About Ecodesign

Ecodesign – Our understanding

A key aim of ecodesign is to reduce to a minimum the overall environmental impact of a product or service. It refers to innovative design solutions in both products and services that take into consideration the entire lifecycle – from the extraction of raw materials to production, distribution and use – all the way to recycling, “reparability”, and disposal. Minimisation of pollutants during the production period is just as important as it is during the product’s lifetime. However, ecodesign is an elastic and evolving concept that is better considered as an approach to design than as a label for eco-friendly products.

The use of energy-efficient and eco-friendly resources is certainly an important aspect, but the concept of ecodesign goes beyond this. It is a holistic approach, keeping in view environmental, social and economic benefits as well as aesthetically appealing and durable design. Ecodesign by its nature fosters innovation and promotes behavioural change in producers and consumers towards product-service systems and self-sufficiency. It envisions “ecologically-minded” thinking not as an add-on but as part of the fundamental design process right from the start. Once it has made the leap from theory to practice, ecodesign can help achieve the move towards a circular economy. In short, Ecodesign is good design that benefits people and the environment alike.

Perspectives on ecodesign


  • IDZ Patrick&Jutta

    Ecodesign offers innovative and appealing solutions, viewed from a perspective that encompasses aesthetics, functionality, user-friendliness, and of course sustainability and environmental compatibility.
    Our world is in large part man-made – or rather, designer-made.
    Objects and processes are not products of chance, but are planned, designed and built. An important objective of Ecodesign is to create products, services and systems with minimal negative impact on our health and environment – in all stages of their lifetime.

    In short, Ecodesign is good design that benefits people and the environment alike.

    Jutta Brinkschulte & Patrick Liwitzki, International Design Center Berlin
  • UBA

    Ecodesign is a systematic and comprehensive creative approach to products and services, employing improved product and service-design to minimise their environmental impact across the entire lifecycle.

    During product planning and design, producers can greatly influence any phase of the value creation process and material lifecycle – a chance to promote ecological innovation

    Lead Partner Umweltbundesamt, German Environment Agency
  • SVID_Catarina

    Circular economy and eco-design are all about smart, innovative and sustainable design solutions with minimal or no waste when a product is consumed. What whatever waste there is should go back to the producer, to be used by consumers in a new context or be returned to nature without doing any harm.

    Concerning sustainable development, ultimately, our aim is quality of life - for everyone - today and in the future. To ensure that design and product development progresses in the right direction, we need to include a holistic perspective that includes the environment, people, the economy and culture.

    Catarina von Matern, SVID
  • DFF_Kristina

    Should ecodesign be considered strictly from the point of view of resource efficiency, sustainability and circular economy? Or should a broader view be taken on ecodesign?

    I would regard ecodesign from a wider perspective taking of course into account resource efficiency, sustainability and the circular economy.
    In my mind, when talking about ecodesign we should be talking also about product-service-system thinking, about replacing products with services, about disrupting and transforming the market with new, better designed products, services & ways of doing things, creating totally new business models.

    Kristina Noor-Ilander, Design Forum Finland


  • Victor Papanek 1

    There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a few.

    Victor Papanek (1923 - 1998), Austrian-American designer and advocate of socially and ecologically responsible design
  • Henry Ford

    The only prosperity the people can afford to be satisfied with is the kind that lasts.

    Henry Ford (1863 - 1947), American industrialist
  • Jasper Morrison

    I struggle with the idea of Ecological Design because I am not sure that design can be ecological.
    Imagine a chair which could be made with zero energy and last forever or be recycled without polluting the environment. If that were possible, it would be a good thing you would say, but then consider that it has to be catalogued, stored in a warehouse, packaged, transported, displayed and delivered to the customer … and you realise that the chair itself is only half the problem. The only zero emissions chair I can imagine is one that you buy second hand and walk home with and take back to the shop when you have finished with it. As a designer I'd like to think there is a way to design responsibly in a way that the storage, packaging, transport issues are minimised, and that the design of the chair itself insures that it will have a long and useful life and not be a waste of resources.

    Jasper Morrison (born 1959), English product and furniture designer
  • Victor Papanek 2

    Design, if it is to be ecologically responsible and socially responsive, must be revolutionary and radical.

    Victor Papanek (1923 - 1998), Austrian-American designer and advocate of socially and ecologically responsible design
  • Buckminster Fuller

    The best way to predict the future is to design it.

    Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895 - 1983), American inventor and visionary
  • Allan Chochinov1

    Understanding that all design happens within a context is the first (and arguably the only) stop to make on your way to becoming a good designer.

    Allan Chochinov, Teacher at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, leading advocate against wasteful design (from: Manifesto for Sustainability in Design")
  • Buckminster Fuller 2

    You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

    Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895 - 1983), American inventor and visionary
  • Robert L. Peters

    Design creates culture. Culture shapes values. Values determine the future.

    Robert L. Peters (born 1954), Canadian designer
  • Hans Leo Höger

    Designers have a dual duty; contractually to their clients and morally to the later users and recipients of their work.

    Hans Leo Höger (born 1960), Professor for Theory and History of Design and Communication, Bozen | Bolzano (Italy)
  • Frank Chimero

    People ignore design that ignores people.

    Frank Chimero, American designer, writer, and illustrator
  • Our Stolen Future

    The journey to a different future must begin by defining the problem differently than we have done until now. . . The task is not to find substitutes for chemicals that disrupt hormones, attack the ozone layer, or cause still undiscovered problems, though it may be necessary to use replacements as a temporary measure. The task that confronts us over the next half century is one of redesign.

    Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, John Peterson Myers - Authors of the book "Our Stolen Future" (1996)
  • Allan Chochinov2

    "First do no harm" is a good starting point for everyone, but it's an especially good starting point for designers. [...] We have to remember that industrial design equals mass production, and that every move, every decision, every curve we specify is multiplied—sometimes by the thousands and often by the millions. And that every one of those everys has a price. We think that we're in the artifact business, but we're not; we're in the consequence business.

    Allan Chochinov, Teacher at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, leading advocate against wasteful design (from: Manifesto for Sustainability in Design")
  • John Paul II

    Modern society will find no solution to the ecological problem unless it takes a serious look at its lifestyle.

    Pope John Paul II (1920 - 2005)
  • Victor Papanek 3

    Advertising design, in persuading people to buy things they don`t need, with money they don`t have, in order to impress others who don`t care, is probably the phoniest field in existence today.

    Victor Papanek (1923 - 1998), Austrian-American designer and advocate of socially and ecologically responsible design
  • Alfred P. Sloan

    Some have an idea that the reason we in this country discard things so readily is because we have so much. The facts are exactly opposite - the reason we have so much is simply because we discard things so readily. We replace the old in return for something that will serve us better.

    Alfred P. Sloan (1875 - 1966), American industrialist; president of GM and an inventor of planned obsolescence
  • Aldous Huxley

    Armaments, universal debt, and planned obsolescence — those are the three pillars of Western prosperity. ... And while you people are overconsuming the rest of the world sinks more and more deeply into chronic disaster.

    Aldous Huxley (1894 - 1963), British novelist, from his novel "Island"
  • Lewis Mumford

    But what would become of mass production and its system of financial expansion if technical perfection, durability, social efficiency, and human satisfaction were the guiding aims. The very conditions for current financial success — constantly expanding production and replacement — works against these ends. To ensure the rapid absorption of its immense productivity, megatechnics resorts to a score of different devices: consumer credit, installment buying, multiple packaging, non-functional designs, meretricious novelties, shoddy materials, defective workmanship, built-in fragility, or forced obsolescence through frequent arbitrary changes of fashion. Without constant enticement and inveiglement by advertising, production would slow down and level off to normal replacement demand. Otherwise many products could reach a plateau of efficient design which would call for only minimal changes from year to year.

    Lewis Mumford (1895 - 1990), "an almost forgotten American environmentalist", The Pentagon of Power (1970) Megatechnic Costs and Benefits
  • Cameron Tonkinwise

    The best designers are always changemakers.

    Cameron Tonkinwise, Professor of Design, University of New South Wales, Australia (from: "Transition Design as Postindustrial Interaction Design?)
  • Allan Chochinov 3

    Before we design anything new, we should examine how we can use what already exists to better ends. We need to think systems before artifacts, services before products ...

    Allan Chochinov, Teacher at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, leading advocate against wasteful design (from: Manifesto for Sustainability in Design")
  • Ernst Friedrich Schumacher

    …a technology with a human face, is in fact possible; that it is viable; and that it re-integrates the human being, with his skillful hands and creative brain, into the productive process. It serves production by the masses instead of mass production.

    Ernst Friedrich Schumacher (1911 - 1977) - German-born British economist; from "Small is beautiful"
  • Cameron Tonkinwise 2

    A society with a reduced number of things being used more productively for longer by more people should be a significantly more ecologically sustainable society.

    Cameron Tonkinwise, Professor of Design, University of New South Wales, Australia, from his "Design the Future" Lecture 2016
  • Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen

    'Bigger and better' motorcycles, automobiles, jet planes, refrigerators, etc., necessarily cause not only 'bigger and better' depletion of natural resources, but also 'bigger and better' pollution.

    Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (1906-1994),Romanian-born mathematician and the father of ecological economics, from "Energy and Economic Myth", 1975
  • August Wilhelm von Hofmann

    In an ideal chemical factory there is, strictly speaking, no waste but only products. The better a real factory makes use of its waste, the closer it gets to its ideal, the bigger is the profit.

    August Wilhelm von Hofmann (1818 - 1892), German chemist and first director of the Royal College of Chemistry in London
  • Philippe Starck 1

    We are the prisoners of a “throw-away” society. The only way to escape is to create sustainable design.

    Philippe Starck (born 1949), French designer
  • John Donahoe

    The greenest product is the one that already exists, because it doesn’t draw on new natural resources to produce.

    John Donahoe (born 1960) as CEO of eBay (2008 - 2015)
  • Albert Einstein

    If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.

    Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955), German-born theoretical physicist
  • Philippe Starck 2

    There won't be any designers. The designer of the future will be the personal coach, the fitness trainer, the nutritionist.

    Philippe Starck (born 1949), French designer
  • Jonathan Chapman

    It’s actually very easy to design and manufacture a toaster that will last 20 years; that can be done. What’s not so easy is to design and manufacture a toaster that someone will want to keep for 20 years, because as people ... we haven’t been trained to do that.

    Jonathan Chapman (born 1974), Professor of Sustainable Design, best known for his theory of 'emotionally durable design'
  • Philippe Starck 3

    I have been a producer of materiality. I do feel ashamed for this. What I want to be instead now is a producer of concepts. This will be much more useful.

    Philippe Starck (born 1949), French designer
  • Sven Lindqvist

    You already know enough. So do I. It is not knowledge we lack. What is missing is the courage to understand what we know and to draw conclusions.

    Sven Lindqvist (born 1932), Swedish author; from "Exterminate All the Brutes"
  • Philippe Starck 4

    Everything I have designed is absolutely unnecessary.

    Philippe Starck (born 1949), French designer
  • Charles Moore

    Only we humans make waste that nature can’t digest.

    Charles Moore, US-American marine researcher, initiated monitoring of the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch'
  • Eliel Saarinen

    Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context - a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.

    Eliel Saarinen (1873-1950), Finnish architect and city planner
  • Phil Libin

    If you’re thinking in 100-year terms, the culture is the only important thing. The culture is everything in the long-term. The culture is much more important than the current product. The product is the current product, the culture is the next hundred products.

    Phil Libin (born 1972), Everynote's cofounder
  • William McDonough

    The Stone Age did not end because humans ran out of stones. It ended because it was time for a re-think about how we live.

    William McDonough (born 1951), American designer and co-author of "Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things"
  • Helena Norbert-Hodge

    Economic localization is the key to sustaining biological and cultural diversity - to sustaining life itself. The sooner we shift towards the local, the sooner we will begin healing our planet, our communities and ourselves.

    Helena Norbert-Hodge (born 1946), pioneer of the local economy movement, founder of "Local Futures"
  • Heinrich Böll

    You can recognize the humanity of a country by what ends up in its garbage bins. By the everyday items, by what could still be used but is disposed of. By the kind of poetry it throws away. By what is deemed worthy of destruction.

    Heinrich Böll (1917 - 1985), German writer - winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972
  • Prabhjot Singh

    We spend a lot time designing the bridge, but not enough time thinking about the people who are crossing it.

    Prabhjot Singh (born 1982), Previous Director of Systems Design at the Earth Institute
  • Albert Einstein 2

    We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

    Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955), German-born theoretical physicist
  • Klaus Krippendorf

    Most outsiders see design as an applied art, as having to do with aesthetics, unlike a solid profession unto itself, with technical knowledge, skills, and responsibilities to rely on. Insiders to design, by contrast, talk of innovative ideas, coordinating the concerns of many disciplines, being advocates for users, and trying to balance social, political, cultural, and ecological considerations.

    Klaus Krippendorf (born 1932) German-born American Emeritus Professor of Communication. The Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania
  • Ivan Chermayeff

    Design is directed toward human beings. To design is to solve human problems by identifying them, examining alternate solutions to them, choosing and executing the best solution.

    Ivan Chermayeff (1932 - 2017), American graphic designer
  • Otl Aicher

    The quality of the designs is the quality of the world.

    Otl Aicher (1922 - 1991), German graphic designer and typographer.
  • Linus Pauling

    The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.

    Linus Pauling (1901 - 1994), American Chemist and who recieved two unshared Nobel Prizes — for Chemistry (1954) and for Peace (1962).
  • Japanese proverb

    Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.

    Japanese proverb
  • Peter Senge

    Today's problems come from yesterday's "solutions."

    Peter Senge (born 1947), American systems scientist, from his book: "The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization"
  • Pete Seeger

    If it can't be reduced
    Reused, repaired
    Rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted
    Then it should be
    Restricted, redesigned
    Or removed
    From production

    Pete Seeger (1919 - 2014) American environmental / anti-war / civil rights activist, singer, guitarist, songwriter