Sustainability shapes the design of our time

For centuries, design has solved problems or changed something inadequate. In recent years, a new and distinctive stakeholder has joined the design process: sustainability.

According to Jörg Schmitt, interior designer and art director at the German materials agency raumprobe, sustainability is shaping both the era we live in and the design which adorns it.

Material design is fundamentally about designing a product in a manner that makes it useful for the user and the social environment.

For many years, there has been a tendency to make the functional benefits for the user paramount. In recent years, ecological trends have intensified, and have also left their mark on the design process. In the case of building materials, for example, the focus is now much more on the environmental and health effects.

Jörg Schmitt is an interior designer and art director at raumprobe in Germany, which operates an online materials database and a materials exhibition space in Stuttgart. In addition, the organisation is responsible for the Materials Award competition, which annually recognises and honours outstanding materials as well as architecture featuring a special use of material.

‘We have rarely had an aspect that was as prevalent across all disciplines as sustainability: whether in politics, economics, culture, education, design, urbanisation – it has become an indispensable consideration in all areas of public life. Sustainability is shaping our era – and our design,’ stresses Jörg Schmitt.

According to the interior designer, legislation and increasingly strict market requirements for the environmental impact of products have also become an aspect of the design process. Good material design is able to strike a balance between the different aspects as well as functionality and aesthetics. This ultimately results in solutions that improve and simplify the user’s everyday life – while also taking the environment into account.

Design is important in a fast-paced world

In a postmodern society with its rapidly changing consumer demands, designers find it increasingly difficult to strike the right balance.

In the world of design, however, there are good reasons to linger in the past, as experience has shown that it is a crucial component of good design solutions for the future. Not least because good design is long-lived by definition – even in a fast-paced world.

‘Looking back at the last decades, it is clear that good design has always been of great relevance - how else can you explain design classics, the appreciation of which continues to increase. They add a certain constancy to our fast-paced world,’ explains Jörg Schmitt.

The Materials Award reflects the entire material cycle

The Materials Award occupies a niche which focuses on materiality. It focuses on materials and
surfaces, their processes, the integration of functions, sustainability, etc. This is unique and important - because materials are the basis for everything. Good design starts with the selection of the appropriate material and ends with material-appropriate, high-quality execution.

‘Production and creation are interdependent; they are essential for the industry’s existence and progress. The dual orientation allows the unique format to reflect the complete range in terms of material innovation and to accord both target groups their own distinction,’ emphasises Jörg Schmitt.

Troldtekt's new series of design solutions is among the nominees for the raumprobe Materials Award to be announced in autumn 2020.

FACTS: About raumprobe:

  • German materials organisation, founded in Stuttgart in 2005. []
  • Maintains an exhibition space spanning over 1,200 square metres.
  • More than 10,000 products can be found in the digital materials database, which provides an overview of the use of materials in architecture and design.
  • The trend magazine Materialreport, published annually, showcases innovations, trends and know-how on the subject of material and architecture.

Jörg Schmitt,
Interior designer and art director at the German materials agency raumprobe.