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Danah Abdulla

Overproduction and waste are crucial to the function of neoliberal capitalism (Bauman, 2009), and even though we watch as the earth burns and drowns in front of us due to the consequences of our overconsumption, and with increased awareness and discourse on designing for a better world, we carry on with business as usual.

In an era of instant gratification—made easier by access to cheap credit and contactless societies—designers are utilising their power to conflate need and desire more than ever, but branding it as sustainable to evade responsibility.

This talk explores the contradictions of sustainability: the way brands greenwash their practices to signal their good and ethical practices and how they continue to create products and services branded as sustainable that we just do not need, but never challenging the systems that created the problems to begin with. The talk will conclude by considering how we can design over time and confront the effects these products and services we think we need have on the world (and the worlds within that world).

Danah Abdulla is a designer, researcher and educator whose research encompasses decolonising design, possibilities of design education, design culture(s), the politics of design, publishing, and new narratives and practices in design that push the disciplinary boundaries and definitions of the discipline. She is a founding member of the Decolonising Design platform and founded Kalimat Magazine, an independent, non-profit magazine about Arab thought and culture.

Her first book Designerly Ways of Knowing: A Working Inventory of Things a Designer Should Know, was published by Onomatopee (2022). Danah obtained her PhD, titled “Design Otherwise: Towards a Locally-Centric Design Education Curricula” in Jordan, in the Department of Design at Goldsmiths, University of London (2018).

In her current role as Programme Director of Graphic Design at Camberwell, Chelsea, and Wimbledon Colleges of Art, University of the Arts London (UAL), Danah is responsible for the BA in Graphic Design, BA in Graphic Design Communication, MA in Graphic Design Communication, MA in Global Collaborative Design Practice, and the Graduate Diploma in Graphic Design.

Graphics by Chantal Spencer

Sketchnote by Patricia Kambitch | Playthink




Citation Data

Author(s): Danah Abdulla
Year: 2022
Title: On the Contradictions of Sustainability
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD11
Article No.: 006
Host: University of Brighton
Location: Brighton, UK
Symposium Dates: October 3–16, 2022
First published: 20 October 2022
Last update: 30 April 2023
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404
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