Sustainability in focus



Design is often viewed as one of the bad guys by the environmental lobby, which watches in horror as factory lines convulsively spew out the plastic toys, clothes, cars, kettles and gadgetry that it is arguably in designers’ interests to perpetuate.

But, aided in part by the sustainable design luminaries writing here, the tide of negative opinion is turning. Factory Design, which considers that it is ’ahead of the current best practices for sustainable design’, lends Design Week the sustainable expertise of its associate, Lee Bazalgette, who points out that manufacturers are finally ’listening with open minds’ to the public and to designers who push the environmental agenda.

Along with product design, packaging is another oft-reviled branch of design, but efforts over the past few years are resulting in new ways of thinking about packaging, most recently as a mechanism to change customers’ behaviour. Packaging design group Dragon Rouge has its own sustainability consultant in the form of Chris Sherwin, who cites cleaning brand Method’s pump -which only allows four squirts of detergent per wash – as exemplary of forward-thinking packaging design.

The recession has slowed the speed of innovation in the paper industry, but graphic designers increasingly agree that, besides using recycled and Forest Stewardship Council-approved papers, the best strategy is reduction. The drive to minimise materials is also on in other disciplines, including interiors and exhibition design. The momentum is resulting in some interesting approaches, including modular design that extends the longevity of products and fixtures and the rationalisation of energy-sapping interactives and projections.

The digital design arena tends to operate under the radar in terms of sustainability. When we go ’to The Cloud’, we imagine an ethereal space and forget about the vast buildings full of racks of hot, humming servers that support it. Here, Nat Hunter reminds us of them.

In contrast to packaging or product design, service design is well thought of by the environmental lobby, but service designer Andrea Siodmok argues that sustainable service design has to become ’sexy, fun and relevant’ if it is to attract the best young designers. It is an idea that is equally applicable to any of the design disciplines.

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