One of the more challenging facets of sustainable design is the greening of product design, which involves manufacturing, materials, and methods that can often go against every green designers’ priorities. To coincide with the launch of their book Designers, Visionaries and Other Stories: A Collection of Sustainable Design Essays, Jonathan Chapman and Nick Gant hosted a number of events on the 100% Sustainable stand at 100% Design London last week. One of these discussions focused on Sustainable Product Design and raised some interesting issues regarding how to make products greener and more responsibly manufactured.

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Guy Robinson, Director of Sprout Design spoke about the company’s approach to sustainable product design, while Prof. Stuart Walker of Imagination@Lancaster spoke about the role of the product designer within the existing lifecycle of products and sustainable communities.

Guy explained that through sustainable product design there are three main considerations when designing products:

  • Put less stuff in a product
  • Create products that use less stuff
  • Create fewer products

Through a mixture of complex lifecycle analyses, sourcing of appropriate recycled materials and tackling client’s needs and wishes through innovative methods, sustainable solutions can be developed. Many of the important methods to consider are conscious design, optimization, careful choice of materials, low energy consumption, and altering the perceptions and behavior of consumers.

Stuart also put forward ideas about ethics and values, explaining that products have replaced communities and group responsibility has evolved into a more individualistic approach to living through the wants and needs of society. Designers should produce a reaction to what is going on in the world in a meaningful way.