If Products Could Speak

I want to give products a voice. When I look at a pencil, a mop, or a smart phone, I most likely don’t know where in the world these objects came from, what they are made out of, who created them, nor do I know who or what was affected in the making of these things. The more I become aware of the impact that products make on our health, our society, and our ecosystem, the more I want to know the answer to these questions.

Since the start of the industrial revolution, we’ve moved further and further away from the materials, means, and methods of production. While this has been a seemingly inevitable trend of a global, outsourced, flatworld, branded economy, sudden awareness of environmental and social issues has people asking pointed questions about how things are made. I’m curious about the role that technology can play in reconnecting us back to the material process, and in exploring tools and frameworks that give us an understanding of our unique role in impacting product and consumption on a greater scale.

I alone can’t give products a voice – I’ve tried. These are hard stories to tell. They are carefully hidden, secretly guarded, and sometimes the truth is too scary for manufacturers to reveal. Instead, I’ve learned to write about products and greener design methods (Inhabitat and Core77), teach about product lifecycle to designers and product creators (Columbia, Pratt, and ITP at NYU), and help develop communities (online and offline) where people talk directly to companies (Toyota, Nestle), and where designers talk to each other about how they are making things (o2NYC and Designers Accord). I’m always looking for collaborators to help tell these product stories.