1 Politecnico di Milano (ITALY)
2 Politecnico di Milano; National Interuniversity Consortium of Materials Science and Technology (INSTM) (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2021 Proceedings
Publication year: 2021
Pages: 4398-4404
ISBN: 978-84-09-34549-6
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2021.1014
Conference name: 14th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 8-9 November, 2021
Location: Online Conference
Designing for sustainability is nowadays a settled objective in design education through the optimisation of the different phases of the products and systems’ life cycle. The corporate landscape is revolutionising its long-term goals, guided by the regulations and supported by supply chain consortia. In Italy, Conai (Consorzio Nazionale Imballaggi) represents the consortium that allows the dialogue between different stakeholders, guaranteeing the recycling and recovery objectives of packaging waste required by law.

In this perspective, the workshop "Materials matter" focused on designing iconic products to represent, communicate, and spread the role of Conai and reward the efforts of its stakeholders for sustainability. The workshop activity has been dedicated to students of the B.Sc of Product Design, M.Sc of Integrated Product Design and Design Engineering course at the School of Design of Politecnico di Milano. In particular, 15 M.Sc and 29 B.Sc students participated in 5 and 9 working groups, respectively.

The workshop has been structured over three weeks by integrating the educational objectives of M.Sc and B.Sc students in a unique and evolving flux of activities. This educational choice was made in line with the concept of sustainable development seen as a process, an evolution, to stimulate collaboration between different generations and groups, to achieve a common goal: sustainability. Sustainability was therefore conveyed at different levels, not only through the teaching content but also through the methodology applied.

The first week: “Blue sky research”, was carried out with 15 M.Sc students through a series of lectures by the faculty and speeches by Conai about its own identity and sustainability vision. The M.Sc students were able to carry out a research activity and represent the design context into branched and complex system maps to define the boundaries of project actions.

In the second week: “Generative week”, students faced first a divergent concept phase and then a convergent one of projects selection and definition. This week saw the continuation of the M.Sc students' activities and the involvement of 29 B.Sc students. The M.Sc students exposed their research to their younger colleagues to provide a solid basis for their design process, becoming their mentors.

The third week: "Conscious week", was carried out with the M.Sc students, who had become mature in their research and idea generation, to engineering their projects and in parallel to re-start, generating new concepts, more elaborate and aware of all the objectives.

In the end, both M.Sc and B.Sc students had the opportunity to present their projects to Conai’s and teaching boards. The 30 concepts presented embody both the consortium's sustainability vision and eco-design strategies, thus reaching a maturity that brought Conai to select seven projects for production.

The workshop also represents a multidisciplinary teaching opportunity, with the involvement of different research groups: the first unit provided technical-scientific knowledge of materials and sustainability, and the second one of strategic design and design management for technological innovation. The active participation of Conai permits students to get in touch with a complex reality and system, with objectives far away from the mere business rules, being a non-profit consortium at the Italian forefront of the ecological transition.
Sustainable development, Ecodesign, Teamwork, Collaborative learning, Learning-by-doing.