1 Politecnico di Milano (ITALY)
2 Politecnico di Milano, National Interuniversity Consortium of Materials Science and Technology (INSTM) (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2022 Proceedings
Publication year: 2022
Pages: 5460-5467
ISBN: 978-84-09-37758-9
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2022.1410
Conference name: 16th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-8 March, 2022
Location: Online Conference
In the last decades, sustainability issues have received increasing attention by becoming a central topic both in industrial realities as a driver of innovation and within academia and educational contexts. Indeed, product design is a primary field of investigation since the environmental impact of a product and/or a service can be drastically reduced in its decisional and developmental stages. Therefore, it becomes crucial to train future practitioners to have a mastery of methods and a strong basis regarding the design for sustainability.

For this reason, the theme of Section P2 of the Final Synthesis Studio of Industrial Product Design Course at the Politecnico di Milano focused on the design of products that embody the complex nature of sustainability. It guides 59 B.Sc. Product Design students to develop their graduation projects.

A multidisciplinary faculty set up the course objectives that make students able to design sustainable products following three primary levels in a way to:
- Educate and raise consumers awareness on sustainability (awareness-raising),
- Be designed through sustainable materials and technologies (product development),
- Be included in a sustainable product system (strategic-systemic design).

Awareness-raising represents the most intrinsic level of the project; in it resides educational objectives linked to activating the consumers’ consciousness on sustainability issues. To encounter the complex nature of sustainability, each group of students selected one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined by the United Nations within the 2030 Agenda to target their project impact.

The second level embraces products development by sustainable materials and processes selection. The faculty suggested several insights and tools to the students through the presentation of research activities as guidelines based on the “Design for X” and on materials and processes selection for sustainability.

However, no material or product can be considered “sustainable” without considering the system around it. Indeed, the third level involves the systemic and strategic aspects of product design. The “Life Cycle Approach” is an example: it stimulates designers to observe and analyse the entire life cycle of the product by giving the possibility to propose sustainable innovations in the design phase. From a product-system mapping activity, it was possible for students to design and to take strategic decisions with a circular perspective.

To combine these three levels of product sustainability education, many design briefs have been identified, but the one selected as the core of the design activity has been edutainment (educational and entertaining) products for children aged 3-10 years. Children will nurture root principles of sustainability by active or passive learning while having fun, playing with a technically and systematically sustainable product. The results have been 60 products, that, following different SDGs, act to grow sparks of sustainability in young generations. The students assumed holistic and critical sustainable thinking, as well as contents, methods, and tools for design for sustainability.

The faculty provided multifaced research expertise: Making Materials team provides technical-scientific knowledge on sustainable materials and processes, CILAB works on strategic and systemic design management aspects, both supported in the activity by professional figures from the toy design sector.
Sustainable design, education, awareness-raising, SDGs, strategic aspects, product system.