I recommend spending 20 minutes listening to this talk about what architect and designer William McDonough has to say about design and the world in which we all live.
A few points include how design is the first signal of human intention, and we're asked to consider our intentions are as the dominant species on earth. McDonough talks about design humility, and how it took us 5000 years to put wheels on our luggage. He asks when will we see the end of the age of oil? And mentions how the stone age didn't end because we ran out of stones.
McDonough expands on these issues in his book Cradle to Cradle — on the to-read list.
“Our goal is to make people aware to the point they will always check where the products were made and if there are any warnings on them. I came upon that issue years ago with Gold Paint on mugs. I was designing mugs for some corporate branding. The decision — have shiny gold that looks impressive yet causes cancer (through the materials used), or be morally just and pick the next best option.
“Obviously, I chose the safer color.”
And a telling quote from McDonough's talk:
“What we need is something that makes oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, distills water, accrues solar energy as fuel, makes complex sugars into food, creates micro climates, changes colors with the seasons and self replicates. Why don't we knock that down and write on it.”
Are you taking design responsibility at work?