Ecosign Academy: “Design is not just about beautification”

Karin-Simone Fuhs has managed to combine aesthetics and ecology. Karin-Simone Fuhs has managed to combine aesthetics and ecology.

Karin-Simone Fuhs has managed to combine aesthetics and ecology

Source: Simon Wegen

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With a unique course, Ecosign Academy combines aesthetics and ecology. But it should not be about boosting consumption, says Karin-Simone Fuhs, the founder of Ecosign Academy.

EReusable fast food packaging made of silicone, a fun short film about new approaches in forestry, a pawn on trash cans that makes work easier for pawnbrokers and avoids shards of glass: Design can be innovative and sustainable at the same time. This is shown by the sometimes award-winning works by students at the Ecosign Academy for Design. In collaboration with Fresenius University of Applied Sciences, the Cologne Academy offers a course in sustainable design with a bachelor’s and master’s degree, which is unique in Germany.

Synthetic fibers or coconut? Asia or Europe? Even the choice of material or the place of manufacture of a consumer product has an impact on the environment. “Designers are involved in the design phase of products – it’s about resources, working conditions, longevity, recyclability,” says longtime Ecosign teacher Bernd Draser. “We want designs that not only beautify, but solve real problems. That is why we are looking for the best design solution in relation to the value chain. ”

Draser talks about “input into the design” for which the resources are used, and about “output to the environment” – by this he means emissions through transport to the waste that arises when the product is no longer needed. Both should be kept as low as possible. Therefore, it must always be considered whether it makes sense at all to manufacture new products. The best solution could also be to convert products to services or leasing systems, Draser explains. As an example, he cites a durable office printer that is serviced regularly. Or a tool room in a condominium from which all residents can help themselves. Therefore, many students in communication design are preoccupied with how to best convey sustainability issues through magazines or movies and thus change consumer behavior.

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To combine aesthetics with ecological, economic, social and cultural issues, the course at Ecosign Academy is broad-based: Sustainability topics, which are treated as individual aspects in comparable courses, here constitute the didactic and academic aspects from the first to the last semester Rygrad. But subjects such as philosophy, psychology or business economics are also part of the content. The approximately 300 students choose between majors such as communication or product design, photography or illustration and gain practical experience with project partners, which also include North Rhine-Westphalia’s consumer consultancy or the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy.

“As a designer, I have a responsibility to the environment and people. It can not only be about stimulating consumption, “says Karin-Simone Fuhs, who founded Ecosign Academy back in 1994, where the topic of sustainability barely played a role in the public debate:” In the structures of established universities with a focus Design has always has been difficult to classify as sustainability, but an incredible amount has happened in the field of education in recent years. ” Fuhs is now dreaming of the next Ecosign course, which she will call “Entrepreneurs of the Future”. “Changing structures is always a big problem, and this is where design comes in: It will create a desire for change, a desire to live sustainably.”

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