Will sustainability change design and innovation?

Seymourpowell is one of the world’s leading design and innovation companies.

Maybe you are interested in commenting on our question: How will sustainability change our approaches to design and innovation over the next few years?

I’m sure I have less to say than one of the world’s leading design and innovation companies.

The Seoul, South Korea Dream Hub 21 project has been underway since 2007. There is a lot of future design concept and future design philosophy that uses the language of “Sustainability” in the following link. (pay particular attention to the presentations by the 5 competing architectural firms SOM, Jerde, Daniel Libekind, Foster + Partners, Asymtote in the Master Plan/History link - all are world leading design and innovation companies)


There is about 3 hours of viewing content (image, video, Flash) on the site and should be digested in several viewings.

International investment is supporting “Sustainability” now as a design theme in many Asian cities. These cities and those that live and work there will benefit from the work that is being done now. Whether it will be sustainable remains to be seen however.

I am in a unique position to be living and working in Seoul now and am involved in many ways (design/development, design teaching, design consulting) with DreamHub21 and projects similar to it. It is exciting and inspiring to watch this project unfold both in the conceptual phase online, as well as observing how the design will be implemented over the next 6 years.

One of the ancillary benefits of the project is the adjacent removal of the entire US Army Yongsan Garrison which has been an eyesore since 1945. I cannot think of a more positive sustainable design tenet than to remove a foreign occupying military from a city and its 20+million population.

As a student, we are constantly reminded about how we need to design differently, to that of the way in which things we’re designed 20 years ago.

There is definantly more of an emphasis from government, and the media, on a need to be come more sustainable, and the only way in which this is going to happen, is if Industrial Designers, start to design things, to accomodate more sustainable needs.

I’m having a really hard time keeping politics out of this discussion… …

I’m paraphrasing James Dyson here: sustainability will cut out fraudulent design and lazy engineering that just calls itself sustainable. For example, designs which use massively thick walls of plastic just to be more durable over time. The kind of design that’s engineered to be radically efficient and doesn’t consume much materials will win. How it will look is hard to predict, but the function will certainly be a lot better.

As for innovation, a lot more interdisciplinary effort will be involved. The Irish government is doing a massive experiment in this kind of area - it’s funding intensive six month long courses to re-train unemployed engineers, designers, technicians and architects into IT-related areas such as Software Development and even User Experience. I can imagine how much better will software products become.

Potent innovations could be:

  • A product material that has the properties of plastic but can be broken down into environmentally harmless constituents just by dunking it into a special fluid or electric field.

  • A battery technology that packs 10 times the amount of charge into the same envelope as today!s batteries. That wouls change a lot of things.

  • An actually usable way to create electricity from peoples’ day to day body movements. E.g. a business shirt that recharges your phone and laptop by virtue of you moving around and doing various activities.