Designers Without Borders

Design For A Living World Catalog Cover
Photo by Pentagram

There is a great new exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in the one and only NYC:  Design For A Living World.  A project conceived by The Nature Conservancy, the intent is to examine the nature of the products we use – where they come from, how they are made, and how they impact the world we live in.  From the project description:

The Nature Conservancy invited ten designers to create new objects from sustainable materials sourced from around the world.  Wood, plants, wool and other organic materials were transformed into intriguing objects, revealing extraordinary stories about regeneration and the human connection to the Earth’s lands and waters.  Together, designers and consumers can reshape our materials economy and help advance a global conservation ethic by choosing sustainable materials that support, rather than deplete, endangered places.

Create | Conserve | Inspire

From Kate Spade to Hella Jongerius to Maya Lin, the participating designers are among best in their chosen crafts and the thoughtful products they developed for the project are both beautiful and elegantly functional.  Each of these talented artists, and I use the term deliberately, exhibit the ways in which design can address world-scale issues.

The desire to conserve materials reflects a general awareness that wasteful consumption, in its many forms, is not only unnecessary but irresponsible.  When the materials we use have their genesis in struggling communities whose very survival rests upon their ability to make a living from the lands on which they live, it is imperative that we allow these communities to manage their resources wisely so that they are long term assets.

There is a remarkable store of creativity that exists across the globe, ready and willing to be challenged with the issues of our time.  Design For A Living World is an inspiring example of the wonderful solutions that can result from re-imagining the uses of materials we encounter on a daily basis.

There are too many photos to include all of them here, but take a look at a few of the raw materials below and try to re-imagine for yourself what they might inspire you to create.

(All of the beautiful photos are by Ami Vitale) Cocoa beans in Costa Rica


Hella Jongerious with natural chicle from the Maya Forest, Mexico


Salmon skins in Alaska


Christien Meindertsma and sheep in Idaho


  • An in-depth review of the projects across the world – from Alaska to Australia – by Pentagram
  • Photos from the exhibit at Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum – by Pentagram

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