Sustainable Design Awards Toolkit

Section 4.8 - Changing design perspectives

Sustainability is not all about new technologies and the latest equipment. It can simply mean making the most out of what's around us. Sustainable design can be seen as a new way of thinking, a design that involves changing people's perspective on how design should be created and developing it to a more sustainable way of thinking. Stuart Walker seems to be leading the way in this area, concluding in a recent journal that "it's important to get the ideas out there for people to see, and criticize and react to." If you can get people to react to products, concepts and ideas then at least they're taking notice. Stuart Walker has spent the last few years developing various prototypes of chairs, lamps, radios, jewellery, phones and other goods with 3 important principles in mind.

  •  Economic priorities of business
  •  Environmental responsibility and minimizing the impact
  •  Social responsibility
Stuart Walkers Chair Walker's products aim to reduce a reliance on capital, energy intensive tools, use readily available localized materials and production methods. Using local materials, labour and skills would go some way to achieve this. His products include chairs from local wood, lamps from twigs with bottles for lampshades and case-less phones where components are simply attached to plywood.
So what are the benefits of localizing production?
It adds a culture and richness to our products, illustrating bigger concerns. It reduces transportation and packaging costs, promotes a cyclic use of materials, creates local opportunities for repair and maintenance, and gives a culture or society an identity. Stuart Walker does not state that all products should be made in this way, he just indicates that we as designers are perhaps too quick to go down already mapped out avenues without finding better routes for ourselves.

Sustainable development does not aim, at present, to make everything totally sustainable in the short-term, only to educate and develop designers for a more sustainable and improved future in the long-term.

Electrolux Industrial Design and Cranfield University are working together and developing innovative designs to try to change people's perspectives and views on Eco-design. They have developed the Eco-kitchen which is aimed to improve the user's efficiency in the kitchen at the same time taking into account environmental issues through creative design concepts.
The kitchen is said to be the area of any house that is used the most and therefore has the largest environmental impact. Designers have a part to play in promoting less materialistic concepts when it comes to kitchen products. The Eco-kitchen project aims to achieve this responsibility through innovative design.
The Datawall design shown on the left acts as the brain of the kitchen giving information on levels of use of kitchen products, various menus, food inventories and even a link to the supermarket!
Smartsink The Smart Sink aims to minimize water use by using a smart tap that can be set at spray or at mist. There are two levels, one showing consumption and the other showing the amount of water in the sink, it also has a grey water purifier. All of the Smart Sink's features are designed with improving the product's sustainability.

Chest Freezer Lastly the Chest freezer is shown here. It's a simple change that makes so much difference. By stacking up the food that's stored in the freezer it not only allows and promotes the sorting of waste, it also reduces the energy waste of conventional freezers. The idea being that conventional freezer allows a 'fall-out' system of energy when opened.

Further useful resources

The following websites should be used as useful resources as initiatives that promote the awareness of sustainable design gathered from Michael Evamy's excellent 'Redesign' book.

  Millennium Products

Exercised its power and influence in the design world by celebrating the most innovative designs towards the end of the millennium, rewarding sustainability and highlighting company methods to aspire to.

Design Sense

Continually recognises sustainability in design and architecture by an annual award at the museum.

  The Centre for Sustainable Design

Suppliers of Ecodesign tools and techniques to companies, holding around 30 conferences promoting the area, highlights innovation, quality and leading work in design.


Inspirational Current Work
4.1  Inspiration
4.2  Alternative energy sources
4.3  Alternative materials in products
4.4  Efficient products
4.5  Design for disassembly
4.6  Innovative redesign
4.7  Transportation visions
4.8  Changing design perspectives
Toolkit Index
Section 1.
Sustainability Issues
Section 2.
Companies and Products
Section 3.
Ecodesign Tools
Section 4.
Inspirational current work

Biodegradable products containing Mater-Bi polymers

Photograph of a hand with the sun behind