this movement. Apparently, not all designers felt the same way.


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And especially in the light of the extreme exposure sustainability is getting, it seems to a lot of people that it’s just another trend. Everybody loves you. Until they don’t.

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However, any movement–like suffrage in the US, for example–can be charted with a spike of interest and acceptance, then a drop as it takes the rest of the audience to catch up. The good news is, change happens fast.

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Why are designers the ones to spearhead this movement? Designers change habits and behavior. They create accessibility. They look to nature for inspiration. And they’re suckers for detail. And they’re optimists. Going back to the beach, where a designer at IDEO saw the Oral-B toothbrush he had designed wash up on the sand. He swore at that moment he’d never design another toothbrush. Imagine if all toothbrush designers had the same epiphany?

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So, the Designers Accord has two tenets:
1) Everyone who comes into contact with the designers who sign it (clients, vendors) must be entered into a conversation where they can discuss better options and solutions.
2) Knowledge sharing must exist at every level between designers so collaboration and new findings will occur and no efforts are duplicated.
There will be no certification, no approved vendors, no rating system (aka it won’t be like LEED).

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Already 3500 designers from 20 countries of every discipline have committed. There will be accountability, provided by professional organizations; AIGA has committed to it (and so has IDSA), who will help to enforce the accord throughout their memberships. And Core77/BusinessWeek will be offering an option for firms to list their affiliation in the Design Directory at the end of February. The website will include case studies and resources later this year. So besides joining, how do you get started? Just start talking about it now, says Casey. Just start telling your clients about it as soon as possible.

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