Listen to your customers, too. It will help you to make key decisions as to where to put your resources at the beginning of the design process. Research shows that while a majority of global consumers are willing to pay more for environmentally sustainable products, they aren’t willing to compromise on experience. Carrying out consumer research early will ensure your company is working efficiently towards an offering that people actually want, resulting in a less wasteful development process and improved customer experience and satisfaction. The key question to ask is: how can our brand improve the user experience and make good, sustainable decisions at the same time?
Consider how furniture manufacturer Vitsoe has built on the work of Dieter Rams – arguably the godfather of good design principles. It has been designing to these principles for nearly half a century, with its reusable packaging travelling across Europe. Its bags are returned after delivery to be used again and again for 15 years or more, unburdening the recipient of the necessity to dispose of stacks of cardboard in the process. That’s a win-win, and just one example of a company doing things right and improving the customer experience at the same time.
In the Western world, customers are so far removed from the production process that it's all too easy to keep the true cost of production quiet; poor working conditions, under-paid workers and polluting by-products. And when it comes to complex products, being able to track these factors is increasingly expensive and often impractical. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, however. If all businesses start questioning the ethics of their suppliers rather than turning a blind eye, our collective voices will be heard. Sustainability might seem like a luxury sometimes, but it’s a necessity if we are to continue producing products and consuming goods long into the future.
Jo Barnard is founder and creative director of industrial design studio Morrama, working with businesses on a fast-paced design process incorporating both user experience and manufacturing feasibility.
To read more about the materials that will shape our future, download our Material Far Futures report.