Is the industrial designer's changing role improving their opportunities for responsible design practices?

2013-09-17T11:33:27Z (GMT) by Vicky Lofthouse Norman Stevenson
Past research has indicated that if designers could gain involvement at a strategic level, they would have greater potential to have a positive impact on the sustainability agenda. In recent years, changes to the way that consultant designers are interacting with their clients, means that a contribution to strategic decision making is now a possibility for many established consultancies. This paper reflects on whether these changes in the industrial designer’s role are improving their opportunities to incorporate practices such as ecodesign, sustainable design and universal design into their work. Founded on empirical research collected from consultancies in the UK and Ireland, the paper reflects on the nature of the opportunity that this shift in role has provided, and whether it is the opportunity that was anticipated. It concludes that despite increased influences in strategic decision making, the opportunities afforded industrial designers are less significant than anticipated as ultimately there are still a range of factors which restrict them from becoming reality; for example, client companies’ receptiveness to responsible issues, and the designer’s ability to offer a persuasive case to decision makers.