WIT Press

Extant Design: Designing Things As They Are


Free (open access)








878 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


S. Walker


A brief overview of two quite different but interrelated ways of addressing sustainability in relation to product design, namely \“incremental improvement through design” and \“more fundamental considerations of sustainability and product design” is followed by a design exploration that focuses on the second, while also incorporating aspects of the first. The basis of the exploration is described, and supplemented with tangible examples that illustrate the ideas. The focus of the discussion and the design work is on the still-useful objects that are so readily discarded and replaced because they are no longer regarded as useful, or for aesthetic reasons, or because minor technical advancements render these older objects less desirable. The three design explorations included here attempt to offer ways of re-valuing older products, thereby increasing their useful life and, in the process, making some contribution to mitigating the need for and effects of replacement products. Keywords: sustainability, product design, material culture, novelty, consumerism, moderation. 1 Introduction A contemporary challenge for design is to re-imagine and re-interpret some of our most fundamental notions of material culture. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, it is critical that we begin addressing sustainable issues in a much more substantial manner than has been evident to date. Secondly, if design is to contribute to human culture in a more meaningful way then it has to move beyond the often shallow, style-based notions of product design that have become so prevalent over the last 50 years. Here, a discussion of approaches to sustainable design that might be termed ‘incremental product improvement’ models, are contrasted with approaches that


sustainability, product design, material culture, novelty, consumerism, moderation.