While reading Tim Brown’s “Change by Design”, I was touched by the story of the ORAL B toothbrush found among the rubbish deposited on the beach. Through this story Tim Brown asked himself and us about the responsibility of designers and design thinkers when designing. That resonates with me. We’re responsible for creating sustainable, eco-friendly change in the world either as creators or facilitators. But how to remember this and most importantly how to implement it? Does education, existing methods and tools give us any hints here? It seems that they concentrate mostly on human needs.
In early design thinking literature such as “Change by Design” or Tim’s article in the Harvard Business Review ”Design Thinking”, the subject of ecological responsibility wasn’t elaborated and included in the design thinking process. Although Roger Martin (in “The design of business”) listed social responsibility as part of Design Thinking, what about ecological responsibility? We missed placing it explicitly within existing DT models such as the IDEO one: Inspiration-Ideation-Implementation or Jeane Liedtke’s and Tim Ogilvie’s Designing for Growth approach or Katja Tschimmel’s Evolution 6² model. I browsed a few books collecting design thinking tools and couldn’t find any tools including ecological responsibility.
Tim Brown seemed to answer this need in 2017, a year when IDEO in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation created “The circular design guide”. Check this website https://www.circulardesignguide.com . You will find ready-to-use tools: workshops scripts, modified templates to use in the process of designing for the sake of the circular economy.
This is how Tim Brown talks about it:
But is it really enough?
Should it really be separate to other DT methods, just by adding “circular” to its name or should it be an integral part of every DT method? I believe it is a part of the DT mindset so I will risk saying that it should be included within every DT method and at every stage of the DT process. This is why the methods used at each stage of the process should be modified to remind all design thinkers about their ecological responsibility.
Let’s have a look at an example and try to redesign the The Elevator Pitch model from “Game storming. A playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers and Changemakers”. We can add one more question: “What is the product/service environmental impact?” So finally we may end up with a modified version of the Elevator Pitch sentence structure:
What do you think about it? Feel free to modify it. I would love to see more DT tools transformed in the comments.
One more thought to end.
The more I delve into the subject, the more I think that a name “human-centred design” is limited as it emphasizes that design thinkers should concentrate only on humans. That is why it should be changed to “ecosystem human – centred design”, for example.
Last but not least, I would love to see more business schools teaching DT as Katja Tschimmel and Joana Santos proposed in their article “Design Thinking applied to the Redesign of Business Education” but in the above modified way. Let’s become more ecologically responsible in designing our world.
Written by: Cecylia Kundera