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Award-winning Industrial Design Products: are They Also Sustainable?
Published: 29 October 2012 by MDPI in The 2nd World Sustainability Forum session Environmental Sustainability
Abstract: Every year, international design award giving bodies announce the winners of their design competitions, celebrating and promoting them to the public as exemplars of "good design" or "design excellence". Winners are commended on the basis of innovation, form, function, quality, safety, and ecological sustainability. This latter criterion questions if there is real need for the product, if it reduces environmental impact, has a long lifetime, is resource efficient, complies with environmental best practice, considers end-of-life issues, uses principles of design for disassembly and recyclability, ethical, and offers benefit to society, environment, culture and economy. This paper investigates the approaches by which design award winners and finalists claim to respond to the sustainability criterion. It also traces winners to as far as ten years back and checks whether they exhibit market longevity; that is, if they are still around or if they have already been discontinued or replaced by other products. The archives of the most popular awards in which most designers aim to be recognized in were consulted, and a content analysis was conducted against the definitions and conditions for sustainable product innovation. The study found that product design accolades do their job well in highlighting the excellent work of industrial designers and the manufacturers they work with. However, given the urgency of climate change and environmental disasters that are attributed to the impacts of not-so-responsible designs, it is sensible to rethink whether those in product development should continue pursuing the market oriented approach of offering consumers endless streams of award-winning material "stuff" to own. As the analyses show, designers and manufacturers are indeed capable of creating excellent solutions that are ecologically sustainable. While the proportion of such innovations is still low in comparison to the rest of the awarded products, it is promising to see growth in this area.
Keywords: industrial design, design awards, sustainable design