Close this search box.

Home > Joe Doucet: The Mindful Designer Creating a Sustainable Future

Joe Doucet: The Mindful Designer Creating a Sustainable Future

Doucet's work has been hailed as a "living blueprint for the 21st century" by Forbes. He talks to ID about the power of design and his unique approach to sustainability

share article

Joe Doucet, a designer, entrepreneur, inventor, and creative director is recognised as one of the most sought-after creative talents in North America today. He is the recipient of the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award and has spoken at TED. With a diverse portfolio that includes projects ranging from airship hotels to vodka bottles, his clients range from NIKE, Armani, Swarovski, Times Square, Playboy, BMW, Samsung, P&G & Coca Cola.

Doucet’s work has been showcased worldwide, including at the London Design Museum and the Biennale Internationale Design in Saint-Étienne. Doucet has earned numerous international accolades, including a World Technology Award for Design Innovation and multiple Good Design Awards. Surface Magazine has honoured him as the sole AvantGuardian for Design. Doucet was awarded the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award as Product Designer, the highest distinction in his field. He was also nominated for Designer of the Year 2019 by Dezeen and recognized as one of Fast Company’s Most Important Design Companies. Doucet is based in New York.

Doucet was a speaker at the recently concluded ID Symposium at India Design ID 2024.

Helmet Keyshot by Joe Doucet

Tell us a bit about the beginning of your career. Your education at the Art Centre College of Design, New York and how this impacted your thinking at the time?

JD: The Art Center proved to be a very inspiring environment, exposing me to various creative disciplines. I was in an institution where I was constantly exposed to not only my field of communication design but also to other fields of creativity. I found soon that my particular course was a huge limitation for me so I began to start to dig into a lot of these other disciplines, particularly industrial design, product design and transportation design. This led me to coming out of the Art Center with a very different and unique portfolio and body of work which then culminated in my senior thesis project: a transatlantic airship hotel. The passion for all aspects of design, as well as the control and involvement that it requires,  propelled me into the industry. This led me to getting a job in a company where I was able to create a unique role. And that sort of ruined me after that. 

You talked about the power of design in your 2019 TEDx talk. Can you elaborate on implementing these ideas in your designs?

JD: Design holds immense power to influence the environment. The “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra should be seen as an order of processes, with reducing having the greatest potential impact. Applying these principles to the design process involves reducing complexity, reusing existing components, and considering recyclability in material choices. Thoughtful design can significantly minimise negative environmental impact.

Your work objectives speak directly to current environmental challenges. Speaking of which, you mentioned a recent report on construction waste in India. How does this awareness influence your design decisions?

JD: The first step is always awareness. The construction waste issue in India highlights the immense impact of our built environment. As designers, we have a responsibility to make thoughtful choices. In my practice, we’ve refused projects that insist on environmentally harmful materials. Consistency and mindful decision-making have been crucial to our trajectory.

HERO – Zero Emissions Plane by Joe Doucet

How do you approach sustainability in your designs, since so many of your projects emphasise on it?

JD: Sustainable products must function better, look better, and cost the same. By integrating better design and functionality at price parity, sustainable options become desirable. My latest venture, Henry, focuses on everyday items like coat hangers, infusing high design, sustainability, and improved functionality without compromising on cost.

Forbes called you a living blueprint for the 21st century. Do you see yourself as such?

JD: While it’s a heavy title, I aspire to fuse versatility, sustainability, and innovation in my work. I believe in adding a higher level of responsibility to my profession, influencing not only my designs, but also how much my projects impact the environment and world. 

You’ve worked on diverse projects, from vodka bottles to home-building in water. How do you manage to excel in such varied domains, and do you consider yourself an expert in all of them?

JD: I don’t consider myself an expert in any single field. My strength lies in problem-solving and a willingness to delve into unfamiliar territories. I find excitement in the fear of the unknown, pushing me to innovate. The common thread in all of my work is a commitment to better design, functionality, and sustainability, no matter the domain.

Air Co by Joe Doucet

Let’s talk about the Airiva. What was your intention when designing it?

JD: The Airiva, an air turbine, is part of the solution to our energy challenges. I don’t believe there’s a single solution, but rather a culmination of small solutions and behaviour shifts. The key is to make sustainable products that function better, look better, and cost the same. Our emphasis on better design and improved functionality sets the Edie VA apart.

How do you view the role of AI in design?

JD: While AI can generate numerous ideas quickly, the role of a designer is much more than that. It involves careful input, meticulous questioning, and possessing a guided vision. Designers must focus on generating impactful ideas and influencing the trajectory of entire industries. AI may replace some of these aspects, but the unique perspective and guiding vision of a designer remain irreplaceable.

TRANCENDENCE RUG Collection-Celebrating Transgender Equality | By Joe Doucet

Finally, you’ve mentioned an imaginary book that guides your work. Can you elaborate on this guiding principle and how it shapes your approach to each project?

JD: The imaginary book is a guiding philosophy; I envision each project as a page in this book. The goal is to make each project worthy of its own page, ensuring that it strives for excellence, purpose, and meaning. It helps me maintain a North Star in my decision-making process, guaranteeing that each project contributes positively to the world.


Rely Benches by Joe Doucet

Your projects often address societal issues. How do you balance functionality and aesthetics in your designs?

JD: Design is about problem-solving, and balancing functionality and aesthetics is crucial. For instance, the Times Square seating system not only serves its purpose but also addresses safety concerns. I strive to go beyond creating beautiful objects in order to solve larger problems and innovate with technology. The answer is to not do anything anymore. It’s about being more responsible, mindful, and thoughtful.


Related articles:

Kate Malone: An Addiction to Clay

The Art of Designing Spaces For Well-Being That Evoke Sensations We Love

“By Being Very Bespoke You Can Be Bespoke To The Sun”

featured stories