Designing a Recession

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Michael Cannell, founder of and author of the New York Times article "Design Loves a Depression", talks about why design thrives in bleak times.


Michael Cannell

Comments [11]

j from nyc

repurposing and green design and efficiency are pretty much the same thing in the long run. check out for some innovative stuff and other great links. also,, and the gates foundation, all of this related to public health and technology, but we are looking at an older population and the injured vets from the wars in iraq/afghanistan who's needs will be unfortunately somewhat similar.
and if i may throw out an idea that the japanese use for american home builders who do NOT clean their own house as many of us do...drains on the floor, guys. That way, cleaning a floor doesn't require lifting a heavy bucket of water, it's on-site, and you've already separated the gray water from the potable/new water. eh?

Jan. 06 2009 11:48 AM
Melinda Wax from Brooklyn

The issues of sustainability were evident far before the current recession. But I imagine that those in the financial world might say that the recession was evident far before this current financial downturn.

Sustainabilty is not related to our economic health but it is interesting how we can make the two intersect. Now it does! But those of us working to make sustainability a common goal through design and day to day consumption habits among all Americans can perhaps thank the financial downturn for making theses issues become real for everyone.

As a teacher of design and sustainability the big question among all of us has been, how do we get everyone on board here? Ikea quit giving out shopping bags - first you had to pay for them and then they were gone. Interesting how everyone who shops there has managed...Once it became personal (I'm not paying for a plastic bag!) customers took responsibility for how to get their stuff out of the store.

Any designer or educator who is not taking the issues of sustainable design and sustainable practices seriously and integrating into the work they do will at some point discover that there isn't a choice anymore. Just like the IKEA plastic shopping bags.

Jan. 06 2009 11:48 AM
helen crohn from playa del carmen mexico

please mention that a recession or depression such design flourished because of the WPA giving folks jobs....the speaker is talking about unbelievable high end design which most plebes cant afford

Jan. 06 2009 11:41 AM
Jared Grodner from Paterson NJ

Beware of the down side of Green Consumerism.

Jan. 06 2009 11:41 AM
david from Torontoformerly of nyC

There were some great illustrators from the 30's that also captured the simplicity you talk about.

These are from the covers of movie makers magazine.

Here's a link some I've collected

Jan. 06 2009 11:41 AM
Walter D. Street IV from Chicago, Illinois

Great examples of how design thrives in hard times, my friend Sarah O'Brien recently had an article in NYT:

I feel she is someone who has potential in such times.

Jan. 06 2009 11:41 AM

Sustainable design is a new FAD- unfortunately it takes something to be "fashionable" or " profitable" in order to be "green".

Jan. 06 2009 11:41 AM
Rebecca from Brooklyn

I think it's interesting to see how the "eco" design movement has translated easily into a "recession" design- using recycled, readily available materials to create interesting, fresh designs (example- furniture designers using scrap wood to make new pieces). DYI is very modern, eco, and recession friendly in fashion, interiors, etc

Jan. 06 2009 11:38 AM
Jamison from NYC

As a home good designer, big department stores are telling us no more just for show. What I make has to do more then one or two things (like coasters you can write on)

Jan. 06 2009 11:38 AM
Paul from Glen Cove

Make way for more depression glass [kidding].

Jan. 06 2009 11:37 AM
susy from

I'm kind of wondering if this guest is talking about the 'design' of something, or the 'style' of something.

To me, the design is the function of the product-- and he is talking much about the look.

Thank you for bringing it back to function, Brian, I'm interested to hear what the guest has to say on that. It's definitely a driving factor now.

Jan. 06 2009 11:36 AM

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