Design next stop: design for the fuller, greener life

Eco packaging, innovative applications and making people’s lives more sustainable are long-term goals for Nokia.

With the UK facing a national debt of £770bn, businesses and consumers are more aware of the need to avoid wastefulness. Marketers, too, are playing their part and are turning to design to create more sustainable enterprises, campaigns, products and retail spaces. But this isn’t just about making design more “green”; it’s about making things last longer and work more efficiently.

This approach, sometimes called “cradle to cradle” (C2C), ensures that sustainability is designed into a business’ strategy, its products and its supply chains. As Puma chief executive Jochen Zeitz explained at an event run by agency Good (Beta) last month/ “Being sustainable isn’t just about being able to do what we do indefinitely.

“For me, sustainability is more than that. It’s doing things in a way that makes the world a better place than it was before, from an economic, social, environmental and cultural perspective.”

Puma is one of the brands leading this new way of thinking with its recently redesigned “clever little bag” packaging for its footwear. At first glance, the box, which has a divider down the centre and pulls out to create a bag for the purchase after sale, looks like a nicely designed piece of packaging.

But the design has an impact on Puma from its supply chain through to its marketing. For example, the shoes have to be kept stored in a certain way to be shipped across from its factories, with each piece of footwear separated to maintain its quality in very hot conditions.

James Wallman, editor of global lifestyle news and trend network LS:N Global, says: “By designing a barrier into the box – tissue paper was previously used to perform this function – it not only protects the goods during transport while saving on materials, but also saves Puma employees work, so more can be done in less time.”

Helen Hughes, sustainability strategist, Design Bridge

We look to use sustainability as a catalyst for ideas that can make our clients’ businesses more successful in the long run.
It’s still rare for us to get a brief from a client that is specifically about an “eco” design. But I think that’s actually a positive thing. It shows that people don’t see sustainability as a niche idea; it’s now part of a mainstream brand plan. We’re definitely seeing evidence that more clients than ever consider sustainability to be part of their wider business strategy.

In terms of innovative sectors, I see quite a lot of movement in the leisure industry. Both Puma with its “clever little bag” initiative (see main feature for more details) and also Nike are exciting consumers with their initiatives. “Clever little bag” is smart because it turns the idea of packaging on its head – it isn’t just a redesign of a box but a whole rethink of the company’s supply chain.

In future, I hope to uncover areas that go beyond what consumers are expecting from brands and sustainability. We’re all focused on responding to customer insights and offering them what they want now but we also need to look further than the immediate future.

topline trends

  • Orange premiered its “recharging” wellington boots at this year’s Glastonbury festival. The footwear can translate heat energy from feet into electricity, which can be collected to charge your mobile phone.
  • Apple has applied for a patent for its iPhone to feature solar panels, which will be encased within the body of the phone, possibly even behind its sleek surface.
  • The Toxguard blanket can be used instead of traditional air purification systems in the home. Although it functions as a normal blanket, its design uses carbon technology enabling it to be used to filter unpleasant odours.
  • Levi Strauss has launched a design initiative, the Care Air Design Challenge, to find the most innovative way of line drying clothing in a bid to cut down on tumble dryer use.
  • The Brolli, designed by a Brunel University student, claims to be an “unbreakable” version of the often flimsy traditional umbrella. The Brolli soaks water into an inner tube and does not get bent out of shape.

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