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Dematerialization: products with less atoms and more service

“Do you know what the definitive solution for the world is?,” asks Spanish designer and architect Juli Capella. “I do,” he answers himself. “No material.” Capella dreams about a world sometime in the future where “the service of things exists, but not the materials.”

We’re not there yet, but he sees the iPhone as a precursor to the sublimation of stuff. It sets an example of a future with “more services with less form”.

Design, and designers, are what need to lead the way to this service-focused future, according to Capella. He defines design as “the material culture that surrounds us”; it’s what brings us contentment and comfort. But this comfort often comes at a price because much of modern design comes with “collateral damages”: pollution, resource waste, etc.

Before we can do away with materials altogether, the challenge is to diminish the collateral damages associated with what we make and buy, and this is not always an obvious choice. For example, Capella argues that plastic is far too often demonized (e.g. plastic bottles that are lighter to transport than glass).

In this video, Capella explains why cars and plastics don’t have to be evil and why we don’t need chairs or faucets. He also gives us a taste of a materially-reduced object: his living streetlight (“farola viva”); relying on solar cells, it’s designed to blend in with nature and almost become a tree.

We also have a video where Capella describes his post-Capitalist vision of design: happiness, not sales.