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aware_ partner and digital design company Goodpatch has launched a whitepaper where they present five steps to move a business towards a circular economy

More and more initiatives are springing up, the content of which aims to make citizens more environmentally aware and to manage consumerism and review our habits. But there is still a long way to go as individuals but also companies need to be clear about their impact on the planet and how they engage the different stakeholders.  

One way to make a positive impact is through the circular economy model. By definition, the circular economy is a regenerative system that promotes the responsible use and reuse of resources and raw materials, the protection of the environment, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and innovations in waste management (bee smart city). It aims to make products and materials last without consuming additional resources. This can be achieved through durable design, maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing or recycling (circular Berlin). 
A circular economy is based on four principles: understanding finite resources, preventing waste and pollution and other negative externalities, preserving materials by designing them for reuse, remanufacturing, and recycling, and finally preserving natural capital by circulating nutrients and creating regeneration (Smart City Hub).

circular economy

But this shift comes with some challenges. In this regard, the independent design firm Goodpatch has developed a framework to guide companies toward a circular economy. The company’s goal is to demonstrate the power of design by creating sustainable value for people, organizations and the planet.  

Goodpatch is driven by the mission to prove the power of design. The company with studios in Tokyo, Berlin and Munich creates designs with sustainable value for people, organizations, and the planet. With their flexible services, Goodpatch meets their clients’ needs – from large, multinational corporations to local startups, in industries that span from health care to mobility. Whether it is a strategy, product, or service, Goodpatch works with their clients every step of the way to make complex ideas tangible (Goodpatch).

circular economy

Their team of strategists has worked on sustainability projects for manufacturing and service companies in areas such as construction, footwear, and financial services. Here, Goodpatch’s own design methods have been applied, finding circular opportunities for their clients. This led to product and business innovations, designed in co-creation. And to take it a step further, Goodpatch’s goal is to fundamentally change the system and build ecosystems so that more circular solutions can be implemented and society as a whole can benefit.  

“The road to a full circular economy is still long. We cannot change an entire company overnight, but we can build on our strengths and start small by validating initial circular solutions. Because now more than ever we as a society need to change how we treat our planet,” says Léa Montavon, Design Strategist at Goodpatch. The company shared a whitepaper with aware_ that shows in five steps where the opportunities for a circular economy lie and how it can even become a strategic direction for companies.  

  1. Find your starting point.
  2. Discover circular opportunities.
  3. Start small and gather evidence on a circular solution.
  4. Define metrics and assess your opportunities.
  5. Create momentum. 

The whitepaper includes maps and other techniques to guide through the process. Among other things, there is a Miro board where you can find circular opportunities depending on your needs.  

You can request the whole whitepaper for free on their website.

– by Marie Klimczak 

Between hype and criticism aware_ takes a close look at NFTs and examines their sustainability

Hardly any other topic is currently being discussed as much as crypto, bitcoin & co. Now another one has joined them: Non-fungible Tokens, or NFTs for short. Since their introduction in 2014, NFTs have become increasingly popular: as a way to buy and sell digital artworks and other digital assets. As a result, an incredible $174 million has been spent on NFTs since November 2017 (Forbes). Brands and celebrities are embracing the trend as they see this as a new way to connect with their fans. The most hyped area is NBA Top Shot, a place to collect non-fungible tokenized NBA moments in the form of digital cards. Some of these cards have already sold for millions of dollars. In another example, Co-Founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted a link to a tokenized version of his first ever tweet, writing “just setting up my twttr.” The NFT has already been auctioned off for up to $2.5 million (Investopedia). 

However, NFTs are also repeatedly criticized – especially because of their high energy consumption. aware_ has taken a close look at the new digital art form and examined its sustainability.

To understand the hype around NFTs, we should first look at what NFTs are: NFTs are non-fungible tokens that are unique and cannot be replaced by anything else. While a digital file can be copied an unlimited number of times, NFTs are designed to transfer ownership of a work only once. Compare this to collecting physical art: anyone can buy a print by a famous artist, but only one person can own the original. Ownership is managed by the unique ID and metadata, which cannot be replicated by any other token. The creator of the NFT may intend to make each NFT completely unique, or they may make several thousand replicas, for example for an event. This information is all public. So, an NFT can also be like a trading card, of which there are 50 or hundreds of numbered copies of the same work.

From digital art like GIFs, collectibles, music, or videos to real-world items like car sales contracts, tickets, tokenized invoices, legal documents, or signatures, NFTs can be anything digital. Moreover, NFTs can function like any other speculative asset, where you buy them and hope that their value will one day rise so you can sell them for a profit. 

Most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum is a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, but its blockchain also supports such NFTs, which store additional information that changes the way it works. The difference with Bitcoin is that Ethereum is not a pure cryptocurrency, but also a platform for creating, managing and executing decentralized programs, such as crowdfunding or online voting. There are several marketplaces where NFTs can be bought and sold such as OpenSea, Rarible, Nifty Gateway and many more. Unlike cryptocurrencies, NFTs cannot be traded or exchanged for an equivalent value. This distinguishes them from fungible tokens like cryptocurrencies, which are identical to each other and can therefore be used as a medium for commercial transactions. In addition, content creators can sell their work anywhere and have access to a global market. They can also retain ownership of their own work and receive royalties directly for resale (The Verge; ethereum.org; Investopedia; Forbes; Haus von Eden).

digital

Like any technological advancement, NFTs, as an evolution of the relatively simple concept of cryptocurrencies, bring some notable advantages: The most obvious benefit is market efficiency. By converting a physical asset into a digital one, processes are streamlined, transactions are simplified, intermediaries are eliminated, and new markets are created. NFTs, which represent digital or physical artworks on a blockchain, eliminate the need for middlemen and allow artists to connect directly with their audience. They are also ideal for identity management: smart contracts enable the addition of detailed attributes, such as the owner’s identity, rich metadata, or secure file associations. The ability of non-fungible tokens to immutably prove digital ownership is an important advance for an increasingly digital world. The trustless security promised by the blockchain could be applied to the ownership or exchange of almost any asset (Investopedia; Decrypt).

Despite increasing popularity, this promising new technology is also facing constant criticism. Because NFTs use the same blockchain technology as some power-hungry cryptocurrencies, they also consume a lot of energy to maintain their qualities of decentralization and security. NFTs are largely issued on so-called Proof-of-Work (PoW) networks, of which Ethereum is the largest. This mechanism is used to store large amounts of data and verify that transactions are legitimate. It is this PoW mechanism that leads to the incredibly high energy consumption of the Ethereum network. In addition, the devices consume a lot of electricity and generate significant amounts of heat, resulting in CO2 emissions. The electricity used to mine Bitcoins is often generated using fossil fuels. Add to this the incredible masses of e-waste generated by millions of server computers worldwide, which are replaced on average every 18 to 24 months (The Verge; ethereum.org; Haus von Eden; monopol; Binantrader).

digital

But the first solutions for sustainable blockchain technology are emerging, albeit tentatively: Alternative mechanisms such as Proof-of-Stake (PoS) are much simpler regarding computational power and therefore much less harmful to the climate in terms of energy consumption and carbon footprint. These methods are already used by several blockchains that also support NFTs – such as Polygon, Snark.art, and Tezos. Ethereum is also currently undergoing a series of upgrades known as Eth2. These are designed to eliminate computational power as a security mechanism and reduce Ethereum’s carbon footprint by about 99.95%, making it more energy efficient than many existing industries. 
Many processes associated with NFTs also use renewable energy sources or unused electricity in remote locations. Movements that advocate for more attention to green technologies and the development of sustainable NFT systems or investing in lesser known blockchain technologies that focus on sustainability from the start are other approaches. The conservation organization WWF, for example, wants to use the hype around NFTs to raise awareness about the plight of endangered species. In the process, the WWF is selling the works of ten artists who deal with endangered species; the proceeds of the Non-Fungible Animals campaign will benefit WWF projects to protect endangered species months (ethereum.org; Haus von Eden; Utopia).

digital

It remains to be said: As things stand today, NFTs are only CO2-neutral if they are used in the right context, for a sustainable purpose, generated with renewable energies or subsequently compensated. It is to be hoped that new technologies like those presented before will experience the same enthusiasm as the hype surrounding NFTs in general.

by Marie Klimczak

The German Design Awards celebrate its tenth anniversary this year. aware_ has taken a look at this year’s award winners and presents five exciting products and projects. 

For aware_, sustainability and aesthetics go hand in hand. A sustainable lifestyle does not have to be pursued with a raised forefinger, nor does it have to be pushed into a green corner. Sustainability includes innovation, zeitgeist, and a high degree of aesthetics. For the German Design Awards, outstanding design means providing answers to the challenges of our time and thinking into the future. Each year, an international jury of leading experts from all areas of design honors companies with pioneering products and projects in the fields of Excellent Product Design, Excellent Communications Design or Excellent Architecture. The internationally renowned prize is awarded by the German Design Council, the German brand and design authority, which was established as a foundation in 1953 on the initiative of the German Bundestag. It supports business in consistently achieving brand added value through design. This center for communication and brand management in the field of design includes not only business associations and institutions but also the content and brand managers of well-known companies; the membership of the German Design Council currently consists of more than 350 companies.

In addition, the German Design Council is an official partner of the New European Bauhaus Initiative – an EU foundation for a sustainable, aesthetic, and inclusive future. At the interface between art, culture, science and technology, the initiative aims to explore how our future living environments can be designed to make Europe climate neutral by 2050 as part of the European Green Deal. As part of the German Design Awards 2022, a jury will forward all projects considered for use as part of the New European Bauhaus to the initiative’s panel with a recommendation.

With their awarded products or projects, the participants demonstrate a high level of expertise in design innovation and a keen eye for the requirements of their own customers and the market. In addition to the main prize, there is also the Newcomer Awards – a unique award for young designers who attract attention through exceptional achievements and creative talent. For the award-winning young designers, the reputation of the prize and the international attention associated with it are particularly valuable. The German Design Council offers all finalists the opportunity to meet leading figures in the design-oriented business community in Germany at a series of exclusive events with its foundation members. This year, five finalists are nominated for the Newcomer Awards.  

The winners of the German Design Awards 2022 will be on display in the exhibition at the Museum Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt am Main from February 11 to 27, 2022, and at www.german-design-award.com. 

Starting in February, there will be a curated online program dedicated to the evolution of design over the past ten years and inspired by the work of visionary designer and design theorist Horst Rittel. This year’s theme of the award is How Designers Think: How to Find Solutions to Those Challenges for which Rittel coined the term “Wicked Problems” with Melvin Webber in the 1960s. For Lutz Dietzold, Chief Executive Officer of the German Design Council, the further development of the award is particularly relevant: from digitalization to AI to sustainability, designers must find answers to current topics. 

aware_ has taken a look at this year’s award winners and presents five innovative projects:

design awards

Level 2 Charger 

The Level 2 Charger from Canoo, winner in the Energy category of Excellent Product Design, can be used in a home garage or industrial facility. Modular pegboard design allows it to be configured and endlessly expanded as a wall mount and freestanding version to meet individual needs and requirements. A product concept for urban mobility needs that is both modern and high quality.

wodtke samurai iClean 

The wodtke samurai iClean from Robert Beil, winner in the Energy category of Excellent Product Design, makes environmental conscious and low-emission heating with the almost CO2 neutral fuel wood possible. In addition, the stove has been awarded the Blue Angel. Comfort and user-friendliness are part of the high-quality standards. 

design awards

instagrid ONE max 

The world’s first portable 230V battery unit designed for professional use by designer Felix Fuchs of instagrid GmbH is the winner in the Energy category of Excellent Product Design. The shaping frame is protection for the Li-Ion unit and offers grip as well as stacking possibility. The battery provides grid-like power at 3600W continuous output as well as 2.1KWh of energy without direct emissions – enough for a day’s work. As many parts as possible were designed to be disassembled and then returned to the recycling process. This ensures the greatest possible reparability and thus maximum service life. In addition, recycled materials were used. 

UP! 

The Berlin department store built in 1977 by SIGNA Development Selection AG is the winner in the Eco Design category of Excellent Architecture. The shell was completely refurbished, raised, and opened with striking incisions on all sides and converted into a business location. The building has its own energy center, which generates thermal energy by means of heat exchangers in the sewer and recooling units on the roof. The conversion, while retaining the existing structure in combination with the innovative energy solution, makes the project particularly sustainable. 

design awards

Eco Village Rügen 

The three three-sided courtyards made of prefabricated wooden components, a design by STUDIO SUSANNE BRORSON, wins in the Eco Design category of Excellent Architecture. The layout of the buildings was tested using wind simulations. Following climate-adapted design principles of the Baltic Sea region, the ensemble creates modern sustainable architecture that ties in with the traditional local architecture. The village consists of a main residence and two adjacent barn buildings with vacation homes around a paved courtyard. Passive strategies for climate-smart building played an important role in the design of the three-sided courtyards; a triumph in design, the building lives in harmony with its beautiful surrounding landscape. 

by Marie Klimczak

Planet-centric design re-balances humans’ and our planet’s needs while placing the planet at the center and prioritizing its ecosystem

For decades, designers and its industry have been concerned with human needs. From ergonomic kitchens and adjustable lighting to touchscreens and voice activation, human-centered design has focused on people, their desires and needs without looking at the well-being of the planet. Yet, a design that is not good for our planet is ultimately not good for people either. The climate crisis and lately the pandemic have shown that we have been prioritizing people for too long. Humans should be part of the equation, but not at the expense of the fundamental well-being of our planet. The pandemic in particular, has also shown that governments and people can act on a global challenge, and that a behavior shift is possible. We have to rethink the so far linear relationship between humans, technology, and our planet as a complex system of interdependencies. And since we designed our way into it – can we design our way out of it? (We Create Futures; SPACE10)

An approach to re-balance the needs of human beings and the needs of our planet is planet-centric design. It places the planet at the center, prioritizes its ecosystem and does not harm the planet (We Create Futures; SPACE10). The concept distances itself from a user-centered perspective and moves towards an egalitarian, planetary view – without losing sight of the user, the human being.

The independent design company and aware_ member Goodpatch is driven by the mission to prove the power of design. The company with studios in Tokyo, Berlin and Munich creates designs with sustainable value for people, organizations, and the planet. With their flexible services, Goodpatch meets their clients’ needs – from large, multinational corporations to local startups, in industries that span from health care to mobility. Whether it is a strategy, product, or service, Goodpatch works with their clients every step of the way to make complex ideas tangible (Goodpatch). Goodpatch’s approach is based on user experience design as an iterative process of understanding, defining, designing and evaluating. The goal is to gain the most holistic understanding possible of users, their everyday lives, behavior and their challenges, and to build solutions based on real customer desires (Handelsblatt). But what does desirability really mean? Creating awareness of what desirable futures are and whom they affect has become an essential aspect of Goodpatch’s design work. Which is why they have acknowledged the planet and its limits following a planet-centric design approach. By putting the individual human needs on the same level as planetary needs, the company has developed four movements to move from egoism to ecosystems, and to expand the design practice in their work:

Human To Planet

From a planetary perspective, it is important to move from human stakeholders to planetary stakeholders. This can be an ocean or the aforementioned pandemic.

Quantity to Quality

Planet-centric design appreciates growth in quality such as durability, intensity, trust, freedom, and relationships.

Short- To Long-Term

Planet-centric design includes the consideration of externalities that unfold over time, it emphasizes vision-driven design, keeping the long-term view in focus. Great ways to achieve this are vision cones, speculative design, and future back thinking.

Market-Fit To Planet-Fit

Sustainability is not only good for the planet, but it is also good for long-term business. Great ideas need to sustain themselves to have an impact, therefore it is inevitable to achieve planet fit before considering market fit (Goodpatch)

Planetary systems are complex, which is why design processes and tools are necessary to help navigate complexity and create better solutions for society that fit within the planet’s boundaries. Therefore, it is not enough to focus on desirability, viability and feasibility when designing new services. The outputs of design must also be responsible, systemic and transparent. Meaning, making thoughtful decisions that can have an effect on the future, accelerating behavior change for sustainability and making an environmental impact. It is the role of designers to clarify a vision and propose solutions — for a future in which the needs of human beings and the needs of our planet are in balance (Planet Centric Design, SPACE10)

aware_ sat down Samuel Huber, Strategy Director at Goodpatch and an expert for planet-centric design.

aware_: How can design contribute to a more sustainable world?

Samuel: Almost everything around us is shaped by design. However, design is much more than the materials we use and how things look. It has a crucial effect on how we behave and act in the world. 80 % of a product’s future emissions are designated during the design phase. Therefore, we must design in a way that leads us towards a more sustainable behavior throughout the whole lifecycle.

aware_: How can planet-centric design be inserted into existing design processes without changing it completely or de-centering the human too far?

Samuel: When we design for the planet, we automatically design for the humans who call it their home. By recalibrating the design toolset we use to develop products and services and assess viability, we manage to de-center the human and give voice to planetary stakeholders as well. This broader view allows us to see potential that goes beyond a single human.

aware_: What are the challenges or limitations to planet-centric design?

Samuel: Planet-centric design is not a solution. It is a method that empowers people and organizations to create awareness and generate answers to solve today’s small and grand challenges. These can be sustainability projects but also “normal” organizational initiatives. Therefore, it is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but involves a lot of work from a wide range of stakeholders.

aware_: Does Goodpatch follow a human-centered or planet-centric design? 

Samuel: We started out with a human-centered approach as companies were completely estranged from their customers and the people they tried to create value for. However, we realized over time that we had to extend this approach with a broader perspective, as designing only for one element in a system leads to failure as well. Therefore, we follow a planet-centric design approach, which still includes the human, but no longer exclusively.

aware_: Can you give an example for a planet-centric design best practice at Goodpatch?

Samuel: Let us look at one of the most powerful design tools: the user journey. When designing user journeys, we no longer only focus on the happiness of the customer or the business impact, but actively investigate how we can create a positive planetary impact at each stage. We also extended the scope of our journeys, so that they now include supply, production, organization, use, and reuse of products and services.

aware_: When do you think the economy will switch from human-centered to planet-centric?

Samuel: In the past twenty years, many companies were challenged by digital transformation which required them to substantially change the way they operate. We believe that in the next twenty years, sustainability and regulatory pressure will play a similarly disruptive role. Organizations that do not design for the planet and do not integrate sustainability in their process and practices will face a very tough market environment. We can already see this fundamental shift in the fashion industry; and just like media and music being the first to be challenged by digitalization, fashion might be an indicator of where we are headed and how fast it can go once the movement picks up speed.

 

by Marie Klimczak