The real understanding of what sustainable design means lead us to show the potential of design process within teams and groups. I usually contextualize sustainability as the “ability of sustain”, in other words, endurance of systems and processes within the environment, economy and social aspects. More than a beautiful layout, it is the strategic and meaningful aspect of it. It is a comprehension of different factors: low-impact, efficiency, recycling, feasibility, renewability, biomimicry and potentiality.

In fact, the challenge is to design a solution to someone else. To problematize and identify the needs. What are the expectations? Which sustainable level should we reach? Where are the boundaries? Are the people prepared for these changes? Which standards must be followed? For the answer I will quote Jaime Lerner, former governor of Curitiba city, Brazil- “creativity starts when you cut 0 off your budget, If you cut two zeros, it’s much better!” The possible solutions will come across many other problems, but creativity and innovation enable designers to think upon their limits. It leads us for a more sustainable development according to the current needs, modifying economy and society towards a new system. “In essence, sustainable development is a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development; and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations.” (UN documents)

Technological development and fast transition

In these days, where everything is moving too fast, it is important to be aware of the changes and technological development within the market. However, global changes and crisis may lead to positive outcomes, since the designer will have to adapt the current status to something else in order to fulfilL the social, environmental and physical needs. The challenge is in the innovation process. What can we do to improve? Why should we do it? How do we do it?These are questions that lead us to provide solutions. And, it is through brainstorming, design innovation, ethnographic research, strategy and new product development (NPD), market creation, product design and interactive systems that we thrive to the best result.

Nowadays, one of the biggest challenges, in agriculture, for example, is to produce food for a vast population, towards an even bigger number by 2050 – without using water in abundance, without using a bigger area, without polluting the soil and the water, and without putting down the forests. The design process can guide people and organisations to change their mind set in order to follow the population growth, and innovative solutions can be designed in order to contain these problems.

Another example, and very debatable, is the energy consumption. An issue that has been discussed for many years now, and that has created new system and solutions for different needs. Countries like Denmark, Sweden and Norway have established new tax and governmental rules in order to motivate companies and citizens to save energy. Transport, waste, water usage, construction materials, food, nuclear systems, temperature change, animal extinction, plastic, industry, urban grown, poverty, lack of resources and many other problems became part of the sustainable designer’s daily challenges. And it is through research, daily experiences and creation process that we are being able to innovate towards a more sustainable environment. However, it is important to keep in mind that the application in developed and sub developed countries are also very different. It arrives from very basic educational programs to high technologies implications, which may affect directly an entire society.


The contest between two or more actors frames one of the biggest challenges in the sustainable design field, which make this market sometimes overwhelmed. However, competition is a necessary part of the design process; it leads the companies to keep moving forward and selling their products and services. The tricky part is to identify who the competitors are and what the consumer is looking for. It does not necessarily means to come with new ideas every week, but plan and bring strategies to exploit the old ones. The competition will push you to be updated, to do design research and come up with different tools to play the game. Co-design and creativity are also another way to enhance consumer awareness.

Sources: UN Documents: Gathering a Body of Global Agreements has been compiled by the NGO Committee on Education of the Conference of NGOs from United Nations web sites with the invaluable help of information & communications technology.

written by Camila Buschle