Constellation – Sustainable Practice 1/8

This blogpost is written directly as the course is being taught.

  • All content available on Moodle
  • Refer to constellation handbook (assignments etc)
  • Session 3-5pm
  • Group Tutorial 5-6pm – Sign up via Moodle

House Rules

  • No definitive answers
  • No right or wrong
  • No ‘good’ narrative. Everything is up for discussion


  • Not about showing you things, about showing you how to look
  • Prior knowledge is welcome


assignment 1 question:

How does sustainability affect your practice? (1000 words) 

Sustainability Practice – Thesis

  • Problems based around unsustainability since Industrial Revolution.
  • We got too good at making and consuming
  • World was improved but there were consequences
  • Economy is now characterised in linear fashion (take-make-waste)
  • Fast consumption, lots of waste – unsustainable

Emulating consumption -Factor 4 – We would need 4 times as much earth resources if the world world consumed like us.

‘Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of present witout compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (Bruntland 1987)

Circular Economy

This is what we should aspire to, moving to a more sustainable approach.

issues with this include –

  • Profit comes from consumption, through it is good so slowing things down is a bad thing, reluctance from companies.
  • If you design something to last, people will be a new one less frequently

Artists and designers have a significant influence of consumption and the debate

  • Designers create posters and media to change minds
  • Product designers produce thing created by the million

The rise of unsustainability

Birth of the industrial and economic paradigm

Pre-Industrial times

  • Subsistence based economy – organised around meeting basic needs – Food, Heat, Security
  • Production was cottage industry, things consumed were made locally
  • Products harmonious with nature, made sustainable
  •  Economy was agricultural
  • Problem was – no machines, no healthcare etc. Laborious work all the time.

The Enlightenment

  • Intellectual movement of late 17th and early 18th century
  • Until this point, there was no autonomy, people played assigned role and nothing more.
  • Scientific Revolution – Scientific Method transformed culture, able to test things properly to see if commonly held beliefs were true
  • Isaac Newton– Mathematic Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687)
  • Law of Gravity
  • 3 Laws of Motion
  • Our relationship with our environment changed, we started seeing the world s a resource more.


  • Phase of development with modern industrial economics proceeded
  • Key Developments – 1689 Bill of Rights, Bank of England selling and credit introduced 1694, Stock Exchange started up
  • Catalyst to Colonisation – began with trade routes, we had money to begin colonising
  • This mechanism of trade spread industrialisation across the first world (Europe, America)

Early Industrialisation


  • Jethro Tull -Horse drawn seed drill, revolutionised the efficiency and product created from farming (1701)


  • John Kays Wheeled Shuttle patented (1733) Twice as fast as old way
  • James Hargreves Spinning Jenny made production of a worker 8x faster

The Birth of Market Economy and Capitalism

  • Adam Smith – Key enlightenment figure
  • Advocate of free market economy  in his book
  • Idea that market should be self run and not government run.

Law of Self Interest – Create a product to benefit yourself, but you’re also offering a product to society.

Law of competition – If one person overcharges, another will create the product at a cheaper price, so it’s self regulating

First Industrial Revolution (circa 1750-1870)

  • Characterised by capital goods – goods that help do things, machines for factories that in turn create consumable products. Powered looms, water pumps etc
  • Production moved from cottage industry to factories, massive demographic reorganisation.
  • Switch from renewables to steam and coal energy – we needed more intensive energy source to create more quickly

Backlash to Industrial Revolution

  • Effects on quality of life, pollution etc


Second Industrial Revolution

  • Economics of Scale – the more produced, the more companies need to produce to make a profit because products are cheaper, the more that are bought as they’re cheaper and the more need building to keep up with demand and so on.
  • Henry Ford mastered the production line
  • Standardised parts
  • unskilled labour was used
  • Moving assembly line, improved efficiency
  • This increase in production capability meant people could more afford the product
  • More people who buy cars, the more they can do, they can get around and more can be produced by this.
  • In the 1900’s mass production and greater wealth meant markets were saturated. So much money and employment that people stopped needing more things at the rte they were available – Consumerism is born!
  • The flow of resources must continue so companies start building things people want as well as the things they need because they must continue to sell vast amounts.
  • Henry Ford quickly brought out six models of car to satisfy peoples desires rather than just their needs.


Assignment: 300 word essay on the day’s lecture

To begin our lecture Huw Wulliams explained the ethos of the class. The idea isn’t to come to definitive, objective truths, but to produce our own narrative based on the perspective with which we view a particular subject. The course is not supposed to be about what we come to think, but how we arrive at things and how we approach subjects.

Sustainable practice is all about how we as graphic designers view and have influence on the world around us. Sustainability is a hot topic at the moment with the world’s population and resource consumption expanding exponentially. The lecture focused on the origins unsustainability, the forces that perpetuate it and what can be do to curb our seemingly insatiable need for ever greater expansion and consumption.

The first thing we looked at was a concept called a ‘circular economy’, which as a sustainable practices course is our goal. Our current economy being  a ‘linear economy’ where we build, use and dispose on huge quantities of resources. The circular economy revolves around the idea of re-use and recycling. Resources are collected, consumables created, used and then reused or turned into new things. This results in less waste and less demand for new resources to be added into the system.

We learned of origins of our linear economy during the industrial revolutions, of how our ability to gather more resources and be more efficient through technological advancement led to greater prosperity and this in turn drove a greater need for resources. The capitalist model that came from the enlightenment of the late 17th and early 18th century lead to a freedom of endeavour through the establishment of free markets.People were no longer subject to a ruling family running a countries economy, with individuals stuck in one role, as they had been for so long. Anyone who could satisfy a demand would rep rewards and with that new found prosperity could create demand, with new industries being created to supply that. This cycle is system of capitalism. The rule of self interest, you create a good or perform a service for your own benefit but the good or service benefits society. This self perpetuating system saw the beginnings of exponential growth that continues today.

The problem with the exponential nature of this system is that towards the beginning of the 1900’s the ability of industry to supply became so efficient that demand couldn’t keep up. In essence, people had all they needed and there was no one to buy all this stuff being created. This led to the birth of consumerism. People’s prosperity was such that they could afford all the things they needed and had money left that wasn’t being put back in to the system. Companies therefore began to advertise consumer goods instead. A good example of this is Henry Ford’s first mass production car, the Model T. When it launched it came in a single colour and style. But it was quickly realised that these vehicles weren’t simply being bought out of necessity, there was a real market in introducing a wide variety of vehicles for people to choose their favourite. Varying colours and styles of Ford’s were introduced to tempt people who didn’t necessarily need a car to buy one because they wanted one.This was also driven by the free market. If two producers are offering the same product, to gain the upper hand, diversifying your product will draw in people who want more choice and give you the edge over your competition.

I have learnt a great deal about the nature of our economy. It’s obvious advantages in terms of prosperity and advancement and it’s major downsides that include its blatant unsustainability.





Author: David Rothwell

I am a Graphic Communication student at Cardiff Metropolitan School of Art and Design If you like any of my work, have feedback (good or bad) or would like to get in touch, please do

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s