An Xiao Mina – Gwangju Design Biennale
An Xiao Mina is an American design strategist, new media artist and digital community builder. She uses technology to build and empower communities through design and artistic expression. Her work has been featured in venues internationally, from the Brooklyn Museum to Shanghai’s Xindanwei, and in publications like The New York Times, The Guardian, and the Global Times Shanghai. Currently working for the Gwangju Design Biennale, she blogs regularly on art, design and sustainability. For A Good Week, Zara Arshad talks to An Xiao to ask her what Good means to her.
What does Good mean to you?
I’ll be the first to admit that being “good” is difficult for me. It’s easier to just toss all my waste into one basket rather than sort by type; to take a nap rather than volunteer to teach English to children here in Beijing; to just buy outfits that look nice, rather than double check that they’re made of sustainable materials. It’s easier to just say to myself, “Oh, one day won’t hurt. I’ll do it next time.”
But that extra effort matters. Consider, for instance, the impact of simply unplugging your mobile phone charger when not in use. As a tech junkie, I’m glued to my phone, but charging that phone can be costly. According to Treehugger, 95% of the power consumed by your charger isn’t actually used to charge your phone. But do you really want to unplug and replug your charger every time? And for every other device and appliance too?
Consider, then, how good design can make that extra effort a little easier. Recently, I’ve started attaching all my devices to power strips. They cost just a few dollars, but when I leave for the day or go to bed, I simply press a switch that disconnects the power. There are other power strips that automatically cut off the current when devices are switched off too, and some can intelligently shut down your peripherals when you shut down your computer. Good design makes “being good” that much easier, and therefore more likely to happen.
When good design meets good living, magic happens. ULTRA, a Malaysia-based fashion label, combines high-quality design with sustainability. They recently unveiled 10 items that can serve as the majority (or all) of your wardrobe for a year. JeepneED aims to provide much-needed science education to rural Philippine schools, modeled after the colorful “jeepney” designs used as public transportation throughout the country.
The need for ecologically-sustainable, socially-impactful living isn’t just a good thing to do, it’s a necessity in a rapidly urbanizing world that consumes more and more resources. As designers and design thinkers, we have a responsibility to find ways to make “being good” more sustainable and engaging on a personal level. It’s up to each individual, of course, to develop good practices in her or his life. But we in the design field should always aim to meet them halfway.
— An Xiao Mina