Thursday, June 14, 2012

3 keys to big picture sustainable design

[Provenance Trivet and package design]

Sustainability is a buzz word, and has been for years now. It feels like the Next Big Thing, yet alternately feels like little has changed and the debates over what is and isn't sustainable rage on. Nitpicking frustrates me. I'll admit, incremental change can frustrate me. It's important but frustrating. As designers, we can tweak our designs and tweak materials, but truly sustainable design comes from focusing on the big picture. After all, as Steve Jobs said, design is more than the veneer. Design is everything.

The three keys to big picture sustainable design:

[Underground house by De Matos Ryan connected to historical stone tower]
1. Sustainable design has permanence.
Sustainable design lasts. We have to get back to designing durability. We have to get back to designing products, buildings and experiences that we want to keep. More than just designing out planned obsolesce, we have to design in quality that users will want to keep.

[Jelloware by The Way We See The World]
2. Sustainable design has adaptability.
Either in the original form or as a series of parts, sustainable design can adapt to changing needs. Either it can be broken down into its parts to be updated or the whole product can be used for an additional purpose. If the item must disappear, it can do so without a trace.

[Anti-fly Sphere by Jose de la O]
3. Sustainable design performs.
The product functions as required so it does not need to be replaced, and, equally important, it is a joy to use. If you delight the user, they will value your design and therefore preserve it.

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