Principle No. 4 — Sustainability

Designing a product from concept to production is not a linear path, it has to go through multiple steps and iterations until it has reached the desired goal. Out of the many aspects of the design process, there are two that are often overlooked; sustainability and end-of-life-cycle. As industrial designers, we're not only responsible for creating a product but also the end of a product's life cycle. We live in a closed system where resources are limited, and we're using them faster than nature can replenish itself. It's unfortunate that the whole cycle is neglected. On the surface level, most material/product are recyclable; however, there's always different burdens involved for recycling. For example, paper is a great material as it is flat, thin, diverse usage, as well as recyclable — But what is involved in paper's recycling process? Recycling paper requires a lot of water, which creates water waste as a byproduct of the recycling process. Another aspect that people tend to forget is the ink printed on papers. Printing ink can contain pigment, defoamer, surfactant, resin/polymer, wax, solubilizer, antioxidant, and other additives. When printed papers get recycled, those chemicals are released into the water and environment. Modern recycling process is not perfect, and it requires designers, engineers and industry leaders to join forces and create a better standard, similar to Apple's recent commitment. Currently, the leading organization advocating for sustainability is Cradle to Cradle. The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute is a non-profit organization that educates and empowers manufacturers of consumer products to become a positive force for society and the environment, helping to bring about a new industrial revolution. I always design with sustainability in mind as their process helps us analyze, understand and shift the burden of product — projects I've worked on that best demonstrates are MetroWay and Intention. The road to reach the ultimate sustainable goal may be long, but the process will only get better and we'll able to reach it eventually. By truly understand the cause and effects of sustainability, we can design more effectively for the world and design products that are cradle-to-cradle instead of cradle-to-grave.