SDFY – A Green Design Framework

A new post by Alex Crowfoot creates a framework for integrating sustainable design into the standard “double diamond” IDEO-style design process. Alex has been speaking and working on sustainable virtual design for many years, and it’s great to see this attempt to fold sustainability as one of the ‘-ibility’ words used in design thinking.

My earlier attempts from about 5 years ago:

  1. Elements of a sustainable design framework redux
  2. Sustainable Web Design Deliverables #1: Design Briefs
  3. Sustainable Design Deliverables #2: Ux Analysis
  4. Sustainable Web Design in Ux, Ui, and ID Deliverables

The new site, Stop Designing for Yesterday is at this link, with PDFs for various design thinking deliverables with sustainable integration: 

While me may critique the design community for ignoring, say the carbon footprint of their websites, the problem is most designers just don’t know where to begin. Alex points out three common problems:

  1. They seemed to be unconsciously waiting for someone else to fix things

  2. They felt powerless to consider sustainability when there wasn’t already a clear remit to do so

  3. They didn’t know where to start

The SDFY template allows designers to augment their design briefs and communication deliverables so that sustainability becomes part of the project goals. Here’s a sample of one of the canvases, showing where it fits into the overall design thinking strategy:

Sustainable Design in Design Thinking
Example for re-thinking the design brief for sustainability, within the overall “double diamond” design process.

Alex identifies the steps during the entire “double diamond” as follows:

  1. Bring Sustainability into the Design Brief – how to (re)write a design brief to include sustainability in the mix.
  2. Environmental Cost Canvas – consider the impact of the proposed product, or the larger service or organization in terms of energy and resource.
  3. Lifecycle Impact Assessment Canvas – while a full Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) would be difficult, this canvas features a mini-LCA that the design team can fill out with stakeholders/
  4. HMW for Green – on this canvas, Alex poses “How Might We” (HMW) questions specifically posed about the sustainability of the product or service, either reducing its impact, or develop a product that by its action, resists impact.
  5. Lean Green Canvas – just adds the environment as part of the class “lean canvas” startup deliverable/
  6. Minimize Data Transfer – a deliverable which allows the system for a designed object to be diagram, allowing points of data to be identified, with the goal of reducing data use.
  7. Prioritize Opportunities – after doing the earlier ideation, a quadrant canvas for mapping easy/hard versus makes a big/small difference
  8. 3 Horizons Framework – mapping sustainability challenges over the short, medium, and long-term.

Since 2011, I’ve written various documents in this spirit, but this framework fully integrates Sustainable Virtual Design into regular design thinking better than anything in the past. Bravo! Spread the word.

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