Thursday, September 04, 2008

Design and Sustainability: You can't do it if you can't sell it.

Recently, I was contacted by a design student in London who was collecting information on how sustainability can be integrated into traditional design education. As someone who's been practicing sustainable design for some years now, she asked me "what are the resistance points when it comes to adopting sustainable practices?"

Personally, I think that much of the resistance that designers face when it comes to integrating sustainability in their practices has much to do with client management, another thing that tends to be lacking in standard design education. Since adopting sustainable design principles at the zen kitchen a couple of years ago, It's been my experience that many designers are informed about and concerned with sustainability, but they lack the ability to convince their clients that incorporating these principles into their work can be balanced with creating an effective marketing tool. As a result, they're reluctant to bring it up, or to get started with sustainability in the first place.

While it's great that more students are interested in learning about sustainability and it's certainly a valid thing to add to any educational program, all the sustainable ideals in the world mean nothing if the designer can't convince the client of why they should be doing it. So, more than just teaching designers how to work sustainably, it's important to give them the skills to be consultants for their clients/bosses, and not just the girl at the Mac. This is especially important because the skills required to sell sustainability to clients are no different than the skills needed to sell your concept to a client, or convince him that while he may want the logo to be bigger, it won't be as effective as leaving it at a tasteful size. It's all about working *with* your client, rather than *for* her.

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