March 27, 2009

Quantifying Design

In Adam Silver's article "Calculated Design" featured in Design Mind Magazine, he argues for the use of quantitative research methods as another tool in a designer's arsenal. There is value to be added from dissecting research data into useful, relevant chunks a design team can either use to discover new avenues for brainstorming, or to justify their designs with.

Quantitative research is only as good as is interpretation, and it takes a strategic designer to connect the dots in innovative ways that center around the consumer, to create new breakthrough business opportunities. Within a design team it is vital to have a strategic thinker to synthesis the quantitative data gathered through research, and turn it into the usable pieces that can validate a team's intuitive design work. By quantifying design, designers can begin using the same language as none design savvy business people, thus translating the hard-to-understand, intuitive process of design into a language everyone in an organization can understand.

March 12, 2009

Printable Plastic Solar Cells

While designing electronic products, I often think, "how can I design this product to use power differently?" Well, Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium (VICOSC) has initiated printing trials for the production of organic solar cells, which if successful, will give designers the capability to clad their electronic products in a shrink wrapped solar skin. This new technology has the ability to change the way buildings, products, and humans use energy.

March 11, 2009

A Better Toothpaste Tube?

Designers around the world pride themselves on finding needs and solving problems, but designers are not the only ones who can perform these tasks. Susan Bell, a nurse in the U.K., recognized a need when she saw patients struggling to get the last bit of cream out of expensive medications, and decided to build a better tube. She started the company Butterfly Technology and has produced working prototypes of a tube that easily dispenses all the product inside of it.

This new innovative tube technology can boost the Triple Bottom Line for any manufacturer who incorporates it into their products. This new technology will help people by making sure no product inside the tube goes to waste, for every little bit counts. Since all the product inside the tube is used--the tube itself is easier to recycle, which helps the environment. It is a cost effective technology that will not add much to the first cost of the product being produced, keeping healthy margins for the manufacturer. This is the type of new technology that design teams around the world should be seeking and incorporating into their manufacturing process creating better products for people, the planet and profit.

Click Here to read the full article

March 9, 2009

Lunar's Field Guide to Sustainability

Last summer the Lunar Elements Team, from Lunar Design, unveiled "The Designer's Field Guide to Sustainability", a tool to help engineers and designers design their products more sustainably. The Guide forms a kind of checklist for a product development team to use, making sure certain eco-design issues, like designing packaging at the same time as designing the product (see "Redesigning Packaging" below), are considered.

The Lunar Elements Team acknowledges that designing an eco-friendly product for the marketplace is a very complex job, and describes the Guide as only a beginning. If these considerations are consistently pondered in the product development process, individual designers and engineers will constantly be thinking about new solutions to the enviromental problems that come along with production and distribution. With time, design teams will gain confidence in their ability to design around these problems and create truly enviromentally-friendly products.

Click Here to download a copy of "The Designer's Field Guide to Sustainability"

March 7, 2009

Rethinking Packaging

In the United States, waste from packaging accounts for more than 50% of total household waste, and yet, during the design process of a product specifying the packaging usually comes at the end of the process. Even at the end of the product's development the packaging concept and materials used depend on what the manufacturer has worked with before, what materials they are easily able to source, or how cheaply it can be created.

By thinking holistically about the products being designed and really understanding the complete systems these products will live in, a product development team cannot leave the packaging design for the end of the product's development but must incorporate packaging design into the overall concept development process. When a design team includes the waste from packaging as another design problem they need to solve, unique and innovative solutions to this problem will emerge.

DuPont's head of packaging, William F. Weber, has recently called on industry leaders to think differently about the packaging they use for their products. He has challenged them to add value to the products they are selling in the marketplace by having the packaging provide a secondary service for the customer when it is thrown away. Once packaging is not thought of just as a way to prevent food waste and protect products, but as another way to add value to the consumer's experience with the product, than we can begin to eliminate the waste that comes with packaging.

Click Here to read the article

March 6, 2009

Electrolux: Integrated Product Development

Electrolux is a global manufacturer of home appliances selling more than 40 million products every year. Since 2001 they have been recognized for their sustainability efforts. They currently use an Integrated Product Development Process to assure that their design teams consider the appropriate factors and address the right concerns while developing a new product.

Understanding that the majority of the environmental impact of a vacuum cleaner occurs during the use phase of the products life, in the form of electricity consumption and related carbon dioxide emissions, they developed a new ultra-efficient motor that uses 33% less energy in their new Ultra Silencer Green vacuum. Electrolux also uses recycling software tools to help product development optimize product recyclability. With this tool they were able to make their new vacuum with 55% recycled content.

Even as the design teams at Electrolux begin a development cycle for a new product, they understand the importance of asking consumers about their sustainability concerns. They have found that, "[their] consumers want appliances that are safe, do not contain hazardous materials, have low noise levels and that are produced under good working conditions." By integrating sustainable thinking into their design process, they have uncovered a new need they are filling in the marketplace.

Click Here to read the article


This blog is to showcase how the process of design can be used as a tool to design products that help not hurt people. I will showcase examples of how to augment the typical design process by incorporating integrated bottom line thinking (people, planet, and profit), designing for the whole life-cycle of the product, or other ways of thinking more holistically about the product that is being designed. With the introduction of the Designers Accord in 2007 and its thousands of adopters, the tipping point for sustainable design thinking has been found. This blog will give designers the tools to make this way of thinking just another step in the design process.