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The education of undergraduate product designers in the principles and practice of sustainable design.

Cull, Kirsty Amanda


Kirsty Amanda Cull


Julian Malins

Martin Edge

Cristiaan de Groot


There is a growing recognition that product designers have a responsibility to ensure that their designs are intrinsically sustainable and do not add to the growing pressures on the environment. Developing sustainable products requires designers to be aware of the conflicting issues and constraints that need to be taken into account as part of the design process. Finding appropriate ways to provide the essential knowledge to support designers so that they can develop sustainable products has been the focus of the research reported in this thesis. A set of characteristics that can be used to classify levels of sustainability of products was established, which identified "tangible" and "intangible" considerations that would need to be understood and applied by product designers. Having established a framework for understanding and applying sustainable characteristics to new products, an educational strategy was developed and evaluated with groups of product design students in two institutes of higher education in Scotland. The strategy for providing the design students with the necessary understanding suggests that "tangible" characteristics should be introduced at an earlier stage in the students' education, followed by more "intangible" characteristics at a later stage. The literature review explores the definitions between green design, eco design and sustainable design, and explores how the concept of sustainable design has been communicated to designers through the design brief and as part of the educational process. The thesis examines pedagogical strategies which have been used in design education to provide students with insights into the issues surrounding sustainability. The methodology adopted for this research was based on an action research model, which involved the researcher undertaking a series of case studies with groups of design students and using her own design practice to gain insights into the design process. The case studies were used to develop a prototype educational strategy for introducing the characteristics into an undergraduate design curriculum.


CULL, K.A. 2005. The education of undergraduate product designers in the principles and practice of sustainable design. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis. Hosted on OpenAIR [online]. Available from:

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jun 21, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jun 21, 2022
Keywords Sustainable design; Design education; Design undergraduates; Teaching sustainability
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