Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Getting the important things right

Something which is not widely documented, is the influnce that really small decisions can have on sustainability outcomes.

Whilst doing the Refillable Packaging Systems project with Boots and DEFRA it became really clear that if delivered well, refillable packaging systems had huge potential for reducing sustainability impacts and delighting the customer. However if delivered badly they could lead to more waste and thoroughly irritate the customer. The key was to identifying and getting the important things right.

This leads to the though that the key to actually achieving sustainability improvements is too look to the detail. One well selected, small issue delivered well can dramatically improve the sustainability performance of the products we design.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ethics and Sustainability

My collegue Dr Debra Lilley and I have started a new research project (sponsored by an Academic Practice Award) which looks at delivering Ethics and Sustainability teaching through e-learning.

Ethics and Sustainability forms the key topic for this e-learning project. We plan to run an event through the Sustainable Design Network in October 2008, to investigate this area further. Contact me if you would like to get involved.

Ecodesign tools

Since 1998, when I first started my PhD studies I have been very interested in how to get designers to think about ecodesign. This has led to me spending a lot of time thinking about ecodesign tools and how to make them suitable for designers. In the late 90s and early 00s there were a number of ecodesign tools available, but many of them were very technical - and not especially suited to industrial designers.

My PhD studies with Electrolux led to the development of (see image of version 4.0 below) which was the first ecodesign tool specifically designed to meet the needs of designers. It pulled together inspiring ecodesign case studies which help to show designers, what's out there and that ecodesign is possible and happening - and useful, design focused ecodesign information. The site, is constantly under development and I am always keen for new suggestions on content - so if you have any ideas, please let me know.

In 2000, along with my collegue Dr Tracy Bhamra, we developed the Ecodesign Web (see below) from the LiDS wheel (orignially developed by Caroline van Hemel and Hans Brezet at TU Delft). The LiDS wheel, though brilliant at the time, required quite a lot of explanation and focused on a few areas which weren't so appropriate to designers. The Ecodesign web aimed to be a simplified version of the LiDS wheel and has proven to be very useful with people of all ages - school children (through the Sustainable Design awards) through to university students (at Cranfield and Loughborough) and practicing designers at Electrolux, Huntleigh Technology and DCA.

Other tools which we often use at Loughborough and beyond are the Design Abacus, which was developed from work carried out by Shot in the Dark, and the Eco Indicator 99, developed by Pre Consultants.

I hope to publish an article shortly on the relative benfits and shortcomings of these tools, when applied within the design process.

British designers ecodesign survey

Ecodesign and Sustainable Design are becoming more widely discussed in the design industry, but relatively little is known about the current levels of knowledge, awareness and practical experience that UK design consultancies have when it comes to addressing briefs with environmental and / or social elements in them. Over the next few weeks I will be sending out a short survey to better understand the status quo in UK design consultancies.

If you would like to share your experiences by completing the survey, please download a copy of the survey from and return it to me.

I hope that building up a clearer picture of where we are now will; identify examples of best practice, illustrate what tools and processes are working and highlight gaps in current ecodesign support, which we can aim to address.


design design

Whilst trying to decided what my blog might be called, I though about what interests me professionally. Design, ecodesign, clever stuff, new ways of doing things (innovation) and creativity. Seems like a bit of a strange name for a blog. So I settled on 'design design'.

I hope that this will be a forum for collating interesting ideas, finds and discussions about the design areas which interest me.