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Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED 17)


Thayer School of Engineering


What sustainable design practices can also drive innovation, and what practices do people value? Previous analysis of sustainable design methods, and the opportunism of designers generally, has suggested that design methods should actually be examined at the level of their component activities and mindsets, as each of these provides different advantages that designers could mix and match. This study performed workshops of three sustainable design methods for a total of 327 students, then surveyed students about which activities or mindsets within each design method drove innovation value, sustainability value, and any other value. The design methods tested were The Natural Step, Whole System Mapping, and Biomimicry. Qualitative and quantitative analyses of surveys found that some activities and mindsets were valued more than others for sustainability, innovation, or both, and to some extent revealed why. Some results were surprising and suggest new research directions.