Sustainable Design Solutions – Changing the Mindset

This source preferred by Mark Hadfield

Authors: McMahon, M. and Hadfield, M.

Start date: 23 October 2006

The fundamentals of sustainability may pose a bewildering challenge to designers, as the business of Industrial design mainly concerns itself with the creation of products for mass production and the solving of problems with consumption oriented solutions. With resources becoming scarce however, the question is raised as to how product designers should design in a finite world with the positive outcomes of dematerialising society and minimising negative sustainability impacts. Design of the future must centre about creating a balance between what are the disparate, but not incompatible, concerns of environment, economy and society. Designers have the skills and perhaps unknowingly the power to change people’s behaviour, just as they helped encourage mass consumption and obsolescent lifestyles, so too can they force responsible and conscientious ‘product’ use. Designers must not just be shown how to do things better, they must begin to learn how to do things differently.

It is recognised that a paradigm shift in how design is approached may be required if sustainability concepts are to be correctly integrated into the entire design process. With 80% of a products economic cost as well as environmental and social impacts being determined during the design-development and product planning phase, it is clear that emphasis in a 'products' life cycle must be placed at the stages of inception. Designers should be encouraged to generate and develop innovative concepts at the earliest possible stage.

This paper discusses how designers can be stimulated to generate creative and innovative solutions to design problems in an effort to stimulate a systems level change in product culture. A range of creativity techniques are explored, from internalising idea generation through personal exercises, to group co-operation and alternative project briefs that require a holistic systems solution. The techniques are tested in a mix of both educational and professional situations and are examined to assess the designer’s capacity for innovative, radical thought and to address the knowledge gap between how designers currently think and how they should do in order to shape a more secure and sustainable future.

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