Design needs to understand sustainability issues

I read with interest your recent article on sustainable product design (DW 12 February). While I agree that more needs to be done to highlight this very important topic, I am a bit concerned with the examples used to illustrate sustainable product design.

Can a car really be considered a sustainable design? Is designing a product to be disposed of, even if it has been made from recycled materials, or can be recycled, truly sustainable? Yes, they are examples of products with ecologically sound improvements, but they are definitely not sustainable.

Ecodesign and sustainable product design require a holistic lifecycle approach, while sustainability is about more than environment impact. It also requires consideration of social, ethical and economic issues. This requires more radical long-term thinking.

Products that are 100 per cent sustainable do not currently exist. Edwin Datschefski, one of the leading thinkers on sustainable product design with his cyclic/ solar/safe concept, highlights this in a recent report on his website (

Perhaps your article inadvertently highlights a lack of understanding by the design profession on what ecodesign actually means, and what is truly sustainable.

Examples of genuine ecodesign products are actually very hard to find. This is one area that urgently needs to be addressed by the design community. Unless designers make an effort to truly understand sustainable issues and put them into practice, it is going to be very difficult to achieve the desired change.

If anyone can provide examples of true ecodesign and sustainable product design, I would be grateful.

Dr Frank O’Connor

Design advisor

Design Wales

PO Box 383

Cardiff CF5 2WZ

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