Tomorrow will be better than today, capitalism promises us. Whether it’s the release of another iteration of the iPhone or a wave of COVID-19 vaccines formulated to keep up with emerging variants, the prospect of the next big thing provides us with an alluring sense of optimism. But it’s also turned us into short-term thinkers awaiting our next fix, at the expense of the environment and social equity.
The 46 winners of this year’s Innovation by Design Awards—chosen by Fast Company editors, alongside an expert jury of design professionals—represent an alternative to the “what’s next?” design strategy, trading short-term solutionism for long-term, considered thinking.
Take the Fairphone 4. It’s a smartphone that you can disassemble with a standard screwdriver to fix or upgrade by yourself. Yes, its form is an alluring Scandinavian design, but it also acknowledges our right to repair products rather than reflexively replace them. Over at Waymo, Google’s autonomous car company, the hardware includes 40 cameras and other self-driving components that can be easily swapped out for repair or upgrades. Fairphone and Waymo aren’t building their products simply to be “environmentally friendly,” but to operate with graceful longevity—just as the