Exploring Sustainable Design

Reflections on 2013

Dec 20, 2013 by Irene Vermeulen

What an inspiring journey it has been! Exploring the topic of Sustainable Design was one of the goals for 2013 for Craftscurator.

Within the industry of home decoration and home textiles, we have been researching how producers, consumers, importers and creators look at sustainability. And, more importantly, how they act. To what extend are producers considering environmental and social issues to build their business? Will consumers really be prepared to change their behavior? How do importers and brand owners communicate values related to sustainability? What new developments can be observed in the work of designers, makers and scientists? Let's take a close look at what we have worked on this year.

In Vietnam, we have worked with a group of exporters in matching 'green' market opportunities to sustainability practices in their business. Dutch CBI (centre for the promotion of imports from developing countries) has joined forces with the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering of TU Delft in developing training material for exporters. Two rounds of practical workshops took place in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City for over 40 exporters. Project partner Vietcraft, the association of handicrafts exporters, facilitated the workshops. Craftscurator co-developed the training material, and trained exporters in the market oriented modules. The characteristics and the needs of the 'conscious consumer' in the EU market, as described in the CBI market report on Sustainable Design (read and download here), offered great insights for the participants.

Each Vietnamese exporter selected 3 'green' consumer needs, as well as 3 sustainability dimensions to focus on for their business. With sustainability experts from the Vietnamese SPIN (sustainable product innovation) project and Dutch designers, we have worked on developing sustainable product ranges for the EU market. Every exporter made improvements; some are now using recycled or renewable materials, others have improved on working conditions in their factory. Many are saving costs by reducing the use of material or reducing the transport volume of their products. 10 product ranges have been selected to be shown at Ambiente trade fair 2014. Craftscurator is hosting the booth 'Vietnam, on the road to sustainability' in the foyer in front of hall 10.1. Come and see the sustainable design product ranges in February 2014!

Throughout 2013, Craftscurator has been following developments in consumer behavior closely. After publishing the Craftscurator Consumer Trend Guide for 2014, an executive summary on the 'conscious consumer' in the EU was published. Craftscurator gave a trend lecture at Messe Frankfurt's newest trade fair EcoStyle, and at trade fair Evolution during Dutch Design Week. To trend watching students at Fontys Tilburg and product innovation students at the university of applied science in The Hague we also gave guest lectures on consumer behavior. We believe we have only identified the tip of the 'green' iceberg, and are planning to dive in and explore the more hidden and varied motivations consumers have to embrace sustainability.

Craftscurator continued to assist importers and brand owners in developing their business. For Yumeko, Oasiq and Butterfly Works, we have given advice on colour cards and product design. For leading online retailer Bol.com we have made trend presentations and created a marketing calendar and retail concept for their newly launched 'Wonen en Slapen' (Living and Sleeping) category. Working with clients allows us to understand what really happens in the market, and to see how ideas become commercially successful.

To see how designers and makers tackle ecological and social challenges, Irene has visited many workshops, trade fairs and design events around the world. Craftscurator reported live from Salone del Mobile in April for leading sustainable design blog Inhabitat.com. Irene continued to be a trend editor for Stylink.nl, and was interviewed for The Financial Times London, Margriet and Volkskrant Magazine. Craftscurator became a contributing trend watcher for PantoneView.com, a newly launched platform for colour trends and strategy, publishing 6 reports on sustainable material innovation and the role of color.

Exploring sustainable design has been an exciting journey, and we feel we have only just started. We suppose 2014 will again be all about green (in more shades than you ever imagined). Craftscurator is working on some insightful publications for 2014, and is happy to be collaborating with so many interesting partners in the new year. Because the best journeys are shared journeys!

Craftscurator wishes you a happy 2014, full of love, joy and inspiration!

Irene's reflections on 2013
Mirror by Lorraine Haye, photographed during Salone del Mobile
Seen at London Design Festival
Bamboo ball chair
Exploring work of designers
Workshop Tjeerd Veenhoven
Training Sustainable Design March 2013
for exporters in Ho Chi Minh City (very obviously)
Conscious Crafts, seen at Maison Objet
Craftscurator report for PantoneView.com
Recycled bottle lamps, made in Colombia
Spotted in Milan for Inhabitat.com