Thursday, 11 October 2012

Sustainability in design briefs

This article discusses how all design briefs should now include sustainability and how to work round your client when they do not want to spend the extra money to keep the project sustainable.

Four tips on for sustainability in design briefs...

1. Demystify sustainability – Just writing the word ‘sustainability’ into design briefs probably won’t cut it, as the term is not detailed enough to work to when designing. Clients need to be clear on what they mean by sustainability in design briefs. Is it less waste, lower carbon, renewable material use, designing for the poor or disabled? Also try to be specific about targets, like a 20 per cent weight reduction in packaging. This will give you a far clearer set of sustainability requirements in your design process.
That’s hard to condone, but it’s unhelpful to finger wag at clients or designers on this as, in the end, it’s about where we go from here
2. Join up the sustainability dots – Linked to the above, make sure your clients align any sustainable design requirements to their corporate sustainability goals in the brief. They often have waste, manufacturing or carbon targets for their business, and these need to be reflected in their design and their product work too. Joining up your clients corporate/product story will be more convincing to external stakeholders too.
3. Define value from sustainability – CO2 reductions; lower toxicity; less waste; renewable materials; can be often abstract to clients, not linked to traditional business drivers. But less energy consumption, better health and safety, less landfill tax, lower costs or a more secure material supply – now that’s business speak! Sustainability goals often transfer directly into business and monetary goals i.e. using less can cost less; ecology = economy, which certainly motivates clients if you do it.
4. Sustainability through stealth – A final approach is to ‘do sustainability and don’t tell’. This effectively means not getting formal agreement with clients via the design brief, but designing to a ‘virtual’ set of sustainability requirements anyway. Obviously it’s smart to focus on the business benefits identified in 3., but clients may be thankful for you over delivering afterwards. Slightly risky admittedly, but worth considering if all else fails.

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