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Designing for Sustainability: Challenges and Theoretical Considerations

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Product demand and high consumption have been traditionally viewed as traits of successful business in the mass market. However, the environment is under immense strain to sustain hyper-consumption driven lifestyles fuelled by conventional mass market business strategies. Sustainable services have started to emerge to disrupt such business practices and alter consumption driven processes to reduce the harmful impact on the environment. However, the adoption of such services has largely been limited to a niche environmentally conscious audience. Research has argued that for sustainable services to have a noticeable environmental impact, they need to be adopted in the mass market. In this paper, we discuss the challenges and outline the theoretical design considerations needed to frame desirable value propositions for sustainable services intended for the mass market. To do this, we review literature from the fields of strategic design, service design and Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and identify conceptual overlaps with broader discussions on sustainability and suggest that sustainability can potentially find a familiar voice in design due to their common interest in advocating an emphasis on people’s needs and aspirations for a better present and future. Mutually, design and sustainability can discover new representations and opportunities for a better future beyond offerings designed to fuel incessant consumption of resources.
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Designing for Sustainability: Challenges and Theoretical Considerations
Discussing theoretical considerations for framing strategic sustainable design approaches
Swati Srivastava
Design of Information Systems, Department of Informatics
University of Oslo
Oslo, Norway
swatisr@ifi.uio.no
Sumit Pandey
Design of Information Systems, Department of Informatics
University of Oslo
Oslo, Norway
sumitp@ifi.uio.no
Abstract Product demand and high consumption have been
traditionally viewed as traits of successful business in the mass
market. However, the environment is under immense strain to
sustain hyper-consumption driven lifestyles fueled by
conventional mass market business strategies. Sustainable
services have started to emerge to disrupt such business
practices and alter consumption driven processes to reduce the
harmful impact on the environment. However, the adoption of
such services has largely been limited to a niche
environmentally conscious audience. Research has argued that
for sustainable services to have a noticeable environmental
impact, they need to be adopted in the mass market. In this
paper, we discuss the challenges and outline the theoretical
design considerations needed to frame desirable value
propositions for sustainable services intended for the mass
market. To do this, we review literature from the fields of
strategic design, service design and Human Computer
Interaction (HCI) and identify conceptual overlaps with
broader discussions on sustainability and suggest that
sustainability can potentially find a familiar voice in design due
to their common interest in advocating an emphasis on
people’s needs and aspirations for a better present and future.
Mutually, design and sustainability can discover new
representations and opportunities for a better future beyond
offerings designed to fuel incessant consumption of resources.
Keywords-Sustainability; Strategic Design; Service Design;
Mass Market; Value Propositions.
I.! INTRODUCTION
Mass-market businesses have traditionally functioned
with a singular focus on generating profits. Consequently,
their business strategies are carefully crafted for fast product
absorption and long term consumer engagement with the
brand. Product demand and high consumption have been
traditionally viewed as traits of successful business [1]. This
conclusion largely stems from a business perspective based
on general desires and needs driven consumer behavior [1]
[2]. Therefore, one of the key strategies employed by
conventional businesses to promote their services is based
not just on fulfillment of basic consumer needs but also
capitalizing on the association of social status and exclusive
ownership of the newest generation of products. Businesses
use marketing strategies that aim to create and encourage
consumer desires and aid higher product sales and increasing
consumption.
While these consumption oriented market practices offer
purchase options with attractive buying experiences to
improve a consumer’s quality of life, they have
simultaneously become a threat to the very quality of
consumer life that they advertise to improve. This can be
illustrated by the purchase and short disposal cycles of smart
phones, which are providing users with technology to
simplify their day to day activities while negatively
impacting the environment through harmful electronic waste
[3]. The environment is under immense strain to sustain the
lifestyles supported by both production and consumption of
unsustainable products and services [3][4] and has also been
conclusively established through research studies studying
the adverse affects of over-consumption on the environment
[5].
On the other hand, there has been a rise in the efforts by a
few companies to capitalize on the increasing awareness of
the effects of unsustainable services on the environment and
society and bringing sustainable services into the mass
market. Such efforts to make existing products sustainable
are focusing on extending the product life cycle and building
efficient after sales services [6]. Greenphones [7], for
instance, provides an after-sale service where enterprises and
consumers sell and buy smartphones and tablets.
Greenphones [7] benefits from the dynamics of this market,
and seeks to prolong the lifetime of these devices. However,
such products and services are still largely limited to the
niche and/or premium market segments stemming from
environmentally conscious consumers [1]. Consumers share
a long relationship with certain brands and their products
despite having an awareness of their environmentally
damaging effects. Sustainable replacements of such products
are either not easily available or lack the same ease of use or
brand recognition as their mass market counterparts. The
buying patterns of consumers in the mass market are still
primarily driven by a product’s newness, cost, quality and
brand [2], leading to a vicious circle of the demand and
supply of unsustainable services [8].
Therefore, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore
unsustainable patterns of production and consumption [8]
and a growing need for disruptive innovation through the
introduction of sustainable products and services [9]. These
disruptive practices can be used to explore new and
environmentally efficient value propositions framed around
sustainable products and services positioned as desirable
offerings in the mass market. In this paper, we discuss the
challenges and outline the theoretical design considerations
needed to create sustainable products and services and frame
desirable value propositions. Understanding the design
considerations for the creation of sustainable products and
services and how it can lead to sustainable business models
is both timely and interesting. It is timely because of the the
growing awareness of environmentally damaging effects of
conventional products and services and efforts to introduce
alternative sustainable value propositions in the mass market.
Additionally, it is interesting because of the dilemma
between making a sustainable solution a mass-market
phenomenon and the consumption driven ethos of the mass
market. We outline these design considerations and build our
theoretical framework by reviewing literature from the fields
of sustainability, strategic design, service design and HCI.
Further, we juxtapose concepts from these fields to present a
multi-disciplinary perspective on designing for sustainability.
This paper is structured as follows: Section II presents a
condensed introduction to the key theoretical concepts that
we use to ground our discussion followed by an overview of
the different approaches to sustainable design in Section III.
Section IV presents a discussion of the key design
considerations needed for mass market sustainable design
solutions followed by a conclusion in Section V.
II.!THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
This section presents a condensed description of the
theoretical framework that acts as a conceptual anchor for
our investigation into design considerations for sustainable
products and services.
Sustainability
WCED [10] has strongly stressed the need for a balanced
developmental paradigm that advocates equal importance to
be given to social concerns of both present and future
generations. It proposes that:
“Sustainable development is development that meets the
needs of the present without compromising the ability of
future generations to meet their own needs.” [10].
Most importantly, it can be observed that the definition
of sustainability outlined by WCED shifts the focus from
“sustainability to save the environment” to “sustainability
for the well being of human kind”. This, as discussed in the
introduction, is the perspective on sustainability that we
work towards in this paper as well. This perspective views
(see Figure 1) sustainability as the integration of
environmental, social and economic as the three key
dimensions of well being [11]. The paradigm proposed by
WCED viewed environment preservation as one of the
considerations for achieving well being and required the
incorporation of social as well as economic considerations
into sustainable solution. Further, the World Congress on
Challenges of a Changing Earth proposes that:
“Common to the definitions, however, is an emphasis on
the need to consolidate features from different knowledge
systems into practical methods and tools that can be
practically applied to promote sustainability on a worldwide
scale.” [12]
Kieffer et al. [11] built on the key considerations defined
in the World Congress and discussed the instrumental role of
the widespread deployment of sustainable developmental
paradigms to generate a measurable impact and proposed
sustainability science as a potential framework to achieve the
desired impact of this vision. With the significance of large
scale deployment and a focus on holistic socio-economic
sustainable innovation to support the pro-environmental
willingness of consumers, we argue that sustainable
entrepreneurship and sustainable design oriented towards the
mass market can act as interdependent agents for achieving
the holistic vision of sustainability outlined above. Further,
we suggest that sustainability can potentially find a familiar
voice in design due to their common interest in advocating
an emphasis on people’s needs and aspirations for a better
present and future. Mutually, design and sustainability can
discover new representations and opportunities for a better
future beyond offerings designed to fuel incessant
consumption of resources.
A.!Sustainable Entrepreneurship
In businesses, an increase in product consumption is
traditionally viewed as a reflection of profits and market
demand while environmental concerns have largely been
centered on meeting environmental standards of product
manufacture and responsible disposal and little to no
attention to the negative consequences of increased
consumption on the environment. However, studies on hyper
consumption are presenting opportunities for companies to
innovate and gain a competitive edge by challenging the
traditional ethos of consumption led profits [1][13]. This has
propelled several entrepreneurial initiatives aiming to disrupt
mainstream markets by focusing on environmental and social
value creation along with economic value.
Figure 1. !The three pillars of sustainable development
Building upon Schumpeter’s [14] constructs of
entrepreneurship as a process of creating “market
disequilibria” through innovation [15], Hockerts and
Wüstenhagen [13] define sustainable entrepreneurship as:
“the discovery and exploitation of economic
opportunities through the generation of market disequilibria
that initiate the transformation of a sector towards an
environmentally and socially more sustainable state.”
Sustainable entrepreneurship focuses on bridging
environmental progress and market success by channeling
innovative products and services [16]. Sustainable
entrepreneurs operate with a profit motive as well but
function with a framework of sustainability driven
competitive solutions offering appealing value propositions
to consumers. In contrast to having a sole orientation towards
increasing the demand for products, sustainable
entrepreneurship disrupts the market by shifting the
paradigm from selling products to selling services and value
along with manufacturing innovations for improving the eco-
efficiency of tangible offerings as well. We argue that the
mass market presents a powerful medium for sustainable
entrepreneurs for reaching the most consumers for large
scale impact. In this sense, sustainable entrepreneurship can
be the realization of sustainability-centric innovations that
provide benefits to a larger part of society by targeting the
mass market [16].
B.!Sustainable Design
Design as a discipline grew out of the industrial
revolution in the late 19th and 20th century and has since
been instrumental in creating aesthetically pleasing, useful
and emotionally appealing objects. While these principles of
good design remain relevant to this day, the rise of
consumerism and the deteriorating effects on the
environment is compelling designers to re-evaluate their
offerings in terms of long term effects on the well being of
consumers and communities. Campbell [17] argues that
design will be fundamental to closing the gap between our
behavior and our aspirations because of the particular
resourcefulness that designers represent. Further, she
suggests that:
“ready to improvise and prototype, brave in the face of
disorder and complexity, holistic and people-centered in
their approach to defining problems, designers have a vital
role to play today in making society itself more resourceful”
[17].
Sherwin writes about the designers training to be
creative, challenging precedents and stereotypes and calls for
greater involvement of designers given their inclination
towards people centered and socio-cultural dimensions of
sustainability [18].
In design processes, the exploration of sustainable
outcomes is primarily conducted using one of the following
three approaches:
!Designing for awareness and persuasion
!Designing for eco-efficiency at the product
manufacturing level
!Designing at a systemic level
Even though eco-efficiency at product constitution level
is essential, it cannot function in isolation. It requires the
support of a system that enables seamless sustainable
practices. Manzini and Vezzoli [19] caution that
environmental risks still remain in spite of significant
product improvement. They argue that:
the practical and operational definition of this field
(sustainable design) is outlined by two complementary
strategies by their application in stages most agreeable to
companies: eco-efficient system research and the
development of new solutions provide an instrument to
confront, with a sustainable approach, some important
problems emerging in contemporary society.[19]
Similarly, efforts to promote reduced resource based
lifestyles through awareness and persuasion fail to address
the personal concerns of the individual, often driving them
against sustainability related goals [20]. Therefore, all
improvements in eco-efficiency and awareness seem to be
offset by the steep increase in the volume of the products
sold leading to a zero or even negative net effect [21].
Therefore, designing for sustainability requires systemic
innovations by incorporating holistic perspectives at a
product, service and individual level, in contrast to the
solutions built primarily around technology or product
innovation. In the following section, we discuss the
sustainable design approaches mentioned above in greater
detail by reviewing literature from strategic design, service
design and HCI.
III.!SUSTAINABLE DESIGN APPROACHES
A.!Sustainability through persuation and awareness
Extensive studies of harmful environmental impacts of
consumption-mediated processes have succeeded in evoking
awareness among consumers and companies [1] [8] [22].
Several international initiatives promoting sustainability
have succeeded in generating substantial awareness amongst
people and companies but have failed to translate into
widespread proposals and adoption of sustainable products
and services. While people are more than willing to adopt
pro-environment practices, several factors such as lack of
economic and social support structures enabling/assisting the
willingness of the people has led to the failure of to translate
this willingness into action. Sustainability centric campaigns
driven by persuasive sustainability [23] and lifestyle
rationalization [20] based on proactive consumers making
sustainable choices has cracked under the pressure of daily
priorities, cultural aspirations of people going about their
daily routine. The limited influence of persuasiveness in the
issues of sustainability has been highlighted by
Brynjarsdottir et al[23]. who frame it in terms of
sustainability, human behavior, and the relationship between
them. They argue that:
while this (awareness for pro-active action) may help
make the problem of sustainability manageable as an
engineering enterprise, it also makes designs susceptible to
breakdown” [23].
B.!Sustainability through eco-efficient market alternatives
Recognizing the issues with awareness based solutions,
consistent efforts in the past decade have been directed
towards developing a sustainable market space. This intent
has driven businesses to explore sustainable avenues
contributing to the well being of their consumers.
Additionally, it has created a new segment of environment-
focused businesses such as Fairphone [24][25] and Tesla
[26] that are investing efforts in sustainable yet breakthrough
processes. These processes perceive attaining environmental
sustainability and green consumption as one of the key
performance indicators in the market. While this has initiated
a positive trend towards a green consumption economy,
these business models lack the appeal of unsustainable yet
popular products in the mass market [1][5]. Every purchase
related decision of a consumer continues to be driven
primarily by easily quantifiable values that relate to
fulfillment of basic needs, personal desires and buying
power. Popular mass-market services present several
alternatives tailored to these preferences, simplifying the
decision to pick and choose. The purchase of these popular
products requires minimum time and cognitive effort at the
consumer’s end. On the other hand, consumers willing to
buy sustainable services have to evaluate the trade off in
quality, cost and consistent availability leading to a more
complex decision making for an activity that is a means to
end and not the goal itself [1][5]. Therefore, while the
general awareness about low-carbon consumption has
gathered adequate appreciation among consumers and has
led to the creation of a space in the economy for green
products, it has been limited to a niche segment of actively
environmentally conscious and premium buyer segments [1]
[5][27]. Csikszentmihalyi [5] in his theoretical account of
consumption and its effects addresses this phenomenon by
stating that:
“consumers report that they are concerned about the
environmental issues but they are struggling to translate
these concerns into purchases of sustainable products”.
In addition to a need and desire oriented market strategy,
the pace of technology also plays a significant role in the
creation of unsustainable product advancements. Even
though consumers are aware of the available
environmentally friendly alternatives, they often choose to
participate in a race to get the newest or latest product
instead of replacing it with an environmentally friendly one
[16]. Furthermore, the tech savvy consumers and early
adopters of advanced technology wish to be at the cutting
edge by buying the latest products, leading to frequent
product disposal. Therefore, any effective disruption in this
space to make sustainable innovation a preferred option
should make environment-oriented consumers feel that they
are still empowered with the newest technology.
C.!Sustainability through strategic design
The pursuit of sustainable solutions is essential in
questioning the long-established norms, processes and goals
of mass market oriented businesses. As markets grow
fiercely competitive, sustainability focused innovation can
prove essential in reinventing and delivering new services to
the consumers, driving innovation trends in the mass market
landscape [27]. It is evident that even though the mass
market and rapidly progressing technology are one of the
primary propagators of over consumption, they also offer
access to a larger consumer base and opportunities of greater
involvement of consumers as equal stakeholders in the
design of pro-environmental solutions utilizing new
technological platforms. They could potentially offer the
resources to disrupt existing unsustainable markets and value
networks to innovative design and business models.
Systemic design integrates persuasion and awareness with
desirability and ease of access to sustainable and eco-
efficient service alternatives for mass market consumers. To
effectively pursue the goal of making sustainable services
have a greater impact on the mass market, a comprehensive
study of the consumer’s desires and preferences and traits of
the existing popular products is a critical necessity. Given the
existing niche market for eco-friendly products, an
understanding of the customer’s aspirations will play a
pivotal role in bridging consumers’ ‘attitude-behavior’ [2]
gap and evaluating and better positioning sustainable
processes in the mass market.
Building on the systemic perspectives outlined above,
Manzini and Vezzoli [19] discuss the concept of strategic
sustainable design’, which advocates a paradigm shift aimed
at the buying and selling of a system of products and services
in contrast to the traditional model of buying and disposal of
products. It simultaneously addresses customer and service
provider needs while promoting pro-environmental practices
of production and consumption. Some of the common
processes and tools under strategic sustainable design are
‘product service systems’ [11][19], ‘peer to peer services
[28] and ‘product life extension through repair and second
hand ownership’. Due to the reliance of strategic sustainable
design on the intangibility of products and efficiency of
services in delivering value, the nature of the roles played by
stakeholders also differs from traditional systems. With the
dissemination of services being pivotal, the ownership of a
product by the consumer no longer remains constant. In
some cases, such as second hand or shared ownership, the
consumer also plays the part of the service provider for new
consumers. With this state of constant flux in the nature of
engagement of the stakeholders, strategic sustainable design
approaches transform linear provider to consumer models
into a mesh of participants playing the role of provider,
consumer or facilitator based on the context and requiring a
more intensive inter-communication system amongst the
stakeholders. Therefore, we argue that systemic design in
general and strategic sustainable design in particular
provides the most promising framework for positioning
sustainable services in the mass market. Wolfson et al. [11]
suggest that:
“The main incentive behind defining sustainability as a
service enables the creation of an organized framework to
facilitate the active implementation of sustainability. Such a
framework should characterize the nature both of the value
itself and of the roles played by the participants in the value
co-creation process.”
IV.!IDENTIFYING DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS
Although strategic sustainability offers a highly
integrated approach for sustainable offerings, it also creates
fairly complex dynamics of key stakeholders and contexts
for simultaneously addressing economic, social and
environmental aspects of the issues requiring design
interventions.
This section explores the considerations needed to
effectively address the dynamics of strategic sustainable
design. With respect to strategic sustainable design, these
theoretical constructs can be seen as four necessary facets
that would need to be explored and addressed in order to
design products and services for the mass market. These
facets are: Design Thinking as a holistic approach,
Sustainable Entrepreneurship as a mass market motivator,
Product Service Systems as a potential space for disruptive
innovation and User Experience as a mass market
differentiator.
A.!Approach: Design Thinking
Skoldberg et al. [29] describe design thinking as the:
“construction of the professional designer’s practice
(practical skills and competence) and theoretical reflections
around how to interpret and characterize this non-verbal
competence of the designers.”
Design thinking has found applicability in a wide variety
of domains like social innovation [30], healthcare services
[31], organizational strategy [32] and organizational studies
[33]. It is also being used for enabling resourcefulness in
user groups and actively engaging them in co-design and co-
creation activities through tailored tools and methods. We
argue that sustainable solutions grounded in a deep
understanding of the needs and context of the participants in
the stakeholder network aligns with a designer’s ability to
translate opportunities into offerings by closely working with
users.
Buchanan’s seminal work [34] describing professional
designer’s thought process as an approach for solving
‘wicked problems’ (a class of social systems problems with a
fundamental indeterminacy without a single solution and
where much creativity is needed to find solutions [35] and is
one of the foundational references for design in general.
Buchanan [34] argued against the prevalent linear design
process of his time with specific steps of “problem
definition” and “problem solution” and instead proposed a
model where problem formulation and solution continuously
feed into each other and solutions are considered as
“working hypothesis for exploration”. This is typically
facilitated through a co-design process where all participants
collaboratively cycle through the process of refining the
problem formulation and narrowing down the solution-space.
Further, Schön [36], in his theoretical construct of a
reflective practitioner outlines a practice based construct of
the design process that describes “creation and reflection
upon the creation” as two symbiotic processes working in
tandem to “allow constantly improved competence”. Schön
[36] stresses that reflection on creation does not happen after
the fact but is an integral part of the whole design work and
hence a part of the practice.
We argue that strategic sustainable design solutions
should have a dual focus on identifying specific
opportunities for interventions and innovation along with
reflective and corrective measures that guide the design of
future innovations. Therefore, we suggest that an approach
for designing mass market strategic sustainable solutions
would be best informed by a juxtaposition of the design
frameworks outlined by Buchanan [34] and Schön [36], i.e.
by using co-design methods and tools for framing problem
areas and solutions and using the reflexive practice as an
outline to guide the definition and refinement of future
innovations.
B.!Motivation: Sustainable Entrepreneurship
Sustainable entrepreneurship represents a departure from
the usual focus on large firms in earlier work on corporate
sustainability. It builds upon the concept that new entrants
are more likely to pursue radical change than larger firms
and usually lead the charge in an industry’s transformation
by creating ‘market disequilibria’ and making larger bodies
react to raising market expectations.
Further, it has been stressed [13] that disruptive
innovation [37] (as opposed to incremental innovation) is an
integral characteristic of sustainable entrepreneurship.
‘Disruptive innovation’ describes new products or services,
which are presented as simpler, more convenient and
inexpensive alternatives to new or less demanding customers
and eventually replace the established yet more complex
competitors [37]. Hence, reach and impact play a significant
role in qualifying an innovation as truly disruptive. For e.g.,
innovation by entrepreneurs in a social niche, without a
strategy or intent to broaden its reach/impact would not
qualify as disruptive innovation and hence should not be
categorized as sustainable entrepreneurship. Additionally,
literature points us to the fact that sustainable entrepreneurs
are driven by a strong motivation for industrial
transformation and hence aim for mass-market
transformation beyond the eco-niche [13]. Since there is
growing interest in the opportunities and the business case
for sustainable innovation [38] and ‘green growth’ [39] it
makes a strong case for sustainable entrepreneurship being
treated as a motivating strategy for an approach for designing
mass market strategic sustainable solutions.
C.!Opportunity: Product Service Systems
The first formal definition of Product Service Systems
(PSS) was given by Goedkoop, et al. [40] who suggested
that:
A product service-system is a system of products,
services, networks of “players” and supporting
infrastructure that continuously strives to be competitive,
satisfy customer needs and have a lower environmental
impact than traditional business models.”
It builds on the management concepts of ‘servitization’
[41], which highlights the shift in manufacturing towards the
inclusion of a service component in products. Baines et al.
[42] describe the shift in emphasis advocated by PSS as a
move towards the “sale of use” as opposed to the “sale of
product” and outlined its key elements as:
!Product: a tangible commodity manufactured to be
sold.
!Service: an activity (work) done for others with an
economic value.
!System: a collection of elements including their
relations.
The relations between these elements and their impact on
each other considered collectively represents a ‘service
ecology’ [43]. Additionally, a lot of research on PSS
highlights the concept of ‘dematerialization’ and
sustainability and the current move to a ‘dematerialized
economy’ [19][44]. Tim Jackson, describes this as the ‘new
service economy’ where profitability does not depend on
greater material consumption and production but from the
“provision of services” that meet the essential human needs
like communication, mobility etc.
From the perspective of strategic sustainable design, the
concept of sustainable product service systems and the
market opportunity linked to them is especially interesting.
First, Sustainable PSS pushes the concept of sustainability
beyond environmental optimization of products and
processes , which has been shown to be an ineffective
strategy for long term sustainability . Second, sustainable
PSS represents a competitive proposition that outlines a
viable market opportunity for sustainable entrepreneurship
and disruptive innovation by “considering alternate socio-
technical systems (and ecologies) that can provide the
essential end-use function, such as warmth or mobility, that
an existing product offers” [19].
D.!Differentiator: User Experience
As technology has progressed, products in general and
interactive products in particular have matured in terms of
their usability and effectiveness in performing tasks and
hence users have started looking at them as more than just
tools, but rather objects to be desired [46]. Consequently, the
concept of user experience has been evolving over time in
Interaction Design and HCI literature from an initial focus on
user behaviors and traditional usability to more expansive
notions of aesthetics, effectiveness and hedonic qualities in
product and technology usage [46]. Hassenzahl & Tractinsky
[46] reason that this is because focusing on products and
services as mere tools is insufficient to capture the variety
and engaging aspects of the actual use of technology.
Building upon the focus on aesthetic, emotional and hedonic
qualities required to define a user experience, Hassenzahl
[47] describes user experience as the consideration of:
“the pragmatic aspects of interactive products (i.e. its fit
to behavioral goals) as well as about hedonic aspect, such as
stimulation (i.e. personal growth, an increase of knowledge
and skills), identification (i.e. self-expression, interaction
with relevant others) and evocation (i.e. self-maintenance,
memories).”
Hassenzahl & Tractinsky [46] also argue that since user
experience considers technology from more than a simplistic
and limited instrumental needs perspective the design
motivations behind it would be better informed by focusing
on pleasure, positivity and empowerment than on ‘the
absence of pain’ [46]. Hassenzahl [47] builds upon this
notion by suggesting that positive experiences cannot be
traditionally manufactured and acquired but rather needs to
be co-created by consumers and providers together.
Moreover, from a business value standpoint, literature
[48], also points to the fact that the increasing
commoditization of goods and services would lead to
experiences emerging as key differentiators in the
‘progression of economic value’. Pine and Gilmore [49] also
suggest that experiences should be considered as distinct
economic offerings, just like products or services. It follows
that experiences should also be explicitly considered as a
tangible and marketable outcome of a design process and not
just an ‘amorphous goal’ [48] that is built around products or
services and therefore can act as a viable differentiator for
strategic sustainable solutions
V.!CONCLUSION
The paper presented the challenges and outline the
theoretical design considerations needed to frame desirable
value propositions for sustainable services focusing on
positioning services for adoption in the mass market.
Building on literature from the fields of strategic design,
service design and HCI, current theoretical discussions on
sustainability and entrepreneurship with its key problematics
and challenges are introduced.
We argue that sustainability can potentially find a
familiar voice in design due to their common interest in
advocating an emphasis on people’s needs and aspirations
for a better present and future. Mutually, design and
sustainability can discover new representations and
opportunities for a better future beyond offerings designed to
fuel incessant consumption of resources. From the literature
discussed, three primary design approaches are highlighted
and discussed in detail: designing for awareness and
persuasion, designing for eco-efficiency in product
manufacturing and systemic design.
We propose that systemic design in general and strategic
sustainable design in particular provides the most promising
framework for positioning sustainable services in the mass
market. As a framework, it integrates persuasion and
awareness with desirability and ease of access to sustainable
and eco-efficient service alternatives for mass market
consumers. Further, we have highlighted four theoretical
considerations needed for framing design approaches within
this framework, which are design thinkingfor holistic and
reflective problem solving, sustainable entrepreneurshipto
identify disruptive value propositions, product service
systemsfor framing value propositions and design concepts
as real world sustainable services anduser experienceas a
differentiator in the mass market.
VI.!ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This work was conducted as part of the research project
Conserve and Consume, funded by the Norwegian Research
Council (project-number 235526/O30).
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