Sustainable Design vs. Futuring Practice.

Our future is a malleable concept determined and directed by the choices we make today on an individual and united level. Tony Frys ‘Design Futuring’ explores this responsibilities and opportunity through the lens of design practice and its potential impact on our longevity as a species. Frys reading informs us of the impact our decisions have on the future as both a warning and empowerment. We have been and currently do face a large spectrum of problematic situations surrounding our ways of being and the environment. Acknowledgment of this influence implies responsibility but at the same time highlights an opportunity to manipulate and dictate the direction we move (Fry. T 2009).

Futuring as a practice moves beyond our traditional understanding of sustainable design whilst having a similar goal. As Sim Van Der Ryn describes ‘In many ways the environmental crisis is a design crisis. It is a consequence of how things are made, buildings are constructed and landscapes are used’ (Sim Van Der Ryn 2013). It is clear that design is an area that can hugely impact the toll our lives take on the environment as at its core design is the process of taking materials from our environment and transforming them into what are now crucial elements to our way of life. While sustainable design acknowledges this impact and works towards lessening it futuring as a practice enables us to create preventative design in a holistic way. Futuring being the processes of looking forward to map possible future realities creating a space for design to work as a preventative or responsive answer (Fry. T 2009).

Catherin Sarah Young’s collection ‘Climate Change Couture’ showcases a range of outfits that aim to aid the wearer in a dystopian future where global warming has dictated our way of life. The collection includes the ‘Aqua Tutu’ a garment that can be activated to keep the wearer afloat in the case of flash flooding. Similarly the ‘Thermoreflector’ is designed to deflect heat away from the wearer in a ultra-hot future environment (Badore. M 2014). Both these garments along with the collection have been designed around the knowledge of an imagined future creating solutions to envisioned problems. While Young acknowledges none of these design are intended for actual production she hopes to create dialogue around climate change (Badore. M 2014). This sentiment is also referenced in Fry’s reading recognising the futuring process as focused on creating informed conversation and raising awareness as much as creating an imagined the future.

By comparing Young’s work to that of Gary Harvey- a sustainable fashion designer who’s eco-couture collection has seen the utalisation of garbage into high end couture gowns- we can see the difference between sustainable design and futuring as a practice (Gary Harvey Creative 2013). Harveys eco-couture collection acknowledges environmental factors and offers alternative understandings for a more sustainable future. While Youngs work is informed by an established idea of what our future will look like and offers answers to problems that are not yet completely realised.

'Climate Change Couture'

‘Climate Change Couture’

Gary Harvey- 'Eco Couture'.

Gary Harvey- ‘Eco Couture’.

Gary Harvey website:!eco-couture/cyuu


Fry. T 2009, Design Futuring: sustainability, ethics and new practice, Berg, pg 145-155.

Badore. M 2014, Artist creates Ckimate Change Coutoure for an apocalyptic future, online article, TreeHugger, viewed 18th October 2014, <;

Gary Harvey Creative 2013, Eco Couture- Gary Harvey Creative, United Kingdom, viewed 30th oct 2013, <!eco-couture/cyuu&gt;

Sim Van Der Ryn 2013, Sim Van Der Ryn, California, viewed 25th Oct 2013, <;.


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