Stuart Walker, Professor of Industrial Design and Associate Dean (Academic)
Faculty of Environmental Design | University of Calgary
The developments that occurred in product manufacturing over the twentieth century have fundamentally changed our understandings of material culture. These developments have brought considerable material wealth but have also caused severe social and environmental problems. In this paper, the idea that, through mass-production, we have become ‘dissociated’ from material culture is discussed. The argument is made that a radical rethinking of product design is required if we are to address critical contemporary issues in ways that are not only ethical and environmentally responsible but also culturally enriching and personally meaningful. Ways of re-engaging with objects to create meaning in our material environment are described in terms of inherent value and intrinsic beauty. The suggestion that conventional notions of product beauty, what we might term ‘extrinsic beauty’, are incompatible with the principles of sustainability is introduced and discussed. This leads to conclusions about ways of seeing beauty, and understanding objects in new ways - as potential ‘symbols of beauty’.