From short- to long-term thinking
It is in human nature to be risk-averse and reluctant to change. However, Covid-19 has shown us that people are capable of reacting and adapting quickly to ever-changing circumstances. Impulses to change mindsets and behaviours can come from the top down, such as from politics, but also from the bottom up through individual initiatives. Inserting regulations at the end of product life cycles might be better than nothing, but it tends to be only smoke and mirrors. We cannot afford short-term thinking anymore. Problems have to be tackled at the root — at the design phase of new products and services, for instance. Strategists, designers, engineers, everyone can lead the way to a sustainable society by being aware of the whole ecosystem and integrating the planet as a key stakeholder. We are all fully responsible for what we bring to this world. So what about stepping outside our bubble and designing a better world? Planet Centric Design could be a means to this end.
Nothing changes if nothing changes
“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.”
― Richard Bach
Up to now, we have put a lot of emphasis on making everything desirable and frictionless for the users. It does not come as a surprise that smartphones have become an extension of ourselves. However, it would be egoistic to think that empathy is a capacity that can only be used for human beings. Design Thinking is great for complex problem solving and is already a powerful filter to avoid offering useless stuff that will be heavily marketed to push customers to consume for the sake of consuming. Ok cool — but not enough. It does not mean that such a human-centred approach is now obsolete. Starting with the “why”, solving problems iteratively, being agile, and responding to needs is still logical and relevant. However, in order to develop responsible and sustainable solutions, we need to step up a gear by adopting planet-centric thinking.
How might we create desirable, feasible, viable, and harmless solutions?
Planet-centred design can help conceptualise better solutions for society that take into account the complexity and limitations of the earth. A shift of mindset, asking the right questions, a focus on sustainable processes and structures are fundamental. The key is to find the sweet spot between social, environmental, and economic values. It is about the wellbeing of communities as well as the planet. This methodology has been around for a few years now, but it is gaining visibility. Online documentation on the subjects is growing. Let’s join the movement and give it a try! 🌍
“Each step you take reveals a new horizon. You have taken the first step today. Now I challenge you to take another.”
– Dan Poynter
Example of Planet Centric Design
Case study: VESA
VESA is a Swiss start-up co-founded in 2019. We are currently four partners working on it part-time. We wish we could save the world, but we know we can not do it on our own. This is why we aim to raise awareness for education and sustainability.
Having children in our entourage, we felt overwhelmed by the amount of plastic and digital toys available on the market. Therefore, we decided to develop responsible and educational goods by bringing together social, local, and ecological resources.
Our starting point was to work towards Sustainable Development Goal 12 — responsible consumption and production. We applied the Design Thinking mindset and process by observing our environment and empathising with it. We then went through a discovery phase including interviews with experts, potential users, and customers. After a few rounds of prototypes and iterations, an educational game of twelve Swiss wooden cubes was born. As a result, each side of the cube stimulates one or more of the child’s faculties in terms of touch and cognitive development from the age of 18 months on.
A thousand and one ways to grow with a peaceful mind
Our approach is also to explore how we can re-design the way our economy works and aim for a circular and collaborative one. This is why the entire lifecycle is part of our products’ design. We develop goods that can be ‘made to be made again’ and power the system with renewable and long-lasting concepts. Thus, we are committed to using Swiss resources, such as FSC certified wood, and contributing to biodiversity in Switzerland by planting trees in partnership with Almighty Tree.
Not only is the production local and eco-conscious, but it is also inclusive. Our wooden games are produced at the Bellechasse prison in the canton of Fribourg. Through this partnership, we intend to value the work done by the inmates in order to support them in their professional and private reintegration.
Time will tell where this initiative will take us. Try, fail, learn — step by step, we push and apply our philosophy further to hopefully inspire others to do likewise. Let’s disrupt the system together! 🌱