Design is the Problem Blog

The Future of Design Must be Sustainable

Posts written by Nathan Shedroff

  • “Ecohol” packaging?

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    From PSFK:

    Designer, Jörn Beyer aka Jørn, based in Düsseldorf, Germany has revamped the packaging of major spirit brands, to see if people’s product decisions would be affected by replacing their signature glass bottles with Tetra Paks. The resulting series called ‘Ecohols’ displays the labels of Jack Daniels, Absolut Vodka and Jägermeister on ordinary beverage cartons. What remains of the brand, is it just about the name, its contents, or the total package?

    What do you call Sustainability?

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    Several years ago, I had a conversation with a Parisian educator about design and innovation. When I enquired about sustainability, she replied that French designers weren’t terribly interested in sustainability. While a certain amount of ecological awareness was already part of their culture, doing something more sustainable just didn’t get most design students in France excited.

    Further in the conversation, I asked about the correct French term for “sustainable design” (my French is VERY rusty after many years not using it). I expected it to be “design sustainable” but her answer was “design durable” (or conception durable)–literally, “design that is durable.” That explained why designers and design students in France weren’t particularly moved by this idea. It never occurred to me how different the term might be and how the translation itself might impact the imperative of its message.

    When I suggested using the term “design systemique” (literally, systems design), she paused and smiled. Her response was “that might change everything.”

    Consider how simple a change that is but what a profound difference it might make. How we frame sustainability changes people’s concepts and their involvement. This is more than just a “sales job.” It helps us understand the extent and importance of a concept. Reframing sustainability from something about durability (definitely a part of sustainability but not even close to the whole thing) to something about systems, changes our idea of where we can participate and how interesting an complex our solutions might be.

    So, what is sustainability (or sustainable design) called in your language? And, what might it be called to get more traction?

    Designing for a Workforce that Acts More Sustainably

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    I was just pointed to Gerd Waloszek’s (in SAP’s User Experience Group) fantastic, 6-part series on more sustainable solutions. It’s incredibly deep, well-written, and a detailed exploration that ties what I wrote in Design is the Problem to interaction design and user experience. I’m terribly impressed and appreciative. It’s worth your time to read, as well:

    Beautiful, Sustainable Prosthetics

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    It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. It’s not like there isn’t a lot happening related to sustainability and design. In fact, it’s the opposite–there is so much happening, it’s difficult to stay on top of it all.

    However, I wanted to point to a fantastic example of how all areas of sustainability can come together to create a context for much better solutions. In this case, it concerns prosthetic devices.

    We’re all familiar, by now, with the Maker Movement, 3D printing, CAD software, the resurgence of craft, etc. One firm, led by designer Scott Summit, pulling all of these together in service of helping people is Bespoke Innovations. They create custom prosthetics for heal people that are not only effective and insanely beautiful, but personal, sustainable, and don’t cost more than current solutions. Just take a look at some of their products.

    This is the kind of solution that can arise when designers think systemically and holistically: for the same price (or less), these solutions 9which need to be fitted personally to these people’s bodies anyway), can reflect their personality and increase their effectiveness. In addition, the very same processes (like, for instance, reducing the mass, weight, and amount of material) can become benefits in other areas (like creating more ventilation for the skin) and, at the same time, offer the opportunity to be beautiful (like the delicate lace pattern created by these perforations). All of these come together and are made possible by CAD software and 3D printers, of course, and they enable these solutions to be more sustainable for people across ecological, economic, and social dimensions.

    We need to see more solutions like these!

    eBay’s New Sustainable Packaging

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    This is the kind of advance that seems obvious when you see it, not to mention a long time coming but that shouldn’t take away from the thoughtfulness and usefulness of the solution:

    50% off the book this Wednesday

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    This Wednesday’s special is, once again, 50% off Nathan Shedroff’s Design Is the Problem: the Future of Design Must be Sustainable. Nathan’s book is the definitive text for designers who wish to bake sustainability into their product design process.

    Here’s how the discount works: follow @rosenfeldmedia on Twitter and we’ll tweet the discount code a few times during the day on Wednesday (defined at GMT-5).

    It’s as simple as that!