The Importance of Good Design

18 04 2007

Bill McDonough, FAIA presented at TED (video) to explain the groundbreaking work his company MBDC is performing that may help us redesign our businesses to work more efficiently, productively and profitably with Nature. You can read more about Bill and his firms in the links to the right under social responsibility.



Run, do not walk to the store and buy his book “Cradle to Cradle.” It may be the most important thing you do for yourself this year.

The book is a manifesto calling for the transformation of industry through ecologically intelligent design. McDonough and his co-author Michael Braungart (founder of the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency in Hamburg) make the case that an industrial system that “takes, makes and wastes” can become a creator of goods and services that generate ecological, social and economic value.

They argue that the conflict between industry and the environment is not an indictment of commerce but an outgrowth of purely opportunistic design. When designers employ the intelligence of natural systems—the effectiveness of nutrient cycling, the abundance of the sun’s energy—they can create products, industrial systems, buildings, even regional plans that allow nature and commerce to fruitfully co-exist.

You may be surprised to learn that the Chinese government recently signed an agreement to adopt these methods throughout China and hired McDonough’s firm to help them (re)design their cities as well as learn to apply C2C in their future products and services.

The good news is that we can stop worrying about China as a future resource plunderer and polluter. The bad news, of course, is that the cost efficiencies, productivity and brand value their future carbon neutral industries generate will put the US economy on its ear. Because the Chinese (or any company who employ Cradle to Cradle design) will generate better products with fewer externality costs which will increase future production costs which will be passed on to the consumer due to impending carbon cap penalties.

So here we are talking about carbon caps which simply make us less competitive under the old business models that ignore good design, while others around the world (Europe too) have embraced the challenge of “good business design” that will support profits and ecology simultaneously.

Does that make good business sense?




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