Integration of EcoDesign principles within small product design consultancies
thesisposted on 30.05.2018, 08:17 by Richard G. Mawle
Each year in the UK (United Kingdom) hundreds of millions of consumer products are sold, leading to many millions of tonnes of waste being buried or burned annually. While there are many large businesses that produce consumer products, in the UK small product design consultancies (SDCs) make up approximately half of all employed designers. This thesis outlines an investigation into the absence of an EcoDesign agenda in product design briefs and how this might be changed in the future. In order to best establish the theoretical basis of the research, a comprehensive literature review was conducted into the practice of product designers, their relationship to society and the wider environment. In addition, existing tools and resources purporting to support product designers, with the implementation of EcoDesign projects, were analysed to understand the challenges associated with their design. Following this review, and the development of relevant research questions, a series of semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted to understand SDCs better, how these organisations conduct their business, and how familiar they are with EcoDesign. A series of semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 26 participants from 22 different consultancies. As a result of these interviews, a greater understanding of the barriers and drivers SDCs face in the practice of EcoDesign was established. This led to the creation of d.eco a web-based resource, to facilitate the implementation of EcoDesign principles in SDCs. This resource was evaluated in the final stage of the research. The majority of product designers had an awareness of EcoDesign and considered that they would be able to use their skills to find the information necessary to create products with a reduced environmental footprint. A significant barrier was that EcoDesign principles could only be legitimately applied when the design brief required their use. However, briefs are not created solely by clients; they were found to be much more collaborative, thus offering designers an opportunity to influence their own briefs. So, the role of an EcoDesign resource is less about assisting the design process, like most existing tools, and more to do with the providing designers with a wellspring of inspiration. However, the resource stimulates more than just creativity. It also provides peer recommended examples of existing EcoDesign products, materials and processes, facilitating the long-term absorption of relevant information. By presenting relevant material, in an appropriate way, designers can be more confident when including EcoDesign criteria and associated principles within their briefs.