»The quality of drafts is the quality of the world.«
Otl Aicher

The world as we know it today is the result of manifold design processes. How we live, sleep, work, travel, communicate with each other – and thus ultimately the way we live – is decisively determined by design. Design not only engineers and alters our material reality, it also fulfils a role that is both communicative and identity-forming. It shapes our everyday culture as well as all aspects of our social practice. Not least, design decisions essentially determine the impacts of products and processes on our environment.

Design should meet »the real needs of people«, says designer and design critic Victor Papanek. Paramount thereby is not »the attractive form« but the social and environmental impacts. Papanek, who is considered a pioneer in sustainable design, noted the negative consequences of uncritical production as far back as the early 70s. Amidst the enthusiasm for new materials and production possibilities, he called on designers to »abstain from disfiguring our planet with poorly designed objects and buildings.«

Sustainable design aims to incorporate environmental and social principles – from conception and production, all the way to recycling. Accomplished design as described by Papanek is characterised by empathy. It places an emphasis on cultural and social expertise, as well as knowledge of ecological and economic contexts. Accordingly, sustainability should not be understood as a specific direction or area within the overall field of design, but as a prerequisite of all design, which strives to contribute to positive change.

Projects on this topic

Ecodesign for SME


EcoDesign Circle

Capacity Building

Design Discourse


German Federal Ecodesign Award

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