Bravo IDSA

Well I’m a little drunk (thank you bombay saphire), very tired and extremely impressed. It’s coming on 2am, I just got back from the IDEA party at the magnificent Walt Disney Concert Hall, the finale of the 2004 IDSA National Conference. All I have to say is bravo IDSA.

This was my first national conference, I had a great time. Good speakers, great seminars, pinewood derby races, design gallery, parties, music…

Awesome focus on sustainable design the whole week with William McDonough, IDSA Eco-Design Section Seminars, and Jackie Ottman from Design:Green. This kind of big push was exactly what was needed to open the eyes of some of the old school designers, and I was amazed when I heard a 40-something say his eyes were opened.

My eyes, however, are about to close, night night.


Yeah, had a great time. McDonough was the standout presentation IMO, and getting to see both Art Center and the Gehry from the inside was great.

Next year’s in DC… Looking forward to it!

how about a short synopsis on McDonough presentation? couple lines only.

Everyone else is preaching conservationism: less = less bad. William is apparently the only one innovating “sustainable design” in a realistic context: more, but better from the start–meaning designing from the molecular level in the greater context of product cycle.

He spoke about how we don’t have an endgame, so he created one, a sort of mission-statement for sustainability (I don’t have it, but I’m sure it’s in his book “Cradle to Cradle.”)

He gave some great case studies including his Gap world HQ as a “green” building that pays for itself in worker happiness/productivity, and a carpet design that is not only 100% recyclable, but the manufacturing processes actually produce wastewater cleaner than the water coming into the process.

Cool stuff, very inspiring. He autographed my copy “to Chris with Hope.”
I told him that as an Interaction Designer I’m working with 100% recycled electrons :wink:

I’m a chronic note taker… his mission statement was:

“Our goal is a delightfully diverse, safe, healthy, and just world, with clean water, clean air, clean soil, and clean power - economically, equitably, ecologically, and elegantly enjoyed.”

First of all, definitely read the book (Cradle to Cradle) it’s organized very well, you can blaze through it in a couple days.

As product designer I took away a few key points:

  1. It is important to show the suits a return on investment, which I found was a major theme at the conference, but I think it is especially important for sustainable design. Most companies won’t go green unless you show them how its going to save them millions, and McDonough did a great job showing how his design considerations saved Ford, Herman Miller, and Interface a boatload. He beckons sustainable designers to embrace commerce and use it as a quick engine for change.

  2. We are basically selling end-users hazardous waste, while this sounds like an exaggeration McDonough gives examples that proves it’s very real. And that government regulation helps us kill people less quickly. He spoke about products that were so clean they required no regulation at all.

  3. Biological vs. Technical nutrients. Biological nutrients (products of consumption) being completely benign elements that easily biodegrade and technical nutrients (products of service) that can quickly and easily be completely recycled (not downcycled) into new products. He touched on the coming product takeback programs and the need for a reverse distribution infrastruction for the return of technical nutrients.

  4. China is well on its way to adopting cradle to cradle strategies. McDonough spoke of the entire cities and regions he is helping to design based on these principles. Also, China is searching for a reliable solar solution to make economically viable through mass production on a huge scale.

  5. For all his elegance, McDonough was stumped by one question: “Who else is doing this kind of work?” an audience member asked. To which McDonough replied (after a long pause) “no one.”

Just imagine if this guy had some competition out there. :smiley:


“He gave some great case studies including his Gap world HQ as a “green” building that pays for itself in worker happiness/productivity”

few years back Metropolis had an article on Patagonia’s new facility. how they started off doing things old-fashioned way (wasteful), then came round to walking the walk (going Green). mentioned they started giving tours after it was complete. showing others how energy savings and the rest will be paid for by planning ahead. etc. somewhere in the article a visitor asks how long til they break even (cover extra costs for going Green and start realizing savings. or something like that). guy at Patagonia said something like 10 years. visitor balked. replied that they needed it in 3 years. of course its stupid. most places last decades. but that’s how corporate America thinks. long term is not really in their vocabulary. especially for people who stay at a company 5 or 6 years then leave. that 10 year timeline doesn’t help their career.

so when someone gives a case study like above, i think of that article. i’m all for sustainability. but i see a place like China embracing long term solutions (and associated costs) more than i see the U.S. doing it. wish that wasnt true. but our record speaks for itself.

it’s no wonder he’s basically leading a one man parade.

He’s been contracted by China to design several sustainable cities: It’s definitely a long term strategy.

It was also interesting to hear how the Bush administration is very interested in what he’s saying because it doesn’t require regulation… An unlikely ally!

Sam, thanks for the detail I was lacking!

i’m not surprised Bush is into it. most (all?) public officials would be. but corporates aren’t into it. shareholders don’t like waiting for return on investment.

Here’s some pix I took of the conference.

Thanks CG for providing some ‘eye candy’ for those of us who couldn’t attend!!!

Thanks for posting the pics, cg! I wish the IDSA took advantage of Flckr, etc… for their conference coverage.

By the way, what’s up with clicking “<<” to go forwards in the photos?

It’s a classic mapping problem: They assume you think of navigation in terms of time–so << goes “back” in time.

My Saab has a similar issue: For the intermittant windshield wiper control you turn it “up” for more delay, not more wipes. A classic example of the developers system-model view instead of the users mental model.

i’ll second that. thanks for posting the pics.

Yes, thanks for the pictures CG, much appreciated.

I wasn’t able to attend the conference but just for the hell of it if people want to see images of cars my partner and I did for Herman Miller, we have some pics online here:

I love seeing all the cars, between core’s gallery and your images there seem to be some great ideas. I wonder if Nike or IDSA will put up something that covers all the cars, it was a really fun side project.


You guys rocked the house with those concepts!!!
So HM contracted them out??? How much $$$ ?!

You guys rocked the house with those concepts!!!
So HM contracted them out??? How much $$$ ?!

ha, thanks, we had a lot of fun with this. The engineers at HM are amazing, and their model makers have some insane skills (and tools!). And to answer your question, the project wasn’t really about money, but we are getting some furniture in trade. HM doesn’t really have an in-house design group- there are graphic and interior and other designers on the staff of course, but HM uses Design Partners for its product development.

It was my first National Conference also. Some very good stuff, some hot air also. Overall, I would say that it was good.

was Scott Robertson. His presentation and followup Breakout session was the most inspirational part of the conference. Yes, other presenters made me think and question other things, but his motivated me to continue to grow and experiment.

If you do not know who Scott is, check out his site.

Its a little hidden, and a little short, but we were busy! Make sure to check the photos of the derby models.

I’ve been wanting to do the pinewood derby again since I started design school. Great cars grimble, I saw some video a friend shot of the number nine car, AWESOME and so smart…great stuff, I hope you guys got LOTS of furniture!

Glad to hear that people had fun with the Unlimited Derby. Phil did an awesome job. If anyone has video clips or great still shots from the derby we can use 'em. We’re putting together a video short that people will be able to download from the web, and we can use any material you have. Please send it ASAP to Carolyn Hepburn care of IDSA at

45195 Business Court, Suite 250
Dulles, VA 20166-6717

Make sure to include your full contact info so you can appear in the credits.

Charles Austen Angell