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Contribution of William Morris and Stuart Haygarth to Sustainable Design

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The emergence of sustainable design practices pre-dates modern times to a consumerist era within the 19th century, where it originated as a counter movement to the booming industrial revolution. In contrast to a world that once was culturally interconnected with its natural environment, the turn of century gave rise to mass manufacturing and a global economy constituting and forming an industrial consumerist monoculture that has resulted in ecological fears, challenges and problems for a sustainable and natural future (Punekar, M. Hemanim, 2019). Although the technology driven mass production eco-system persists today, a realization of the engendered ecological degradation has proliferated socio-environmental movements in recent years. In order to design and promote a sustainable future, which will necessitate change and challenges for modern society, technology, and capitalist industry, a broad view of the impacts on our planet’s synergistic biosphere by current processes is required. Additionally, in conjunction with generational responses of designers and social activists akin to William Morris and Stuart Haygarth, we can learn to actively progress toward a sustainable world concerning the past, present and future. The central concerns shared by these two designers constitutes alternative materials and methodologies, new ways of influencing other designers and society’s behaviors, and care for the prosperity of the environment.

William Morris – Socialist Movement

The Industrial Revolution heralded mass production characterized by factory owners commissioning specialists to supply drawings, patterns and instructions that could be interpreted and manufactured by semiskilled or unskilled factory workers producing goods in large numbers far more economically than previous craft methods (Milton. A, Rodgers. P. 2011). A founding figure for the origin of sustainable design, William Morris, was featured in the Egologist Journal in 1974 as an eco-warrior fighting for sustainable practice and promoting a connectivity with the earth which had begun to fade from society. Morris was highly critical of the age of industrialization and the processes, appearances and pollution that came with it, remaining infatuated by the beauty of the natural world. For this reason, he decided to bring nature inside the Victorian houses of the time through his textile designs. Influenced by Romanticism, Morris decided to reflect the preindustrial past in the creation process of his craft too, opting to resist modernized mechanical production methods and favored hand-crafted approach (Galitz, K. C. 2004). William Morris transgressed the mass consumption culture of the nineteenth century and was one of the few designers to think sustainably about the past, present and future (Margolin, V. 2007). Additionally, Morris found success and was revered in literary circles following his epic narrative poem ‘The Earthly Paradise’, staging a reputation as a proto-environmentalist where he brought an ideal society free from commercialism to the minds of Victorian folk of the time. Explored in the Ecologist Journal, the notion of Morris as a figure who led the sustainable socialist movements through design became an iconic cover of the 1974 July issue. His portrait as a central feature and the use of his characteristic floral patterns depicted a monumental beginning in history for sustainable design. The journal article claimed that “his voice was one of the first to be raised against the environmental effects of the industrialization” and he believed that as a society we need to “turn our land from the grimy back-yard of a workshop into a garden” highlighting his displeasure with his industrialized era (Fallan, K. 2019).

Through his floral motifs Morris celebrates nature and the environment. Morris further related his design work to a social and political agenda for an eco-conscious ideology to combat a world of degradation (Rourke, A. 2019). William Morris’ works connected with intrinsic human values and prompted discussion of the depreciating morality associated with the industrial revolution. This perspective influenced a movement which promoted the growth of sustainable design practice. Designers like William Morris are certainly among those whose positive contributions are essential to building and creating awareness for a more humane world and a motion towards a sustainable future (Margolin, V. 2007).

Stuart Haygarth – Socialist Movement

Today, the rapid pace of change within society has required designers to interact more actively with the present and future in a direct way if they want to transform it (Margolin, V. 2007). At the turn of the 21st century a new material signified modernity, plastic. In the 1950s plastic was and has become the very idea of infinite transformation in product design and in addition, represents a disconnection within society (Silverwood, T. 2016). From this material revolution a sudden transformation in nature became immersed with plastic, opening new possibilities of daily goods that were more durable, affordable and accessible. What we have now in the modern world is a product of the Industrial Revolution; mass production and mass consumption. Investigating design origins with central aspects of sustainability, green consumerism, and eco-design, Stuart Haygarth, like Morris is able to delve into pivotal creative design responses to growing concerns about the way in which we are living and how it is altering and damaging our natural environment through the rise of consumer culture (Taylor, D. 2017). It is a core ‘tenant’ of Haygarth to elevate the ‘commonplace or discarded object’ through his creative practice. In reflection of the current environmental crisis’ global movements are becoming more evident within society. Creatives like Haygarth and social activists like Tim Silverwood, the co-founder of Take 3 both aim to socially move individuals linked to our planet. An overarching goal derived through their work is to eradicate plastic pollution from the environment in order to re-design and re-think the ways in which we live (Silverwood, T. 2016).

By fueling the idea of a circular economy future through Haygarth’s designs and installations like Tide (2005) epitomizes the mass-consumerist society that is driven by convenience and disposable objects. Similar to Morris, he is able to create and influence regenerative design by disputing contemporary models enabling him to formulate new truths to recycled materials in his work (Silverwood, T. 2016). Stuart’s work is “about giving everyday objects a new life and a new meaning” (Haygarth, S. & Blohm, S. 2018) through the conviction of the choice of discarded materials acting as a movement towards how society sees waste in our world of d successful (Blohm, S. 2018).

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Both Morris’ and Haygarth’s designs act as a movement to their audiences, but also lead them to pause and question notions of sustainability we are presented with past, present and future (Blohm, S. 2018).

William Morris – Artworks and Designs

Narratives of time have emerged and influenced designers to promote for a sustainable future. Through William Morris’ values in design, he initiated a fight and demand for the return of simplicity, elegance and craftsmanship that mass production revolution ruined. A social and environmental agenda drove his practice to fight for sustainable design and the good of earth in a time of industrial mechanization. With the emphasis on the degradation and destruction of nature, William was creatively inspired by the beauty of nature and the hand-made. Printed, embroidered and woven textiles and wallpapers were the product of Williams creative aspirations. explored through his own designs in (Milton, A. Rodgers, P. 2011). Morris sought for spiritual harmony within the design realm of the time, believing art could improve the quality of life. The aim of the Arts and Crafts movement was to promote the ideals of craftmanship uniting a belief in superiority of hand crafted over machine made objects (Margolin, V. 2007). This return to the handmade eliminated the mundane and repetitive mechanized designs and re-created opportunity for artists and designers to create within appropriate working conditions and to have their own creative and individualistic interpretation. Although Morris’ approaches were more aesthetically pleasing in contrast to Haygarth’s within both of their contexts they were and are able to successfully promote an environmentalist approach to design (Fallan, K. 2019). In addition to his own personal works, he successfully initiated the Arts and Crafts movement, influencing simple forms and truth to materials to designs of the time. The Trellis wallpaper created in 1864 was a poignant component to this movement, featuring natural motifs of flora such as rose-trellis and birds inspired from his own garden. Dominant green hues reflected the desire to reform a connection and to celebrate with the natural world (Fallan, K. 2019). Through Morris’ floral patterns and organic shapes, a culture of nature was developed which allowed space for both culture and nature in a consumerist society (Rouke, A. 2019). William Morris’ visions and designs transgressed the normality of a mass consumption era within the nineteenth century and was able to successfully offer an antidote to the mass-production with craft, improving the morals and taste of Victorian era. Among designers of his time, his aspirations for a sustainable future were unique (Margolin, V. 2007), yet designers today, like Stuart Haygarth are still faced with this design challenge within the 21st century only at a more accelerated pace.

Stuart Haygarth – Artworks and Designs

Informed by the past and the present, designers have an inordinate power to socially disrupt the human environment to work towards a sustainable economy (Margolin. V. 2007). As creators, designers occupy a dialectical space between the world that is oriented towards to the future and (Margolin, V. 2007) it’s eco-conscious social and political agenda. Stuart Haygarth has formulated his design practice around the gathering of miscellaneous objects. These often seen as banal items that are commonly overlook or seen as waste are transformed with new meaning and purpose through his creations (Milton, A. Rodgers, P. 2011). Within a consumerist monoculture many objects are irresponsibly designed to have a fast end-use, to be disposable and have limited recycling designs (Milton, A. Rodgers, P. 2011). The thesis of Haygarth’s work explores the relationships humans have with their natural surrounding and through this he is able to “create order from chaos” (Haygarth, S. & Blohm, S. 2018) from the collation of everyday objects and turning them to installations and sculptures. Similar to Morris’ design practice, Haygarth’s Tide (2005) chandelier entails a sustainable narrative created from collected debris from a coastline at Dungeness. The clear and translucent objects in an array of color, shapes and forms are commonly made from the disconnected material, plastic. These pieces of trash so to speak, come together to product one perfect sphere (Haygarth, S. 2005), a moon. The symbolic structure reflects the natural activity of the tides washing up the debris on the beach. Although his work may not be on an aesthetic level (Blohm. S. 2018), the sculpture is able to ignite a response from viewers and present a link to their human behavior (Haygarth, S. 2005). Haygarth elaborates how the display of objects are to be seen as a negative display of waste that is recklessly disposed of in the sea highlighting the importance to design and promote a sustainable future (Haygarth, S. 2005).

Butler (2013) highlights how these ideologies of time, mass consumption and disposal of waste projects an unstable yet engaging message of the world we live in. Alongside Morris, Haygarth too shares similar values for hand-made crafts revolting against the consumerist culture in the heart for promoting and impacting a sustainable world through design. Alongside Morris, Haygarth too signals values of good design-ingenuity and craftsmanship and responds to the necessity for a designer to promote and impact for a sustainable world (Butler, S. 2013).


Sustainability has become a staple component of modern design theory, despite not always being so highly regarded. A re-occurring apprehension of many designers past and present is the ability to create eco-friendly alternatives to remonstrate modern industrialization. William Morris projected for purity within his designs to socially engage and influence an eco-conscious mind in the Victorian community of the time. Although faced with different contexts and challenges, Stuart Haygarth similarly responded to the degrading natural environment of today’s world that is suffocating from a mass-produced consumerist culture through his sculptural designs. By studying the rich heritage of ecological design of past cultures, times, and places, we can engage with the present whilst considering the future.

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Contribution of William Morris and Stuart Haygarth to Sustainable Design. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from
“Contribution of William Morris and Stuart Haygarth to Sustainable Design.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
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