Special Issue "The Future of Design for Sustainability"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Engineering and Science".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 July 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Tracy Bhamra
Website
Guest Editor
Loughborough Design School, Loughborough University, Loughborough, LE11 3TU, UK
Interests: design for sustainability; design for sustainable behaviour; methods and tools for sustainable product design; sustainable product services systems
Dr. Garrath Wilson
Website
Guest Editor
Loughborough Design School, Loughborough University, Loughborough, LE11 3TU, UK
Interests: design for sustainable behaviour; speculative design; emotionally durable design; industrial design; user experience design

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Design for sustainability is not the panacea we hoped it would be when it was first introduced in the latter part of the 20th century. Today, the health of both our environment and our societies is at a critical state, at a breaking point, with piecemeal solutions offered as social-media-friendly rallying points, such as the recent European Parliament-approved ban on single-use plastics, whilst fundamental, and arguably less ‘exciting’, issues such as loss of biodiversity, overpopulation, and climate change are shuffled to the back.

It can be argued that the awareness of the concept of sustainability and the need to reduce our negative impact upon the environment and society has grown significantly and, consequently, has moved up the global agenda. This is evidenced by the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference; however, it is clear that the role of design for sustainability within this agenda is not providing the solutions necessary to manifest the level of change required. Traditional approaches are not working.

This Special Issue of Sustainability is seeking papers that push the frontier of what design for sustainability could be—and possibly should be—across the broad spectrum of design disciplines, including product design, user experience design, service design, etc. In particular, we invite manuscripts that question and offer alternatives to the current thinking, strategies, and directions.

Prof. Tracy Bhamra
Dr. Garrath Wilson
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Design for Sustainability
  • Radical change
  • Future trends
  • Speculative design
  • Alternative design models and strategies

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial
Design for Sustainability: The Need for a New Agenda
Sustainability 2020, 12(9), 3615; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12093615 - 30 Apr 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Design for Sustainability is not the panacea we hoped it would be when it was first introduced in the latter part of the 20th century. Today, the health of both our environment and our societies is at a critical state, a breaking point, [...] Read more.
Design for Sustainability is not the panacea we hoped it would be when it was first introduced in the latter part of the 20th century. Today, the health of both our environment and our societies is at a critical state, a breaking point, with piecemeal solutions offered as social-media-friendly rallying points, such as the European Parliament approved ban on single-use plastics, whilst fundamental, and arguably less ‘exciting’, issues such as loss of biodiversity, overpopulation, and climate change are shuffled to the back. It can be argued, however, that the awareness of the concept of sustainability and the need to reduce the negative human impact upon the environment and society has grown significantly and, consequently, has moved up the global agenda; this is evidenced by the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. However, it is also clear that the role of Design for Sustainability within this agenda is not providing the solutions necessary to manifest the level of change required. Traditional approaches are not working. This Special Issue of Sustainability seeks to readdress this with eight papers that push the frontier of what Design for Sustainability could be—and possibly must be—across the broad spectrum of design disciplines. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Design for Sustainability)

Research

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Open AccessArticle
Design Engagements at the Margins of the Global South: De-Centering the “Expert” Within Me
Sustainability 2019, 11(20), 5675; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11205675 - 14 Oct 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Conceiving everyone as a potential designer and believing in local peoples’ informed understandings and agentic capabilities in addressing local problems, my design research journey was committed to opening up avenues for sustained transformations in the underserved spaces of rural eastern India. In my [...] Read more.
Conceiving everyone as a potential designer and believing in local peoples’ informed understandings and agentic capabilities in addressing local problems, my design research journey was committed to opening up avenues for sustained transformations in the underserved spaces of rural eastern India. In my design engagements, we (community members and I) contributed in three design projects, namely design for community development (DfCD), information design for development (IDfD), and design for grassroots innovation (DfGD). In my design journey, I sincerely questioned/challenged my presumptions and design approaches as well as reflexively reoriented myself to make the design processes culturally meaningful and contextually appropriate. Being constantly cognizant about minute traces of superiority (and sense of indispensability) within me, being willing to challenge, modify, and rediscover myself continually, as well as privileging and situating local and indigenous perspectives and knowledge at the center of design processes, characterize some of the key learning of my design journey. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Design for Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle
Multispecies Design and Ethnographic Practice: Following Other-Than-Humans as a Mode of Exploring Environmental Issues
Sustainability 2019, 11(18), 5032; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11185032 - 14 Sep 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Since the early 1980s, the concept of sustainability has been employed by designers to confront the problems deriving from the emergence of the environmental crisis. On the one hand, if this contributed to generating systemic design approaches and methods to mitigate the human [...] Read more.
Since the early 1980s, the concept of sustainability has been employed by designers to confront the problems deriving from the emergence of the environmental crisis. On the one hand, if this contributed to generating systemic design approaches and methods to mitigate the human impact on the planet, little has been done to explore sustainability as a concept that extends beyond anthropocentrism. Examining environmental issues by considering other-than-human viewpoints could introduce alternative scenarios compared to those envisioned through technocentric means. This work considers a speculative design project that provides a multispecies reading of the notion of environmental contamination through the engagement of human and vegetal perspectives. The considered methodology focusses on the transdisciplinary tactic of “following” plant collectives across the multiple sites and actors that populate their life. Building on post-humanism theories and Guattari’s concept of “ecosophy”, this paper entails that sustainability should be seen not just as the outcome of a design process, but also as a behavioural attitude, and design as an implementation of that attitude. It is argued that following other-than-humans can teach designers to think sustainably by cultivating relations of reciprocity that help to shed light on the multispecies landscapes of the Anthropocene. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Design for Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle
A Design Thinking-Based Study of the Prospect of the Sustainable Development of Traditional Handicrafts
Sustainability 2019, 11(18), 4823; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11184823 - 04 Sep 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Traditional handicrafts have a time-honored history and tremendous cultural value in China. However, even with the strong impact of globalization and consumerism in recent years, design-oriented scientific thinking and sustainable development models are not yet available. Based on Stanford Design Thinking, this study [...] Read more.
Traditional handicrafts have a time-honored history and tremendous cultural value in China. However, even with the strong impact of globalization and consumerism in recent years, design-oriented scientific thinking and sustainable development models are not yet available. Based on Stanford Design Thinking, this study explores the prospect of the sustainable development of traditional handicrafts. First, a literature review and analysis were conducted to show that design science, as a bridge between natural science and humanities, aims to improve the important methods and research tools for the sustainable development of traditional handicrafts. Then, we studied ceramic product design via workshops. Methods such as action research, expert questionnaires, and factor analysis were adopted to establish 24 “indicators of the sustainable value of handicraft design” and four value dimensions, namely, “material and innovative value”, “handicraft and cultural value”, “empirical and local value”, and “sharing and interactive value”. Next, an experimental method was employed to make design product prototypes according to the design-thinking procedure. These prototypes were measured and evaluated with the indicators to form an evaluation report. In addition, the exploration of the sustainable development of traditional handicraft design also contributes to the establishment of a sustainable development model of design thinking. It was demonstrated that scientific design is the current trend and future of the sustainable development of traditional handicrafts. Finally, this study put forward five dynamic thinking methods and design strategies, providing the most direct methods and theoretical evidence for the sustainable development of traditional handicraft design. Finally, taking design thinking as the sustainable design framework, five dynamic thinking approaches were proposed: Thinking with the body, thinking with the mind, thinking with the heart, thinking with the hands, and thinking with the soul. Five design strategies were also proposed: Enquiry learning, values education, future problem solving, experiential design, and appropriate assessment. These approaches and strategies provide the most direct method and theoretical basis for the future of sustainable design regarding traditional Chinese handicraft products. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Design for Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle
Three Dimensions of Design for Sustainable Behaviour
Sustainability 2019, 11(17), 4610; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11174610 - 24 Aug 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Designing products to be more sustainable is crucial if the UK is to meet the challenge of its ambitious new carbon reductions targets by 2050. How designers, manufacturers and service providers conceptualise behaviour is key to understanding how there will be widespread adoption [...] Read more.
Designing products to be more sustainable is crucial if the UK is to meet the challenge of its ambitious new carbon reductions targets by 2050. How designers, manufacturers and service providers conceptualise behaviour is key to understanding how there will be widespread adoption of new products. The research area referred to as Design for Sustainable Behaviour has emerged to explore measures of reducing environmental impact through moderating the way people use products, services and systems. To date, though, characterisations of its strategies have been relatively one-dimensional, with an emphasis on environmental psychological approaches to understanding behaviour. This paper draws on a wider set of literature and academic disciplines to propose a conceptual framework that incorporates three dimensions: empowerment, information and motivation. This three-dimensional framework argues for a wider understanding of behaviour that encompasses feedback, participation and acknowledgement of the wider social and organisational context that behaviour is situated in. This framework is presented, the implications for theory and practice are explored, and a challenge is laid down to designers, academics and policymakers to consider how this framework can be applied, tested and further developed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Design for Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle
Design for Sustainability Transitions: Origins, Attitudes and Future Directions
Sustainability 2019, 11(13), 3601; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11133601 - 30 Jun 2019
Cited by 5
Abstract
Sustainability transitions have formed a vast body of literature on theory and practice of transforming socio-technical systems to achieve sustainability over the past few decades. Lately, a new area has been emerging in the design for the sustainability field, where sustainability transitions theories [...] Read more.
Sustainability transitions have formed a vast body of literature on theory and practice of transforming socio-technical systems to achieve sustainability over the past few decades. Lately, a new area has been emerging in the design for the sustainability field, where sustainability transitions theories are integrated with design theory, education and practice. This emerging area is referred to as design for sustainability transitions or transition design. In order to build an understanding of the emergence and growth of this area, this article presents an overview of origins, development and current status of design for sustainability transitions drawing on key contributions. We also provide a comparative analysis of these key contributions in regards to their theoretical underpinnings, definitions of sustainability, conceptual framings for the roles of design(ers) and premises of methods and applications. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Design for Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle
Design for Social Sustainability: Using Digital Fabrication in the Humanitarian and Development Sector
Sustainability 2019, 11(13), 3562; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11133562 - 28 Jun 2019
Cited by 4
Abstract
The demand for humanitarian and development aid has risen to an unprecedented level in recent years. With a pressing need for new solutions, designers have started using digital fabrication (3D printing, CNC milling and laser cutting) to produce life-saving items. However, many organisations [...] Read more.
The demand for humanitarian and development aid has risen to an unprecedented level in recent years. With a pressing need for new solutions, designers have started using digital fabrication (3D printing, CNC milling and laser cutting) to produce life-saving items. However, many organisations are failing to create the impacts they desire, and the social aspect of sustainability has been largely overlooked. This paper addresses this gap in knowledge by investigating guidelines for Design for Social Sustainability, specifically looking at digital fabrication for humanitarian and development projects. Building on existing literature and conducting three in-depth case studies of healthcare related products, the research develops a framework for Design for Social Sustainability. It provides useful guidelines to help plan and evaluate digital fabrication projects in the humanitarian and development sector. The findings show how design can trigger social sustainability at product, process and paradigm levels. Specifically, the case studies reveal the potential for digital fabrication to lead to more systems-focused, radical social sustainability. The paper concludes that an iterative and holistic approach to Design for Sustainability is needed, that begins by examining the social dimension first. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Design for Sustainability)
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Other

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Open AccessDiscussion
Sustainable Product-Service Systems and Circular Economies
Sustainability 2019, 11(19), 5383; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11195383 - 29 Sep 2019
Cited by 5
Abstract
Sustainable product-service systems (PSSs) have proven to be a very good alternative for developing new business models and transforming traditional offers into sustainable ones. Environmental, social and economic benefits support the idea of developing this type of system. However, there are identified challenges [...] Read more.
Sustainable product-service systems (PSSs) have proven to be a very good alternative for developing new business models and transforming traditional offers into sustainable ones. Environmental, social and economic benefits support the idea of developing this type of system. However, there are identified challenges that have stopped the expansion of the concept into the market. The framework that explains the principles and building blocks of a circular economy according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation can be an interesting lens to analyse the challenges companies faced when they wanted to implement a sustainable PSS. This framework is particularly useful to understand the internal and external forces companies are dealing with in a transformation from traditional business models to ones like sustainable PSSs that need special conditions of operation. Design for sustainability as an area of study will shift in the coming years to focus its attention on the requirements of circular economics as the paradigm of production and consumption. Sustainable products, services and systems will be developed according to the conditions established by those circular conditions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Design for Sustainability)
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Open AccessConcept Paper
Future Skills of Design for Sustainability: An Awareness-Based Co-Creation Approach
Sustainability 2019, 11(19), 5247; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11195247 - 25 Sep 2019
Cited by 4
Abstract
Our inner, invisible dimension consisting of our values, mental models and worldviews, has been identified as a significant leverage point for transformational change, as it brings to life our actions. Accordingly, the inner dimension of sustainability has a major role in transitioning towards [...] Read more.
Our inner, invisible dimension consisting of our values, mental models and worldviews, has been identified as a significant leverage point for transformational change, as it brings to life our actions. Accordingly, the inner dimension of sustainability has a major role in transitioning towards desirable and sustainable futures. This paper focuses on exploring what kind of methods and competences are needed to access and work with the inner dimension as part of collaborative design practices aiming for sustainable and deep change. Thus, a lesser researched, alternative perspective to design discourse, the awareness-based co-creation approach is highlighted as a potential and emerging direction for design for sustainability. By thinking across: (1) literature findings of the concept of inner dimension of sustainability; (2) existing knowledge of awareness-based transformation approaches and (3) results of an experimental case study done in the context of nature tourism, it was recognized that more examples are needed on how to enable, promote and capture participants’ transformative experiences. Finally, the argument is made that awareness-based competencies should be considered as essential future skills and competences of design for sustainability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Design for Sustainability)
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