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C. Forés Tomás1, J. Galán Serrano2, F. Felip2

1Escola d'Art i Superior de Disseny de Castelló (SPAIN)
2Universitat Jaume I (SPAIN)
Sustainable human development has become a need in today's globalised world. Design, understood as a cultural phenomenon, is not unrelated to this need, as can be seen both in practice through many of the products designed with sustainable values, and in theory through the numerous publications that are being produced around issues related to sustainable processes. However, the complexity of the significance of sustainable design demands a critical approach to the concept of sustainability in order to establish a disambiguation of the term, which is misused in many contexts.

This paper offers a global analysis that integrates the origins, evolution, components and situation of sustainable design in the socio-economic framework, with the aim of breaking with partial approaches and helping to understand the term correctly, while proposing the basis for moving towards a change in the current model.

In order to disambiguate the term of sustainable design, this study uses a methodology based both on the analysis of works by relevant authors in the design field (Bonsiepe, Manzini, Margolín, Papanek, Cortina) and on the analysis of relevant bibliographical sources belonging to different fields, such as economic, business, ecological and social, establishing relationships and differentiations with the terms of ecodevelopment, ecodesign, globalism, growth, ecological balance and circular economy.

The results of the present work show that for the disambiguation of the term sustainability it is necessary to simultaneously consider 5 areas: economic, political, environmental, social and cultural, and point out the current pre-eminence of an economicist vision of the term that is made visible through an excessive faith in technology, a biased vision of sustainability that benefits the current economic system, the integration of the social factor exclusively from the responsibility of the company, and a vision of the future based on a design that lacks the necessary critical foundation to stop feeding a culture based on unsustainable consumption and production models.

As this is a timely topic, the relevance of this study for the field of design lies in two aspects: on the one hand, it allows the current designer to better understand the concept of sustainability, moving it away from a biased view, normally oriented only towards commercial purposes; on the other hand, in the field of education, the results of the study can be easily integrated into the curriculum of the current Degrees in Industrial Design, allowing the students and future designers to enrich their training with a more complete and critical view of the term, while at the same time allowing them to understand the need to integrate ethical values into the design process.