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Sustained By Design

We customized and combined several sustainability concepts to create tools that connect sustainability with the user experience and help designers conceive new directions:

The User Centered Product Life Cycle refines a typical product life cycle model, which begins at resource extraction and ends with final disposal, by focusing on the phases in which a user interacts with the product. Thus it begins with the delivery of the product, proceeds through use, and concludes with the user's disposal of the product. While simple, considering how a user receives, uses, and disposes of a product is a key component of sustainable design and critical to closing the value loop.
Product lifecycle One application of the User-Centered Product Life Cycle was for a system card to help organize concepts.

Life Cycle in use The life cycle can be used as a workshop tool to help participants visualize how their ideas cover the range of sustainability concerns.

To highlight the major environmental issues involved in a design, we classified environmental impacts in five categories: materials, energy, water, emissions, and toxins. By focusing on these five groups, designers can easily understand where the biggest opportunities for improvement are.

Lifecycle prototype Early prototype of the workshop materials.

Research cards Research cards help designers and researchers consider sustainability when planning the research phase of a project.

Combining these two ideas we created a simple mechanism to connect user criteria with environmental impacts across the life cycle. Termed Eco-Positive Design Criteria, these sheets ask designers to explicitly state "'What are ways of' meeting this user criteria 'while addressing' this environmental impact?" Codified on a single sheet, it is much easier to begin generating concepts that are both desirable and sustainable.

"What are ways of?" cards Eco-positive design criteria push designers to go beyond user centered design.

We recognize that generating ideas can be fraught with mental blind alleys, so we aggregated a deck of sustainability Approach Cards to inspire new user interactions and experiences. These cards are the union of several renowned sustainability design resources, including the "Okala Guide" and "Design is the Problem", combining their different directions, resolving their overlaps, and discarding the engineering centric approaches. We also added a section to each card highlighting in which life cycle phase the approach could most easily be applied.
Approach cards 18 approach cards, with supporting case studies, to provide inspiration during concept generation.

Approach cards Final version of the approach cards.

Approach cards Approach cards are organized by thematic area to help participants think about a range of solutions.

To test these tools, we ran a number of workshops with students and design professionals. While these tools cannot guarantee the sustainability of a new concept, they do help frame opportunities for sustainability. We hope that by making these tools available designers will be more empowered to create new products, services, and experiences that integrate sustainability.

Workshop Workshop 2: Design grad students interested in sustainability prototyped using research analysis and concept generation tools.
To read more about this project, please visit: SustainedByDesign.org

Project Information

Fall 2010
Homer Ong, Ksenia Pachikov, Owen Schoppe

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