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In the new post-covid world, design faces challenges that go far beyond the creation of a new chair, floorcovering or restaurant interior. Our planet is calling for help – and not just for delivery from an unknown virus. Design has been grappling with sustainability for two generations, but today we stand at a point where we recognise the need to redefine it as a matter for our own human health and wellbeing as well as planet earth’s.

 

Designers across the world are responding to the challenge and coming up with new materials, new processes and new products that answer need rather than greed, the fulfilment of self-perpetuating consumer desire; much more important than a new car or curtains, design is proposing new values, new ways to live. This is why design in China, which has burgeoned into a major social force in an astonishingly short space of time, is now deeply engaged in the international conversation. Once solely the manufacturing hub of the world, China is now taking its rightful place in the torrent of global creativity, exchanging inspiration and innovation based on a common understanding of what the planet and we, its people, need. It isn’t just about survival, but revival. The cost has been high; but 2020 is the year that design round the world works with a coherence we have never seen before.

 

Crucially, we have to decide how to refine, adjust and strengthen the impetus towards sustainability in all its manifold forms. Here is where design’s more definite definition of sustainability takes deep roots in society and the global economy. It is a choice; we can choose to demand that materials come from local sources, that production processes and distribution channels use minimal energy, that we strive for circularity – the goal of zero waste and total re-useability in all we do – and that we re-design our own mindsets to make that happen. Forecaster Li Edelkoort foresees a ‘quarantine of consumption where we will learn how to be happy just with a simple dress, rediscovering old favourites we own, reading a forgotten book and cooking up a storm to make life beautiful.’

 

Design China Beijing focuses on ideas from both international and Chinese designers, because the international community thrives here. In the race to rebuild not just business but ways of seeing, ways of being, design’s visions of the future are coming thick and fast. Nowhere else in the world is as far down the road of uncovering the new principles and new attitudes that we need. At the same time as technological development has been accelerated by the crisis, the revival of our relationship with the natural world and the re-set of our priorities have created more fertile ground than ever for the seeds of innovation, ingenuity and ideation. At Design China Beijing 2020, design explores how to survive, how to revive, how to thrive. Be there – in mind and spirit, if you can’t be there in body.