Sustainable Design

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ANALYSIS

Design and sustainability
A discussion paper based on personal experience and observations* Chris Sherwin Senior Advisor, The Forum for the Future, UK
................................................................................................................................................................ ............................................................................................................................................................. worked with designers and developers on EcoDesign projects and methods as well as being challenged to stimulate and create ‘more innovative’ sustainable design practices. This was complimented with (some) involvement in broader sustainable development and Corporate Social Responsibility policy and strategy development. • At the Forum for the Future, Chris advises a broad range of companies on how to develop sustainability strategies and improve their performance, as well as leading research work on sustainable marketing and innovation. He tries to ‘lever in’ his design training and thinking wherever he possibly can. This is a discussion paper on design and sustainability. It does this by presenting empirical, though entirely personal experiences of sustainable design. The intention is not to present a definitive theory or model of sustainable design but instead to stimulate discussion among its community – which in turn may inform its theory and with luck the resultant methods too. Much has been written about the theoretical fields of ecodesign and sustainable design and myriad methods, tools and approaches have emerged for its practice. Throughout this time the author, and perhaps many other designers, have been left with an uneasy feeling that something is not quite right. Somehow theory and practice of this eco- and sustainable design have largely missed what we know, feel and do as designers. Readers may find themselves asking where is the ‘design’ in eco- or sustainable design? Some of these questions, issues and dilemmas will be discussed in this paper from a designer’s personal perspective. It looks at some of the unique characteristics of this ‘designed sustainability’, paying particular Ó Springer 2006

THE JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLE PRODUCT DESIGN

Chris Sherwin currently holds a position as Principal Sustainability Advisor with the Forum for the Future, the UK’s leading sustainable development charity. He originally trained as a product designer, later choosing to specialise in eco- and sustainable design. Prior to Forum he practiced this within global electrical and electronics companies working on operational and strategic projects in the following ways: • As one of two ecodesign researcher/consultants with the Electrolux Industrial Design group between 1998 and 2000, whilst being employed by Cranfield University. This work formed the basis for his PhD titled ‘Innovative Ecodesign’ (Sherwin 2000). This position included responsibility to help introduce the concept of ecodesign and sustainability thinking more generally to designers and projects – from its absolute start up. This involved contact with central dilemmas and difficulties of approaching sustainability from a design perspective, within a practicing design department. • From 2000 to 2004, Chris took a position as EcoDesign and Sustainability consultant at Philips Environmental Services, Philips Electronics. There he

The Journal of Sustainable Product Design 4:21–31, 2004 DOI 10.1007/s10970-006-0003-x

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ANALYSIS

attention to how current sustainable design theory reflects its practice in companies. In doing so it will explore and question some of the myths and realities of the subject. Readers are invited to feedback and comment on the thesis presented – as well as on similar or different experiences.

Sustainability and design: what it is and how you do it Much has been written about concepts of eco-design and sustainable design in the last 10 years resulting in a...
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