Strategies for Developing Sustainable Design Practice for Students and SME Professionals
de Eyto, A.
Designers and engineers seem finally to be awakening to the challenge that sustainable development has given. Educators and students alike are keenly aware of the need to become more effective in the training and practice of their specific disciplines with respect to sustainability. \noindent In the past four years since this research has developed, there has been a marked change in the mass market appeal for sustainable products and services. Implementation of sustainable design practice from both recent graduates and also innovative small and medium enterprises (SMEs) at a local level is slow. One would assume that the consumer drive would push a change in design practice but perhaps the complexities of sustainable design along with the lack of experience in the field are providing barriers to designers and marketers alike. In addition the SME sector alone makes up the bulk of industry within the European Union (EU) varying in some countries from 80-95% of the total numbers of companies (Tukker et al. 2000). These industries by their nature find it difficult to dedicate expertise solely to sustainable development issues. The strategy outlined in this paper intended to introduce concepts of sustainable design thinking and practice to both SMEs and undergraduate students. \noindent This current and ongoing research qualitatively assesses appropriate models for educating for sustainable design thinking with SME employees and undergraduate design students. The sample groups include Industrial Design and Product Design undergraduate students in Ireland at the Institute of Technology, Carlow (IT Carlow), The University of Limerick (UL) and a sample of SMEs in the South East of Ireland, with broad national participation from other students of design and professionals from industry. Current levels of understanding of students and SME professionals of key environmental and social issues are measured.