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Sustainable Future = Circular Design Design and Conscious Use of Resources

Circular Design focuses on people and the environment.

Sustainable design is that industrial design whose objective is to minimize the negative environmental impacts typical of industrial production.

To achieve the goal of reducing this impact, sustainable design aims to use materials and energy sources according to the principles of sustainability.

Sustainable design wants to be a large-scale, holistic cultural approach, including in its theoretical and design core the principles of ecology and, indeed, the concept of sustainable development.



From the mid-70s the idea of a sustainable growth model made its way into various areas, including architecture and design.

But when we talk about sustainability, what exactly do we mean?


A strict definition of the term was established in 1991 by the World Conservation Union, UN Environment Programme and World Wide Fund for Nature:


«... an improvement in the quality of life, without exceeding the carrying capacity of the supporting ecosystems, on which it depends".


In the Brundtland report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, which integrated the concept of sustainability with that of development, it is precisely specified that:


"Sustainable development, far from being a definitive condition of harmony, is rather a process of change such that the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional changes are made consistent with future needs as well as with current ones".


That is, the implication of a need for foresight in the definition of the concept of development: sustainability does not have, in short, only to do with current events, but above all it is expressed in its relationship with the future and the generations that will inhabit the planet that will be handed over to it.


In short, the concept of sustainability is based on three pillars: the existence of constraints on the use of resources on a finite planet, i.e. the recognition that there is a carrying capacity of the world; the awareness that the second law of thermodynamics imposes limits on energy transformations; finally, the acceptance of the hypothesis of the economist Herman Daly, father of the theory of sustainability, who argued that the use of non-renewable resources must be reduced until it is replaced entirely by renewable resources.


Sustainable Design: in theory

In addition to the principle of sustainability previously considered and exposed, sustainable design is based on three other essential reasons: eco-balance, compatibility and well-being.


According to the principle of eco-balance there is a need, for Industrial Design, to evaluate the environmental impact considering each phase of the life cycle of the designed products, its materials and its techniques, analyzing the externalities, ie the impacts of the object in the ecosystem, in different spaces and times.


This means that an eco-balance must assess over time the environmental impacts related to the entire duration of the object's existence and even beyond. An appropriate eco-balance must also take into account the impact generated in space by the settlement and use of the object itself.

As far as compatibility is concerned, it is about the integration of the object into the environment. The principle of compatibility, in short, insists on the relationship between the design object and the environment, nature, in which it is inserted, allowing the system to minimize waste by giving priority to the common good rather than profit.


Finally, there is the principle of the well-being of those who use the property. The purpose of Sustainable Design, in fact, as already suggested in the historical summary mentioned above, is to promote the best psychophysical state of the users of the ecosystem of the object under consideration.


According to this principle, the object cannot be considered independently, as if it were a closed system; The object is not disconnected from the context in which it is inserted, but is part of an interactive system whose interacting elements are, in addition to the users, the environmental, natural, and social elements.


To these principles must be added that of aesthetics. In the early days of the debate on the environmental sustainability of design, aesthetics were neglected, in the sense that it was sacrificed in the name of the efficiency of the object in environmental terms.


In the current historical period, and especially in the future, the psychophysical well-being of the final user of the design object must also be increasingly evaluated, which also depends on his aesthetic evaluation of the object itself. It will be increasingly necessary to consider, in the design (starting from the Concept), also the beauty factor.


Sustainable Design: materials

Among the objectives of Sustainable Design there is, according to the principle of eco-balance, the use of material that is easily recoverable or disposable and recyclable at the end of its life.


In fact, among the problems of modern design, there is the fact that many of the elements he uses for his realization / production cause an immense expenditure of energy when it comes to recovering or disposing of them following their use.


Let's think, for example, of the difficulty of recycling chemical materials used in the assembly of components or their painting: in both situations there is extra energy production, thus encouraging consumption and waste, as well as increasing pollution levels with the production of toxic waste materials.


The idea that guides sustainable design is therefore the consideration that the materials used for their production should not be evaluated and chosen only according to the project for which they are conceived: the aspect of reuse and recycling of products must be taken into account already during the design, so that these same products can be reused at the end of their life.


Sustainable Design, in conclusion:

Increasingly, design, technology and sustainability will have to be combined. Increasing everywhere the efforts dedicated to improving the relationship between man and nature so necessary in this moment of environmental crisis.




We want to answer the following question:

Is design key to achieving a circular economy?

For us YES but only if it succeeds, even when designing the Micro, to grasp the Macro problems.


What does design have to do with the circular economy? It's a simple question to answer: it all depends on what you mean by the word design.


If design is conceived as an aesthetic addition, it is impossible to grasp its strategic role.

If, on the other hand, it is addressed in its most correct essence – that of the discipline that underlies all activities related to industrial production – its role becomes potentially fundamental in the transition from a linear to a circular economy.


For us, design exists at all times, that is, the one that leads to the creation of value through the product: from concept to production, from distribution to communication to the experience of use. Where services are also designed, relationships between brands and their audiences and even the end of life of products.


But, unfortunately, there is also design – that is, design – also in all the strategies that have led to hyperconsumption: that is, all the tactics developed over the years by companies (and governments, such as the American one, especially in times of recession) are created to promote the planned obsolescence of products and therefore increase production.


There is a very close link with industry that has made design complicit in the unsustainability of the current economic system. This almost total link with the world of manufacturing and production transforms design into a fundamental tool to change things from within.Tool that will allow the transition from a system in which value is generated through the extraction of materials, their processing and transformation into products that are sold and then end up in most cases in landfills; to a new process in which value remains in circulation, continuously regenerating generating a real circular economy.


We are convinced that to give impetus and support this transition, design must be able to get out of what is called 'environmental folklore'. That is, considering 'Ecological' some materials (such as wood or paper), production systems (such as those that use recycled materials) and behaviors (such as recycling) without however inserting them into a more complex and complete vision. Because sustainability requires many disciplines, assessing environmental impact is a specialized work fueled by multidisciplinarity and multiple points of view.


We are convinced that to have a positive impact on the environment, in many cases, a communication campaign designed to change the use that the public makes of a certain object is necessary rather than a redesign of the object itself.

Working in this sense means expanding the field of action of design, inserting every design decision in a systemic perspective, that of System Thinking, which has now become a subject of study in design universities and the pivot of so-called "disruptive" innovation.


We are convinced that it is necessary to adopt a different approach in order to keep alive the value of the materials already in circulation thanks to a strategic design, which starts from the original concept. That is, designing products so that they can be repairable, reconditioned, reusable, shareable and only ultimately (and only in some parts) recyclable.


As the great architect Richard Buckminster Fuller (Milton, July 12, 1895 – Los Angeles, July 1, 1983) argued, an American inventor, architect, designer, philosopher, writer: "they will not change

Never things fighting the existing system but only building something that automatically makes it obsolete".


We want to show that circular design, being a "bridge" between production and people, has the fundamental role of shifting the focus of innovation towards the macro – towards the system –, to deal with specific care and multi-skills of a micro – the product, the service or the experience.


The exhibition presents "Cult" projects and objects of Circular Design conceived by the architect Sylvia Colombini for, one of the pioneers of Italian Circular Design.Objects made or manufactured in Italy by exclusively Italian producers, with a sustainable supply chain, in order to generate a real national circular economy. On the occasion of the Salone del Mobile 2023, two world-exclusive projects are presented.


"We give new circular energy that allows us to produce objects with deep respect for man and his needs and the environment that surrounds him".

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