online Lecture <br/> Tools for the Design Revolution

online Lecture
Tools for the Design Revolution

Design strategies for the future.

Among the introduction of sustainable design, to the worlds’ situation and the need for a change, alternatives and strategies for an informed design process are pointed out and explained to finally design new scenarios for a sustainable future. The collection includes short essays, as well as animated illustrations and interviews with experts. The aim of the course is to provide practical tools for designers, developers, teams, and consumers which authorize to an informed design process and enable self-determined decisions. This knowledge can be immediately applied in everyday life or tested in the accompanying exercises.
The course program is deliberately interdisciplinary and wants to enable the discourse between different industries. Participants from areas such as design, architecture, engineering, economics, sociology, psychology and with varying background knowledge are invited to view the following posts.

Start October 13th 2014, every week one new chapter with an effort of 1-2 h /week.
In cooperation withZumtobel

1 Intro

Introduction Tools for the Design Revolution

2 World Issues

Why do we need a radical change and what are reasons why design has to be ecologically and socially sustainable? Background Knowledge for the course.

The Living Planet Report by WWF in cooperation with the Global Footprint Network shows us the current situation of the world and provides information on the distribution of biocapacity and ecological footprint. The summary of the report is sufficient as a basis for the course.

WWF Living Planet Report 2014 Summary

Models for global solidarity:

One Tonne Life Project – Final Report

3 Stimulants

Contributions from design history and pop culture:

Listen to “Stimulants”

4 Recipes

At a first glance we don’t see what we don’t pay attention to. What ingredients do we need for a chair?

Quote from: Tools for the Design Revolution, IDRV – Institute of Design Research Vienna, niggli 2014 p. 49ff

Dealing with recipes

Products are obviously made out of the materials that we perceive with our senses in the moment when we handle and use them. The components we perceive are not always harvested directly from trees or extracted from the ground, however. They are the result of various processes that, in turn, require other raw materials, which have their own energy requirements that should not be underestimated. While we may be curious about the ingredients in delicacies and in good cooking and baking recipes, and inquire about their preparation, the composition of products remains a secret. In the context of EU directives, manufacturers are increasingly being asked to disclose their ingredients in environmental product declarations (EPDs) and break them down according to product life cycles. While some manufacturers provide this data voluntarily, others advertise their company’s use of life cycle assessments, but only reveal percentage-based information about improvements per life cycle.

(!) It makes sense, as a consumer and a designer, to insist on having access to EPDs, which are the most internationally standardized and transparent tool available. If this content information is not present, you can confront the respective manufacturers and ask for it.

But EPDs alone are not enough. The recipes contain no information about the exact origin of the raw materials and the social conditions under which they were extracted. Commodity prices, too, are not indicative of the fair remuneration of the workers in the mines and the fields. A large proportion of the commodity price is artificially generated on stock exchanges, and benefits only the speculators, so a precise breakdown of costs and origin is necessary. Even the manufacturers do not always have this information. Multi-part supply chains should therefore be even more transparent in the future, and commodities should only be purchased if this information is made available unsolicited and comprehensibly.

(!) As a designer, I can ask for the exact product information and draw attention to any abuses in order to increase the pressure on those responsible.

The Consequences of Design

5 Life Cycle Analysis

Quote from: Tools for the Design Revolution, IDRV – Institute of Design Research Vienna, niggli 2014 p. 55

(!) Designing the entire life cycle of a product or service requires situation-dependent design decisions.

Each one has direct and indirect consequences on the environment and on people that are not obvious at first, and their global dimension is too complex to make such decisions on a gut level.

Who can easily estimate the impact that the raw material extraction process will have on the environment, and then compare this with the life cycle scenario of a product? It is irresponsible to decide on a gut level which material is better, ecologically speaking, for a bicycle frame, for example. There are material libraries for testing the visual and tactile qualities of materials, books on their technical properties – which are even understandable by non-engineers – as well as estimates of the costs of sourcing and processing. Ways to make informed decisions are already in place, but one criterion that has been neglected is the environmental and social impact of these very decisions. Here we cannot yet rely on experience. And were we to ask the question of whether aluminum or steel would be a better alternative, we could fill long pro-and-con lists for both materials and still answer the question only with ifs and buts. As the “Recipes” chapter shows, we are not always aware of the variety of resources that are used in the manufacturing of products. As in a cost projection, a life cycle analysis lists a product’s expenditure items, multiplies them by the impact factors and then finally adds in the respective effects. The results of a life cycle analysis can be processed by independent organizations as part of an environmental product declaration (EPD) for a product or a service. A life cycle assessment represents and evaluates the effects a product or system can have on the environment and on people in its various phases. This makes it possible to find the effective levers or hot spots in relation to sustainable products and systems, and to make informed design decisions. Ideally, they give us information about the environmental impact from the extraction of raw materials, their processing, the distribution of the finished product and its use, up to an end-of-life scenario – that is, over the entire life cycle. Therefore, a life cycle assessment is a prerequisite for thinking in terms of material flows. But what happens with the product at the end of its life cycle must be determined realistically in a life cycle assessment.


Six steps to a life cycle assessment:

1.)    Define the objectives and requirements for the evaluation of the product or service.
2.)    Find a functional unit; How long should the product last and what does i toffer?
3.)    Create a life-cycle-scenario; What raw materials are needed? How will they be processed? How does the product get to the user? What is the purpose of the product? How is it used? What happens at the end-of-life?

( Steps 1.) to 3.): Check if there are existing Product-Category-Rules  – PCR. PCRs contains scenarios for average life-cycle-scenarios. The use of PCRs makes it easier to compare products and their environmental impacts.

4.)    Show the material flow. What resources, like raw materials, energy and water are needed in different steps of the life-cycle?
5.)    Quantify the necessary amounts; How many of in step 4.) evaluated resources are needed?
6.)    Life-Cycle-Impact-Assessement –  mutliply the environmental impact indicators. What are the environmental impacts to the environment in each steps of the products‘ life-cycle?

The industries‘ benefits  of life-cycle-assessment is explained by Sebastian Gann. Sebastian is environmental product manager at Zumtobel.


Two possible ways for Designers to evaluate the environmental impact of products are the Ecolizer 2.0 by OVAM or the energy trumps by the agency of design.

In 2013 the IDRV and departure, Wirtschaftsagentur der Stadt Wien organized a Circle extended with the question: Sustainable Design – but how? Tools and Methods. In the following videos 2 Tools are presented:

6 Universal Tools

Everything you need to make well-informed design, production or consumption decisions quickly and easily can be found in the universal tool box.
Universelle Werkzeugkiste


The hammer is a symbol of the working class. It is suitable to be held in the air symbolically, or – in our case – to bang items that you cannot disassemble with other tools into parts for analysis. When we need it, something has probably gone wrong in design or construction, or the manufacturers want to try to prevent the disassembly of an object.


The screwdriver is the nicer way to disassemble things. But you can also use it in combination with the hammer for targeted, brutal tactics in order to separate otherwise non-detachable joints once and for all. Good design brings screws back!

Kitchen scale

It is advisable to use as precise a scale as possible, otherwise the results of the calculations could be very inaccurate. A postal scale or a dietary scale is very good for smaller items. But there is nothing wrong with an accurate mechanical scale. In any case, you should be able to see one to two gram increments clearly; otherwise it is impossible to evaluate small amounts of material.


There are now for sale at hardware stores very simple and cheap electricity meters. It is only important that they are suitable for 220/110 volts AC and can monitor the energy consumed in kWh (kilowatt hours). Local utilities sometimes provide such ammeters for free allowing you to measure the consumption of electricity – and as we have seen, power consumption is often the greatest environmental impact of electrical devices. Unfortunately, however, you cannot measure whether the electricity is generated from renewable resources.

Paper and pencil

The design revolution needs tools that are available everywhere. A computer is not absolutely necessary when you have a sheet of paper and writing tools.

Pocket calculator

Actually, we only need the basic arithmetic operations : add and subtract, multiply and divide. There can be quite a few decimal places, and for these cases, a simple calculator is handy, but not essential. We find arithmetic important because it is the only possible way to come to objective conclusions. This also makes it possible to identify the environmental impacts in a life cycle where improvements would have a significant influence on the overall result.

(!) A gut feeling is often deceptive in the evaluation of environmentally relevant factors. The parameters that we consider to be important influencing factors emotionally are not always significant.

A quick design life cycle analysis of light bulbs.

Please try the recipe. You have all the tools. Have a closer look to different products!

A bold Life Cycle Analysis – Recipe for the analysis of complex products.

Mobile phones, cars and laptops can theoretically be analyzed with the tool described above. The results may differ greatly from professionally produced LCAs, however. That is why we have developed a simple method for such cases : We do not calculate each individual material, but rather the total footprint of a category of objects. From a known life cycle assessment – for example, for a mobile phone – the CO2 footprint for production is taken and divided by the product weight. Thus one easily gets the CO2 footprint of a 1-kilogram mobile phone. The same method can be applied to a car, for example.

Example : Footprint of a large SUV

LCAs are not mandatory, so why should vehicle manufacturers create them for cars that do not have a good reputation in terms of their environmental impact anyway? Although there is little reason for driving SUVs in the city, this vehicle category enjoys a high popularity there nonetheless. But are these vehicles really that bad? Here, our simple method provides some clarity. According to a published LCA, a 1,200-kg midsize car emits 6 tons of CO2-eq in production. In the glossy brochure for the SUV, a total weight of 2,297 kg is given. Multiplied by our factor of 5 yields 11.5 tons of CO2-eq in production. The SUV emits 0.239 kg of CO2 per kilometer. Calculated on a total range of 150,000 km yields an additional 35.8 tons of CO2. The mid-sized car, however, has an output of 0.113 kilograms of CO2 per kilometer, which, when projected to the same range, produces 17 tons. When it comes to transporting four people from point A to point B, the SUV emitted one hundred percent more greenhouse gases than the midsize car for the same distance.

(!) When calculated over ten years, the production of the SUV alone caused more than 1 ton of CO2 per year! That would already exceed a person’s fair share of world pollution allowance before even one kilometer is driven. Driving 15,000 kilometers, is footprint would be 4.7 tons per year.

(!) The SUV’s greenhouse gas emissions of 0.239 kg of CO2 per kilometer correspond to the per-kilometer emissions of a passenger on an airplane!

(+) Alternative concepts can also be calculated and verified using this simple method. If ten people were to use one vehicle (car sharing), the production footprint (for a midsize car) per person per year would be no more than 60 kilograms. So each person saves more than half a ton of greenhouse gas per year compared to an individual user.

(!) Fossil fuels are not suitable for powering automobiles. Even small cars that use them produce more than one ton of greenhouse gas per year (0.08 kg CO2 per kilometer at 15,000 kilometers per year). For the whole world, this simply does not compute.

7 Coffee Break

Moka Express

Capsule Machine


It’s all about the content

So far, however, we have not dealt with what is really at stake in the analysis : the coffee.

Before it reaches the consumer, ground coffee is responsible for about 30 g of CO2-eq per cup (5g). 3,000 cups of coffee alone cause the release of 90 kg of CO2-eq. The reasoning behind the aluminum packaging is that it best protects the coffee and ensures the highest quality. It is right in principle to protect the precious commodity of the beans from destruction or loss of quality, because coffee is the essential product. Looking at the whole value chain of a cup of coffee, the coffee bean itself has the highest proportional CO2 footprint. The example of the coffee capsule machine is a purely technical solution, which attempts to produce quality at a high material cost. However, a conversation with a coffee expert revealed to us that the coffee in the capsules is neither particularly good nor fairly traded. And the advantage of perfect storage can also be achieved if some already known household instructions are followed.

(!) Always store the beans dry at room temperature; do not buy packages that are too large and keep resealing them. And the best aromas result if the beans are ground immediately before brewing.

With a price per kilo of up to 70 euros,we seem to be willing to spend for coffee from the capsule machine 3 to 4 times the price of excellent and fairly produced coffee. Much of the price of coffee is caused by speculation on the stock market and goes to people who never had the raw materials in their own hands. Even with coffee designated as “fair trade,” only a fraction of the price per kilo is earned by the coffee farmers. If we were to buy the coffee at this price per kilo from the farmers directly, it would provide them with a decent wage. There are already initiatives to import and roast the beans through smaller intermediaries, and to use part of the proceeds for the construction of schools so that the children have another option besides toiling on the plantations.

(!) Technical innovations are a way to improve and maintain the apparent quality of a raw material. In the example of the capsule system, it is obvious that this means a high and wasteful use of other valuable resources. In this case, it is not sustainable. An alternative is to disseminate knowledge on the production and preparation of coffee. Whoever is informed about the production and preparation methods, and is able to decide for themselves where he gets his coffee, can deal with the resource consciously. Quality is characterized not by a high price alone. It results from the valuation and honest dealing between the producers and the consumers.

(!) Using existing infrastructure : The Moka Express uses the existing kitchen infrastructure, reducing the resource consumption per product. Some coffee drinkers are committed to the French press or filter cup preparation methods, which work even more resource-efficiently with water heated in a kettle.

(!) Time factor : The coffee capsule machine is six minutes faster in preparation than the Moka Express. However, coffee drinking used to be seen in all cultures as a social ceremony which no one measures with a stopwatch. In addition, coffee has traditionally not been drunk alone. Methods that allowed the enjoyment of coffee at home were a great innovation. But where does this development lead today?
Innovation is too often understood today as something that promotes efficiency, allowing people to do anything anywhere at any time. Thus we are able to conduct even more business and consume even more – creating a hamster wheel.

(!) Design as a cultural discipline must be aware of the traditional rites that have evolved over many centuries.

8 Circular Economy

Tools for the Design Revolution, IDRV – Institute of Design Research Vienna, niggli 2014, p.98

Quick Death

On cartridge containers, the repair revolution and images of resistance.

Schneller Tod

Henry Ford, 1922 (Slade, 2007:32f)

„It is considered good manufacturing practice, and not bad ethics, occasionally to change designs so that old models will become obsolete and new ones will have the chance to be bought. […] We have been told […] that this is clever business, that the object of business ought to be to get people to buy frequently and that it is bad business to try to make anything that will last forever, because when once a man is sold a car he will not buy again. Our principle of business is precisely the opposite. We cannot conceive how to serve the consumer unless we make for him something that, so far as we can provide, will last forever. […] It does not please us to have a buyer’s car wear out or become obsolete. We want the man who buys one of our cars never to have to buy another. We never make an improvement that renders any previous model obsolete.“

In an abstract way, a gun and a printer can both be a “container” for cartridges. In both cases, this container is designed in such a way that it includes the triggering mechanism for activating the cartridges. For laser and inkjet printers, counters are installed in these containers, which, for example, report that the cartridge is spent after the 15,000th printed page.

(!) A warning light on the printer flashes : TONER LOW. But I just changed the cartridge …
Does this sound familiar?

This measure is known as “planned wearout” or “planned obsolescence” and it means that the lifespan of a product is intentionally shortened by the manufacturer – by manipulating counters, building in vulnerabilities, using inferior quality materials, or also by shortening fashion cycles – which should stimulate a new purchase. So half-full cartridges are thrown away; washing machines that function in principle are disposed of because repairs are more expensive than a new device; a new phone is bought every other year with the promise of additional features; old refrigerators are replaced with energy-efficient ones, and so on. This economic incentive structure was developed in the 1920s at General Motors, which introduced automobiles to the market in new configurations every year. Thus, customers should be made to buy new cars after three years. Today, planned obsolescence is practiced in various forms and in almost all industries.

(!) Placing the AK-47 and the printer side by side raises the question: Is it conceivable that the arms industry would give their products counters that indicate a weapon is useless after 15,000 shots? Probably not. This product would most likely not be purchased by belligerent powers. So why in our peaceful life do we constantly buy “for the dump”?


Long Life

What it takes to use things over generations.

As part of Vienna Design Week 2013, the IDRV researched the existing potential of Vienna’s 4th municipal district, which offers residents opportunities to have their things repaired, purchase used items, or even make things. A tour led to the often ignored and perhaps not yet sufficiently used small service providers of an alternative consumption and production culture opposed to the throwaway society. We spoke with the owners of these shops and received important suggestions on how things could be used longer.


The cycles of nature inspire and influence our perceptions. This gives rise to religious thoughts as well as technological progress.
08_BlaetterA t-shirt like a leaf?
How does a T-shirt need to be made in order to fit into a natural cycle? It needs to be made from natural materials, such as cotton. According to the Water Footprint Network, a global average of 10,000 liters of water is needed for irrigation in the production of one kilogram of cotton. This comes to about 2,500 liters per T-shirt. In some parts of the world, large amounts of water are not available without environmental damage and social injustice. Then the fibers must be dyed – and here, unfortunately, even today additional substances are used that are dangerous to humans and the environment. They have no place in biological cycles. A sustainable product should not only be less harmful to the environment; it should have a positive impact – it should even be nourishment.

On the compost heap.
We took a T-shirt that matches the criteria of a natural cycle in some respects (C2C) and buried it in a compost pile. After a few weeks, the garment begins to decompose. Since the coloring is non-toxic, the resulting earth can safely be used for the cultivation of food or even cotton once more. Sounds good, doesn’t it? It would, if it were not for the problem of the closed cycle. The establishment of closed nutrient cycles is a major challenge for many of the products that we use. And finally, not everyone has a compost heap. If, on the other hand, we were to throw the shirt into the organic waste, it would be fished out again in the sorting for composting.


9 Creativity Tools

Think of the world playfully.

There are a variety of methods for generating ideas – not only in the design field. Brainstorming, storytelling and mind maps are useful tools to communicate and sort through the ideas that are bouncing around. Using mood boards and personas, for example, products can be positioned so that they appeal to a defined group of consumers or awaken their desires. In practice, this often leads to products that we do not necessarily need, whose designs, combined with clever marketing strategies, produce a constant demand for the latest trends. On the other hand, this knowledge can also be used in conjunction with methodical design to establish measures for a sustainable world.


Where to?
The “One Tonne Life” example (World Calculation Models ) has shown that any objectives that arise from the world calculation models cannot be achieved sufficiently through technical innovation alone. Rather, we must also change our behavior. To define a target for the design process or to situate the status quo, matrices that reflect the different directions of development are useful. The Sustainable Design Matrix from the Cambridge Sustainable Design Toolkit, for example, places technical innovation on its horizontal axis and the innovation potential of a change in behavior on the vertical. Redesigns of conventional products that have been improved ecologically in some way are located in the lower ranges, while measures that motivate users to change their habits can be found in the upper ranges. With the combination of technical innovation and a change of user behavior, the potential for innovation increases in favor of sustainable development.

(+) Take advantage of the variety of design possibilities! The new behaviors of people are just as malleable as technical features. Other usage patterns demand radically new products – or dematerialize them.

(!) Only through the integration of sustainable design knowledge at the beginning of a product or system development process can it be ensured that the objectives of sustainable development will be pursued. Cosmetic procedures are only a course correction and tend to miss the mark.

But how?
Guides, roadmaps, do’s and don’ts, criteria lists, commandments, and even common sense point the way to decisions that are designed for the future. The number of criteria lists – partially rooted in the manifestos of companies and design studios – is huge, but these well-intentioned resolutions so far do not seem to come true in their application. But the criteria indicate the right direction and are helpful in scrutinizing and evaluating concepts. They also enable the assessment of the social and abstract requirements that cannot be mapped only according to their environmental impact.

(!) Ask the right questions, or : “Trust is good, control is better”. The existence of ecologically and socially sustainable business principles does not mean that they are well established at all levels. Only if you are curious and question things skeptically can you fi nd out what materials are really put into the products and vendor parts, what the working conditions are like, what waste is produced and how the well-intentioned energy effi ciency program is really applied.

Search for alternatives
Not all of the routes that have already been embarked upon are sustainable. At the same time, strategic tools for the future help to design frameworks and other forms of coexistence or to generate lifestyles under changed conditions. In this way, the looming problems of the future are addressed or the parameters of the new lifestyles are accepted as a starting point.


The sometimes playful design tools are highly versatile: they can serve an exploitative capitalist purpose just as well as a socially and environmentally sustainable one. The tools collected here give hints and suggestions that can contribute to sustainable design. It is your choice and your responsibility.



Allan Chochinov, 1000 Words: A Manifesto for Sustainability in Design,
Ken Garland with 20 other designers, first things first, 1964,
William McDonough, The Hannover Principles,
Manifesto on processes of change,
Slow Design Principles,
Association of German Industrial Designers, Der VDID Codex Industriedesign,
The Ecological Oath: The Hippocratic Oath for Designers,, AFD Charter for Eco-Designers, 2014


Guidelines and Checklists

A420, An Introductory Guide to Sustainability for Designers, Financial + Social + Environmental + Personal = Sustainable,
Bootcamp bootleg; Hasso Plattner, Institute of Design at Stanford,
Integration Ecological Design, Okala Practitioner; Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA),
German Federal Ecodesign Award, criteria matrix,
The Living Principles, Scorecard,
The Designer’s Field Guide to Sustainability; Lunar,
Guideline and Check List Manual for the Design of Low Impact Products for the Environment; RAPI.labo, Milano,
Angie Rattay, Planet Earth – Directions for Use, 2011
Summary of Cradle to Cradle Certification Criteria,
John Thackara, True Cost Design, Handouts und Listen,
Ursula Tischner, Carlo Vezzoli, Sustainability Design-Orienting Toolkit (SDO),
Carlo Vezzoli, Ezio Manzini, Design for environmental sustainability, 2008
Cambridge Sustainable Design Toolkit (University of Cambridge),
Design Play Cards (eco-innovators)
Drivers of change (A.R.U.P.)
Flowmaker – a Design tool (wemake)
Lego, Serious Play (other blocks in general)
Mind the Future (W.I.R.E),
Open Design Now,
Rethink (rethink games ltd),
SIS-Toolkit (OVAM)
Emily Pilloton, Jince Kuruvilla : Design Revolution. The Toolkit, 2009


Tools for Calculating the Environmental Impact of Materials

Energy Trumps (The agency of design),
Ecolizer 2.0 (OVAM),
Water footprint (virtual water),

10 Future Concepts

Tools for the Design Revolution – online lecture

10 Future concepts

How can we live in the future?
A key question that determines the IDRVs – Institute of Design Research Viennas work. Can we live in a city that needs no oil? What can we learn from H. D. Thoreau? Can all goods be designed and constructed in a way that they remain in biological and technical cycles without waste? These and other visionary concepts could already be implemented today, but only under suitable conditions.
A personal matter.
“We are all designers now.” – John Thackara, In the Bubble. Designing in a Complex World 2005

As we know from the first chapters of the course, the world has only a limited biocapacity and the ecological footprint of developed countries is far too much – it must be reduced urgently and with binding targets. Designers have the skills to draw alternative conceptions of life and present it to a larger number of people as desirable future alternatives. Let’s act informed and decidedly.

Equal, experimental collaborative projects with industry partners provide a first step in the right direction and forms of collaborative learning for the future. New practices and strategies can be checked in a set framework and later transferred into a larger context.

The example of the lighting control shows the importance of a creative leeway and communication between users and technical innovations.

For the future we need alternatives. A first step is the opening of closed systems, through to the users. Informed designers can mediate between them and the industry, create new incentives of collaborative working. Finally, we need concepts being accepted and strategies that include anyone. Systems are required which use the available technical options meaningfully and promote the improvement of efficiency without limitation of well-being.

The future concerns all of us and the tools for designing are available to everyone.