Besides, it is not only possible, but already a reality, in a sense, that there is no domain of design where, at least on a debatable level, the question about relationships between a specific sector and environmental issues has not been raised. But here the range of attention will be restricted to the complex design activity that mainly deals with manufacturing industrial goods, or rather the field that is currently referred to as industrial design. This limitation of observation platform, even while excluding other important sectors of design, maintains a remarkable internal articulation and complexity, due to either a wide range of interested professionals or a degree of operational field or cultural background from which it originates. Not only this though. The industrial design will be intended in its most up-todate definition, which does not apply merely to physical products (defined by material, shape and function), but which also extends to the production system, that is, the integrated body of goods, services and communication that is used to represent the companies on the market. Environmental awareness and derived activities have followed an upstream route: from pollution treatments (end-of-pipe policies rely on downstream neutralisation of negative environmental effects created by industrial products) to intervention in production processes that cause pollution (the topic of clean technologies), to redesigning the products and/or services that make these processes necessary (the topic of low impact products). Finally, the ecological awareness has brought to discussion and to reorientation social behaviour, i. e. the demand for the products and services that ultimately motivate the existence of those processes and products (the topic of sustainable consumption). Consequently, this progression has involved a certain transformation of the overall nature of the participating variables: when two primary levels (downstream interventions and clean technologies) focus mainly on technological issues, then in successive ones (low impact products and sustainable consumption) the role of design and socio-cultural issues amplifies progressively. As a matter of fact, low impact product development might also require clean technologies, but demands for secure new designing capacities (in fact, it is possible to create low impact products without any technological sophistication). Similarly, even with more emphasis, promoting sustainable consumption and behaviour might create a demand for new products, but it can also entail reorientation of choices towards new product service systems (that together satisfy certain needs and desires) that in order to be accepted require cultural and behavioural changes of the consumers. Thus, suggesting on these grounds that solutions that introduce higher ecological qualities cannot disregard the level of socio-cultural susceptibility. Within this general frame of reference the role of industrial design can be summarised as activity that connects technologically possible with ecologically necessary and tends to give birth to new significant socio-cultural propositions. To understand better what has been said, it is useful to indicate and briefly present four fundamental levels of intervention:
Published on Nov 17, 2010
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