Sustainability by Design - Card set

01.08.2021

Seba

Sebastian Vierring

Industrial Designer

Going green is not a choice, it's a mindset.

 

 

As designers, we need to enable and empower partners to create sustainable solutions. Inspired by natural ecosystems, we must activate business ecosystems to create the right balance between social, economic, technological, and environmental factors.

 

 

Milestones 

Although sustainability has become something of a buzzword in recent years, it is of course not a new topic. Back in 1972, The Club of Rome published their report “Limits of Growth”, concluding that the population and industrial capacity of the planet would be exceeded within a century. In subsequent years people like Viktor Papanek brought the topic to the world of design, raising awareness on both the opportunities and responsibilities designers have in reducing the impact of produced goods and services. In 2002 Michael Braungart and William McDonough released their manifesto “Cradle to Cradle”, bringing the concept of a circular economy into the mainstream.

 

Today, sustainability is a global issue and society must work together to pave the way to a better, more inclusive, and safer future. As a strategic design agency, we have made it our task to incorporate the principles of sustainability into our design processes – every step of the way.

 

In the spirit of ecosystem building, we feel that everyone benefited from the open discussions on the future of the railway industry together with operators, manufacturers, suppliers and design agencies.

 

Sustainability and Innovation

Real innovation depends on the right combination of viability, feasibility, desirability, and sustainability. It is important to emphasize that none of these four factors stand by themselves. They all depend on and influence each other. In today’s world, if the goal is to innovate, sustainability must be the foundation.

 

If we look at the feasibility of products or services, it is essential to envision future scenarios. For example, non-renewable resources will only become scarcer, increasing in price and will force us to look for renewable alternatives. Designing with modularity and upgradability in mind increases the potential for sustainability while ensuring a scalable, feasible, and long-lasting solution.

 

From an economic standpoint, a product’s viability must be considered. Government incentives like subsidies, recycling charges, and CO2 taxes are becoming more prevalent each year, but even without these, sustainability can be a major financial driver. Sharing or leasing concepts, for example, can guarantee a steady, predictable cash flow while decreasing the demand for limited resources. The use of non-toxic materials increases employee and user safety while ensuring an efficient operation.

 

Sustainability is also a major facet of a brand’s value proposition, which leads us to our next point: desirability. As the consequences of the climate crisis become more noticeable, the idea of leading a sustainable lifestyle is no longer just the idealistic ambition of a small group but has entered the mainstream. People are becoming aware of their ecological footprint and the ways companies’ actions affect the environment. As a result, the emotional attachment to a product or service is governed as much by its perceived sustainability, as it is by its style or utilitarian function. Classic attributes of product quality like longevity, good repairability, and graceful aging are back into the spotlight as we move away from a throw-away society.

 

 

So, what can we do?

Right now, we are developing new methods of incorporating sustainable principles into every stage of the design process. Let’s start at the beginning – Research & Analysis.

 

We have curated a set of question cards, that can be used as an internal or external tool together with partners, clients, or service providers. The cards’ goal is to shift the focus onto sustainable topics during the start of a project and to ensure that key aspects are deeply looked into. We hope these questions serve as eye-openers to issues that may otherwise be overlooked.

 

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