OPINIÓN. “The great opportunity of sustainable design” by Oriol Guimera


Interactive and sustainable lighting system for gastronomic spaces or hotels of Artemide. Photo courtesy of IED Barcelona School of Design. 

We often talk about sustainability, but how can we define it? What is it exactly that it sustains? Sustainability is a set of processes with which we guarantee the quality of life of the people, at least at a real level and for the next generations. Maintaining a sustainable system is not possible with a linear production model, the consumer society and the large amount of waste that is generated every year.

If we try to solve it without an in-depth reflection in an unplanned and systemic way, it generally impacts the costs, the quality and appearance of the product itself. However, if we look at the whole and with a circular perspective, sustainability – or even better design for abundance, as William McDonough calls it – does seem like an opportunity.

Understanding sustainability as an opportunity for design is essential for schools in Spain, which must face it all levels: from eliminating the entry into the circle of toxic and dangerous materials, to strategies of business generation, cost savings or loyalty, and mayor customer satisfaction.

Materials are key in the design of products and it is important to make them known: proximity, minimal impact on their transfer, recycled, recyclable or biodegradable. It is essential that they can be separated from one another: the design for disassembly. In a second level we should talk about finishes, which should be minimal and preferably mechanical, avoiding chemicals (which make the material hardly separable). We will use the minimum possible material. Preferably we will choose proximity production systems with locally available technologies.

The vision of IED Barcelona about training has peculiarities derived from its origin, closely linked to society and the market. For us, it is essential to open the school to the market, through pedagogical experiences and collaborations with companies. The final projects are always in collaboration with a prestigious brand, with the quality of the shared values, but that allow us, at the same time, to experiment. Examples may be the collaborations with Santa & Cole, Artemide, the Comú de Canillo (Andorra) or the foundation of Roca, We Are Water. All of them are very different from each other, but sometimes, with the possibility of being focused from a vision close to the product or the service.

We have a humanistic vision of the design, like the contributions of Óscar Guayabero with the subject Design for living -namesake to the exhibition and the annual congress- the collaborations of Curro Claret-habitual collaborator with foundations and NGOs-. In addition, the IED has been the first design school to carry out a project with Doctors without Borders, Nobel Peace Prize winner.

“It is a task of current academic institutions to provide a critical and analytical vision in order to create a positive impact on our environment. We must break with this linear vision and provide a multifocal perspective”

It is a task of current academic institutions to provide a critical and analytical vision of this phenomenon in order to create a positive impact on our environment. We must break with this linear vision and provide a multifocal perspective: starting from that concrete, ecodesign and circular design (rejecting the concept of waste) applied to the product; to the totality of the economic system (circular economy) that involves much more than a product, the management and even the transport system that is used.

The programs are constantly revised and updated by social changes or technological improvements with the clear intention of adapting them to the professional future. This change is due to the technological acceleration that we are living, it allows to reformulate the management and production of the design as 3D printing, an excellent resource for the implementation of sustainability and avoid the impact on packaging or transport that does not exist recently.

It is important that the design is at the service of the people and that it responds to the current needs of society. A society, increasingly, more global.

Oriol Guimera

Development Director of the Design Area of the IED Barcelona School of Design