Product design through local initiatives
Cagla Dogan (Ph.D. Student) and Stuart Walker (Professor of Industrial Design and Associate Dean Academic), Faculty of Environmental Design | University of Calgary, Canada
Current notions of sustainability within the field of product manufacturing largely depend on business strategies that are predominantly 'top-down' approaches. However, it is theoretically and practically naive and also unworkable for conventionally structured large manufacturing businesses to simply put on the vestments of sustainability. Many of the structures, philosophies and raisons d'etre are inherently and systemically in conflict with an holistic understanding of sustainability.
In order to positively and significantly affect and contribute to the three main principles of sustainability (ecology, economy and ethics) a fundamental rethinking and restructuring must be considered. New companies, products and processes born out of a sustainable ethos, such the e.Volution car, can contribute to the three E's of sustainability through a 'distributed' structure that enables and encourages involvement and commitment at the local level. This contrasts starkly with the more traditional globalized manufacturing that is also ‘distributed’ – but not in ways needed for sustainability. Sustainably oriented manufacturing initiatives that embrace the concept of ‘localization’ have great potential to create environmentally, socially and economically sustainable business structures.
This has important implications for product design in terms of: product diversification for local needs; effective design feedback from users; product repair, re-use and recycling; and developing more creative, ethically responsible and locally appropriate ways for end-of-life solutions. Thus, we need to reframe our perspectives to form meaningful links among the various priorities so that solutions are consistent with sustainability principles. This paper offers an approach to design for sustainability that brings together the development of design theory with design exploration. The process of ‘designing’ is seen as a key ingredient of the methodology. Furthermore, the ‘integrated approach’ to design for sustainability is posited as a starting point for design exploration.