RE-THINKING STUDENT DESIGN PROJECTS FOR SUSTAINABLE CONSUMPTION
Editor: Buck, Lyndon; Grierson, Hilary; Bohemia, Erik
Author: Reynolds, Timothy James; Jenkins, Barry
Institution: Bournemouth University, United Kingdom; Broome Jenkins
Section: The effect that design and engineering have on global co-habitation
DOI number: 10.35199/EPDE.2023.20
In recent years, sustainability has become a core constituent of contemporary undergraduate Product Design courses. However, many students continue to struggle to put theory into practice when undertaking design projects, due in no small part to their complex nature and conflicting priorities. Most often, considerations regarding sustainability are limited to the recyclability and re-usability of parts and materials, along with some attempts to reduce raw material and energy consumption. While their intentions may be admirable, such efforts are usually tempered by the degree to which these choices are deemed to adversely affect product function, form and ultimately cost. Furthermore, these attempts do little if anything to address the problems associated with human behaviour that are largely responsible for creating the majority of global pollution and waste. Undergraduate Product Design students at Bournemouth University have recently undertaken live projects in conjunction with an established product design consultancy. The design brief set by the industrial partner has encouraged students to reappraise the entire nature of consumption, placing a particular emphasis on alternative modes of acquisition within circular economies. One of the aims being to challenge students to identify opportunities to innovate beyond the traditional boundaries associated with design and manufacturing. A particular obstacle this presents students with is: how to tackle conventional modes of thinking that support economic and societal barriers to change? Something which in many cases requires students to reflect critically on their own paradigms and preconceptions. This paper addresses some of the difficulties educators encounter when attempting to encourage undergraduate design students to adopt more effective sustainable design practices. It discusses the experiences of those involved in delivering the aforementioned live project and reviews its effectiveness and limitations as a means of embedding sustainability in student projects more successfully. It concludes with recommendations based on the observations of the various stakeholders and subsequent reflections on their experiences both throughout and beyond the project.