Designers should ‘accept the blame’ for the damage done to planet Earth - RSA

Designers should ‘accept the blame’ for the damage done to planet Earth

Press release

  • Design

London, 30 November 2023 - Today the royal society for the arts, manufactures and commerce (RSA) welcomes four, new figures to its Royal Designers for Industry faculty.

Designer Charlie Paton, whose work includes greenhouses that are cooled with seawater, becomes the faculty’s new Master.

In his inaugural speech, Mr Paton says: “Global human-made mass exceeds all living biomass. Does this matter and should designers accept the blame? I rather think it does and that we should.” Mr Paton’s comments come on the day that the COP28 climate conference begins in the United Arab Emirates.

Just add water

Mr Paton highlights the threats from conflict, climate change, biodiversity loss, desertification, famine, malnutrition, migration and sea level rise. He says, “We can go a long way to solving all these problems simply by adding water. If all the land area degraded by human activity were one country, it would cover 40% of the earth's land mass, and be bigger than Russia.

“Just adding water enables plants to grow, providing food and forests, which in turn cool the planet and yes, actually make a dent in reducing sea level.” 

Mr Paton refers to German, UK and Australian projects and the Red Sea which could point the way to a better, more sustainable, and regenerative future for the planet.

New Royal Designers for Industry

The title ‘Royal Designer for Industry’ (RDI) is awarded annually by the RSA to designers of all disciplines who have achieved sustained design excellence, work of aesthetic value and significant benefit to society.

The RDI is the highest accolade for designers in the UK. Only 200 designers can hold the title. Non-UK designers may become honorary Royal Designers.

This year’s new RDIs are:

Lucinda Chambers, a former Fashion Director of British Vogue for 25 years and a stylist across high-street and luxury brands, from H&M to Prada.

Nigel Dunnett, Professor of Planting Design and Urban Horticulture in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Sheffield.

Kate Hopkins whose work as sound designer for TV has won her multiple BAFTA, Emmy, and Royal Television Society awards.

Lauren Child the creator of more than forty novels and picture books and best known for the Charlie and Lola series. Since 2008, she has been a UNESCO Artist for Peace.

Speaking about her first steps as a designer, Lauren Child said: “Perhaps because I was not good at making decisions, I began to cut up my drawings - it meant I could move the pieces around and change my mind.  The accidental becomes part of my process.”

The Honorary RDIs this year are:

Hella Jongerius who contributed to the interior design of the United Nations headquarters.

The artist, author, and animator Christoph Niemann, responsible for The New Yorker magazine’s first Augmented Reality Cover.

Kate Orff, one of 2023 TIME100 Most Influential People in the world, and the first landscape architect to ever be included on the list.

Since the Royal Designers for Industry honour was introduced in 1936, recipients have included a diverse cross-section of the design world including Barnes Wallis, Lucienne Day, Jonathan Ive, Richard Rogers, and Vivienne Westwood.

Current Royal Designers for Industry include Tim Berners-Lee, Brian Eno, Quentin Blake, Es Devlin and Zandra Rhodes.

Dr Joanna Choukeir, Director of Design and Innovation at the RSA, said: "The RDI honour was introduced when design was widely undervalued and misunderstood, both as a profession and as an approach to boost economic and social progress. That is still true to some extent, although the need for designers to take the lead in re-shaping our world and restoring its health with their ingenuity, humanity and life-centricity has never been clearer. We congratulate and welcome our new RDI members and convey our deepest thanks to Tom Lloyd for his generous service as Master of the Faculty these past two years."

The 2023 RDI Address takes place at RSA House in London on Thursday 30th November.




Charlie Paton is a design engineer with a passion for growing things. He owns and manages an ancient woodland and designs greenhouses (founder and director of Seawater Greenhouse Ltd) that are cooled with seawater for applications in some of the most unlikely places, such as the hottest and most arid deserts. 

Tom Lloyd is an industrial designer and founding partner (with Luke Pearson RDI) of the London design studio Pearson Lloyd. From their base in Hackney, East London, the studio uses design to tackle environments that have demanding spatial, ergonomic, and social needs, creating work that sits at the intersection between object, service, and space. Tom was awarded the distinction of Royal Designer for Industry by The Royal Society of Arts in 2008 and is the Master of the Faculty until November 2023.

About the RSA

We are the RSA. The royal society for arts, manufactures and commerce. Where world-leading ideas are turned into world-changing actions. We’re committed to a world that is resilient, rebalanced, and regenerative, where everyone can fulfil their potential.

The RSA has been at the forefront of significant social impact for over 260 years. Our proven change process, rigorous research, innovative ideas platforms and unique global network of changemakers, work collectively to enable people, places, and the planet to flourish.

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