Revised function analysis of sustainability: understanding the complexity of sustainability.

Paul Topf Aguiar de Medeiros, Charlotte Sjödell

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This article presents and discusses the case study “Scraping the surface,” a
workshop about sustainable design held for master’s students of different design majors at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design. Through marketing we, as consumers, are bombarded with products claiming to be sustainable. As a result, sustainability has become a buzz word. “Scraping the surface” highlighted the complex factors a designer needs to consider when designing sustainable products. During the workshop students discussed how a designer can have an impact on the lifecycle of a product or a system through material choice, production method, design for longevity, design for sustainable behaviour using the principles of behaviour change and design for the end of product use. Students were asked to bring a product that they found to be sustainable and to justify their reasoning using its characteristics. A list of criteria was compiled and converted into a function analysis. After the workshop a literature review was conducted to identify words and actions that could be added to make the list more holistic, focusing on ecology. To conclude, the proposed Revised Function Analysis of Sustainability can be used as a tool in the early design process to identify opportunities, specify deliverables and aid communication in development teams in terms of sustainability. The tool can also be used as a teaching and learning tool to provide a visual overview of possible traits that can be applied throughout the life cycle of an object. This can help to encourage upstream activities to prevent product renewal and avoid landing in the waste hierarchy. The template includes the potential benefits to the ecosystem and gives examples and further references. Consequently, the purpose of the tool is to be used as a creative tool rather than an assessment tool, specifying both desirable and undesirable outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDesign Culture(s)
Subtitle of host publicationCumulus Conference Proceedings Roma 2021
EditorsLoredana Di Lucchio, Lorenzo Imbesi, Angela Giambattista, Viktor Malakuczi
Place of PublicationRome
PublisherSapienza University of Rome
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)978-952-64-9004-5
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventCumulus Rome 2021: Design Culture(s) - Sapienza University of Rome, Faculty of Architecture, Rome, Italy
Duration: 2021 Jun 82021 Jun 11

Publication series

NameCumulus proceedings series
PublisherCumulus Association
ISSN (Electronic)2490-046X


ConferenceCumulus Rome 2021: Design Culture(s)
Internet address

Bibliographical note

About the Authors:
Paul Topf Aguiar de Medeiros is a master student at Lund University with a
background in Industrial Design Engineering. His field of interest is the
sustainable and ethical design of consumer electronics, on which he is
currently writing his thesis.

Charlotte Sjödell is a senior lecturer in Industrial design at the School of
Industrial Design at Lund University.

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Design
  • Architectural Engineering

Free keywords

  • Design
  • Sustainability
  • Function analysis
  • Creative method
  • Sustainable development goals


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