Archive for the 'Theory' Category

Service Design thinking is a sustainable design approach

Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what’s next for me in my career. So I’ve been doing a lot of research. That quest took me through a lot of random subjects that I think someday I can stitch together into one meaningful career path, some of my research are in these areas: social entrepreneurship, service design, design strategy, social and economic problems in China, India, Africa… All because I want to be make my design practice socially conscious but I didn’t know what that really meant.

This quest got me into some interesting things and meet some cool people. Tonight I met Tom Igoe from NYU’s ITP (Interactive Telecommunication Program) and Jennifer van de Meer from O2NYC at Tom’s Sustainable Practice class. I have invited them to a panel I am organizing for the IxDA on Eco-Interactions (no final name yet) panel that will take place on January 24th, 2008.

Jennifer gave a talk at Tom’s class on eco-design. She held key positions at Organic and Frog Design before becoming an independent consultant. Thinking about Eco and sustainable practices in design is her passion so she volunteers her time to talk about the subject and work at O2. After listening to her talk tonight and seeing some of the project ideas presented in Tom’s class. Here are some of my own reflections from Jen’s talk:

We, experience/interaction designers, if think about our projects from a service mindset, we are better set up to be ecologically responsible in our work. The reason is that, when you only think about designing products, you can only think about the materials, manufacturing and perhaps even the reuse-ability of that product. A lot of times, the waste happens during distribution/transportation, use/reuse/maintenance phases of the product’s life-cycle. With a service mindset, you approach the problem from a different angle. You dig deep into people’s problems and pain points and really understand them in the context of the product problem. You try and understand where business costs are incurred for your client. You put those two together and try to solve the problem with a service mindset. Think about how to appeal to consumers and business with a complete solution that goes beyond the product itself. And a lot of times, minimize the use of a product by delivering great service.

Lifecycle analysis shows you, for any given products, an inventory of environmental damages the product may cause in its life time.


Unfortunately, if you look at these stages of the life-cycle, you will realize that American companies have outsourced to countries like Taiwan and China where regulations can be a lot less strict that the U.S. or Europe.

Several ways we, designers, can help with is to:

  • educate ourselves on the subject constant and seek out experts to help us in these issues, dig into the facts.
  • use our skills in visualization, web, graphics to educate people in engaging ways.
  • find engaging/clever ways to incorporate into our designs things that help raise people’s awareness or make them inherently more sustainable in their daily lives.
  • influence corporations we consult with to not just green wash but really make a difference by finding ways to design better products and services with less environmental impact. Help them realize that though sometimes it’s a bigger investment to be socially responsible, a lot of times it can be innovative and cost saving. The more of the latter we can show, the more impact we will have.