Mette Bak-Andersen is a designer and researcher dedicated to changing the way we design things. She has a PhD in sustainable design and materials from the Royal Danish Academy of Architecture and Design and for more than 13 years she has been working with sustainability and material circularity in her design practice, in design education and in her research, both in Denmark and internationally. In 2013 she founded the Material Design Lab at Copenhagen School of Design & Technology, which she directed until 2018.
Mette has extensive experience with the design and production of furniture, products and interiors and has presented her research and designs to variety of audiences such as Berkeley University, Salone in Milan, Trapholt Museum of Design and Red Dot Museum in Essen. She has worked with a number of different companies as a design consultant supporting them in the transition to sustainable design and production. In 2021 she published the book Reintroducing Materials for Sustainable Design.
Sustainable Design – From Knowing About to Knowing How
For too long humanity has been behaving as if the materials we could grow and extract from Earth were unlimited. This behaviour has affected how we have built our society and infrastructure, how we have processed raw materials, the setup of our manufacturing systems and not least, the way we design things.
For a period in time designers did not need to have much more knowledge about materials than anybody else. Because it did not matter how different materials were mixed and combined. We believed all resources to be abundant and did not need to recycle the materials from the products once they could no longer be used.
Many designers are by now fully aware of the urgency for change. They know about the criteria for sustainable design and want to take back control over their products, but frequently they are challenged by the fact that knowing about sustainable design is not the same as knowing how.
In-depth material knowledge, craft skills and the ability to manipulate and work with materials creatively may not seem directly related to sustainability, but they are essential attributes for a anyone who wish to design physical sustainable products. Even when the end goal is digital design and manufacturing.
This lecture is about why and how we must obtain this knowledge as designers and how the role of the designer inevitably will change in the process.