What Is Sustainability?

What Is a Systems Perspective? 7

Diversity and resiliency 10

Centralization and Decentralization 16

Cooperation and Competition 21

ecological Vitality 24

social Vitality 26

Financial Vitality 30

Ап ecosystem of stakeholders 33

a Careful Balance 36


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ecause sustainability means different things to different groups and individ­uals, this makes it sometimes difficult to discuss it, so I’ll just give you my definition. For example, I met a “conservative environ­mentalist” once who was chiefly focused on climate and carbon issues...


Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?

Despite how optimistic, idealistic, and future-oriented most designers are, design has sometimes created big problems in the world. Even where our best intentions have been engaged, our outcomes have often fallen short—sometimes making matters worse— because we didn’t see the whole picture when creating what we envisioned. Where our best intentions haven’t been engaged or where we haven’t been well-enough informed, design has been dismal. The same is often true of other business functions like marketing, sales, op­erations, engineering, and so on. We are often responsible for making people feel terrible about themselves, only redeemable by buying this product or that service. In addition, we too

often contribute to a philosophy of “more is more” when it doesn’t deliver more val...


What Is Sustainability?

Design is in great transition, thankfully. Tra­ditionally, design has been practiced with a focus on appearance, whether it is represented in graphic, interior, industrial, fashion, furni­ture, automotive, marine, or any other kind of design. In truth, design has never been merely about appearance, although that’s been the most prominent phenomenon throughout its history. In addition, other disciplines use the word “design” to describe other functions, such as structuring databases, systems, servic­es, or organizations (further confusing its use and meaning)...




his isn’t a book about sustainable de­sign. Instead, it’s a book about how the design industry can approach the world in a more sustainable way. Design is interconnected—to engineering, management, production, customer experiences, and to the planet. Discussing and comprehending the relationship between design and sustainabil­ity requires a systems perspective to see these relationships clearly.

I hate discussions that start with definitions, but the truth is that the terms “sustainable” and “design” at the beginning of the 21st century are both malleable and subjective enough to warrant an explanation. However, I’ll try to get the definitions out of the way quickly and ef­ficiently to get to the larger discussion.

This… is a book about how the de­sign industry c...



Who Should Read This Book?

I believe that design is how we change the world. Designers are incredibly optimistic people—believing that they can, absolutely, change the world for the better. However, even without a design background or edu­cation, it doesn’t mean you don’t or can’t make change in the world—and change for the better.

This book was written for the designer in all of us. While it is primarily targeted at those who call themselves “designers,” it doesn’t use any design jargon and is just as help­ful to engineers, managers, students, and anyone who wants to build a better, more sustainable world...