A Philosophical Approach for Distinguishing “Green Design” from Environmental Art

  • Sue Spaid
Part of the Design Research Foundations book series (DERF)


In this paper, I begin by analyzing several environmental design projects that are difficult to distinguish from environmental art projects, so as to tease out obvious distinctions between these two fields’ practical aspirations. I then employ Arthur Danto’s Theory of Action, as described in his 1979 essay “Basic Actions and Basic Concepts,” to show how design’s outcomes differ from those of artistic actions, even though both effectively entail actions. Unlike design actions, artistic actions prompt interpretations or greater reflection, since artwork meanings are comparatively polyvalent. I next discuss what Bruno Latour describes as the semiotic question of meaning, in particular, the relationship between the designer’s guiding principles and his/her design’s implicit values, which articulate those principles. I then discuss the importance of design’s entwining conception and making. Lastly, I return to the urgency awaiting environmental designers, whose most successful nature-based solutions, whether sustainable architecture, large-scale public works, or edible foodstuff will result from either efforts to recover “lost” practices or innovative strategies for translating nature’s processes. “Green designers,” especially, owe it to their public to tap what Latour terms design’s normative question, so as to optimize resource management and sustainable design.


Nature-based solutions Environmental Normative Good design 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Independent ScholarBelgiumUK

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