Consideration of sustainability in product and industrial design courses is becoming more common and relevant within higher education in the UK. However little is known about how widespread the teaching is and what is actually understood as sustainable design with discrepancies in the definitions used in different institutions. Literature highlights that many universities now engage with the tangible environmental aspects of sustainable design, whilst the intangible social aspects are left unaddressed. This thesis explores methods for encouraging and enabling students to address the social aspects within sustainable product design (SPD) education.
The first research stage presents the results of a nationwide survey, which investigated how widely SPD is taught, which social aspects are addressed, how SPD is taught and assessed and the attitudes and awareness of it amongst academics. The second research stage presents further research into best practice in SPD through detailed interviews with leading academics in the field. A third research stage built upon the findings from both these studies, and sought to address a perceived weakness in SPD education; the lack of understanding and consideration of the social aspects in sustainable product design in teaching and project outcomes.
Three Rethinking Design workshops were developed and tested at five universities in the UK and Ireland. These workshops were designed to introduce students to the wider social aspects of SPD, through the use of audio visual group based workshops. The design of the workshops enabled a learning environment where a deep understanding of the social aspects of Sustainable Product Design could be developed through; group work, discussion and critical reflection, which led to students exploring design thinking responses, suggesting that deep learning, had occurred.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.