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Sustainability in brief


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Chris Sherwin, Head of Sustainability at Seymourpowell, discusses some of the big issues and challenges when tackling the design brief.

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Sustainability in brief

  1. 1. Sustainabilityin brief
  2. 2. Sustainability andthe design brief...CHRIS SHERWINHead of Sustainability atSeymourpowelldiscusses some of the bigissues and challenges whentackling the design brief.Anyone working in design understands the commitment to the issues, showing thatsanctity of the design brief. It’s the rules to work corporate targets are filtering down effectivelyto and the set of client requirements to check to the product-level.your designs against. You can exceed the You canbrief, but certainly never under deliver. To The less-good news is that sustainability is notget this right from the outset, one of our in all briefs, which it needs to be. There are alsoclient’s even runs detailed ‘briefing the brief’ stories of clients dropping sustainability goals,sessions at the start of every project. previously written into the brief, half way through a project, when faced with a hard business decision exceed theSo if the brief represents the all-powerful blueprintfor a successful project, it seems logical to get of paying extra for a more sustainable option. That’s hard to condone, but it’s unhelpful to wag brief but certainly neversustainability properly represented within designbriefs, as an essential step to making it more the finger at clients or designers on this, as in thesystematic. end, it’s about where we go from here. This thenSUSTAINABILITY IN BRIEFThough relatively new to Seymourpowell, a begs the question of what a design consultancy is to do about all this? Sustainability is a non- negotiable imperative now requiring us to consider under deliver.couple of things have immediately struck me the environmental and social impacts of everythingabout the design briefs I’ve been exposed to. we design from now onwards. At the same time,The good news is that clients are now including design provides a service in which we have nosustainability in design briefs. That’s a really direct control over clients’ decisions, so cannotencouraging step that shows increasing business strictly dictate what clients put in the brief.Confidential. © Seymour Powell Limited, 2012. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. 4 TIPS FOR 1.DEMYSTIFY SUSTAINABILITY Just writing the word ‘sustainability’ into design identified in 3, but clients may be thankful for you over delivering afterwards. Slightly risky SUSTAINABILITY AND briefs probably won’t cut it, as the term is not admittedly but worth considering if all else fails. DESIGN BRIEFS: detailed enough to work to when designing. Clients need to be clear on what they mean What you do is get going by sustainability in design briefs. Is it less waste, on this and recognise that lower carbon, renewable material use, designing for the poor or disabled? Also try to be specific sustainability is a journey - about targets, i.e. ask for a 20% weight reduction which is exactly how we are in packaging. This will give you a far clearer set of sustainability requirements in your design process. Clients needtackling it at Seymourpowell. Whilst it’s early days, here 2. JOIN UP THE SUSTAINABILITY DOTS to be clear on what they mean Linked to above, make sure your clients align are four tips for integrating any sustainable design requirements to their sustainability into design by sustainability corporate sustainability goals in the brief. They often have waste, manufacturing or carbon briefs based on our in design briefs... targets for their business, and these need to experiences and plans: be reflected in their design and their product work too. Joining up your clients corporate product story will be more convincing to external stakeholders too. 3.DEFINE VALUE FROM SUSTAINABILITY In truth, I don’t think we, or the broader industry CO2 reductions; lower toxicity; less waste; will get sustainability into every design brief renewable materials; can be often abstract to overnight; it’s a longer term goal. But it is the sort clients, not linked to traditional business drivers. of systematic step that is crucial for the design But less energy consumption, better health and community to ‘up-its-game’ on sustainability, to safety, less landfill tax, lower costs or a more match some of the progressive work secure material supply – now that’s business businesses speak! Sustainability goals often transfers are doing at the moment. In the end though, directly into business and monetary goals i.e. this may take a bit of design leadership. using less can cost less; ecology = economy, which certainly motivates clients if you do it! Clients come to designers to ‘add value’, to bring different, external perspectives, to challenge their 4. SUSTAINABILITY THROUGH STEALTH thinking, to make them better through and beyond A final approach is to ‘do sustainability and the design briefs they write. don’t tell’. This effectively means not getting formal agreement with clients via the design Why not on sustainability? brief, but designing to a set of ‘virtual’ set of sustainability requirements anyway. Obviously To find out more please contact: it’s smart to focus on the business benefits design@seymourpowell.comConfidential. © Seymour Powell Limited, 2012. All rights reserved.