Design Principles for the Ecological Crisis: Ecocentric Design

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Q4. What ideals, principles, motto and design qualities might you use to describe and define the next emergent design trend valid over the next 5 years, current to your practices? What name would you give to the design movement?

As the world population steadily increases to 8 billion, the consumeristic paradigm of which most parts of the developed world functions on becomes no longer sustainable. In addition to social problems, a self-inflicted ecological crisis threatens our human civilisation as well as the world of nature. The infinite growth potential of a consumeristic economy is incompatible with the earth which has finite raw materials and natural resources. According to Greenpeace, human consumption of natural resources has doubled over the last 30 years, prompting the United Nations to advocate for a new production model that makes optimal use of resources and energy sustainable (Iberdrola Corporativa).

In response to the ecological challenges, many artists and designers, increasingly aware of the impacts to the environment, have adopted means to improve people’s quality of life while lowering economic, environmental and social costs. The demand for environmentally friendly designs by an ever-growing eco-conscious market has also been expanding (“What is Eco-Design?”). This emerging design trend is called eco-design.

Eco-design is the process where a product or piece of work is designed with the environment and ecological crisis in mind. Eco-design should consider the impact that a piece of work or product has on the environment throughout all stages of its life cycle. This eco-design process includes the production process, the usage process, disposable or recyclable process. With continuing increases in the human population and industrial production and consumption, concerns have been raised about the environmental burdens associated with the extraction of materials, the manufacturing of products, the use of the products, and finally their recycling or disposal (Fan, Freedman, & Cote 2004). Eco-design also aims to influence consumer’s attitudes and behaviours towards a more environmentally friendly cause while away from the consumeristic practice. It is not only an art form but also a movement; The Ecocentric Movement.

The ecocentric design focuses on these design principles: use of biomaterials, minimal and functional use of materials, multi-purpose, long-lasting, and recyclable. Like Muji’s design philosophy, the ecocentric design is practical and straightforward, versatile and minimal.

Firstly, eco-designers should consider the use of materials with due consideration paid to the environment. While plastic is cheap and easy to work with, it can be replaced with natural and biodegradable material for a lighter carbon footprint. These include woods, paper, fabrics, stones or recycled materials (Spilka 2018).

Secondly, eco-design should involve minimal and functional use of materials. Designs are not excessive, and materials are used tactfully. Borrowing principles from the Minimalist Movement, eco-designs are reductive, uncluttered and deliberate. The function takes priority over form in ecocentric design (“Ecocentric Design in an Anthropocentric World” 1970).

Thirdly, products inspired by eco-design are multi-purpose and long-lasting. These versatile and lasting products can help reduce clutter and wastage. Apart from durability, products are also repairable or have replaceable parts, unlike some companies that practice planned obsolesce.

Lastly, eco-products are recyclable. Designers should ensure easy assembly and disassembly, so materials are easily separated, reused or recycled. Ecocentric designs should encourage recycling habits in users.

In essence, any form of design that minimises environmentally destructive impacts by integrating with the natural world can be referred to as eco-design. As such, eco-design aims to provide a framework for an ecologically centred system of design that can meet the inherent needs of human civilisation, move towards resource sustainability, maintain ecological integrity and increase environmental awareness (Fan, Freedman, & Cote 2004).

(538 Words)


Works Cited

“Ecocentric Design in an Anthropocentric World.” Modlar, 1 Jan. 1970,

Fan, Shu-Yang, et al. “Principles and Practice of Ecological Design.” Environmental Reviews, vol. 12, 2004, pp. 97–110.

Iberdrola Corporativa. “Eco-Design: How to Manufacture Sustainable Products toSatisfy Consumers.” Iberdrola,

Spilka, Dmytro. “The Rise of The Sustainable Design Movement.” Thrive Global, 28 June 2018,

“What Is Eco-Design?” The Role of Design in Conservation,

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