How can rapid product development support sustainable product design research?
The consequences of the continually increasing impact of human development are confronting many people on a daily basis. Now more than ever there is a need to confront and challenge the way we live, one that is currently based around unsustainable production and consumption. Consequently, the design community has responded by recognising the potential opportunities associated with supporting sustainability, and well-informed designers are in a powerful position to help address some of the issues facing us. For many designers, reframing their practices and processes presents a great challenge. For new product designers to enter and engage in this new design era requires that sustainable design is deeply embedded into the curriculum of product design programmes. While many design programmes have embraced principle of sustainability, many have developed projects around the need for social responsibility, and have orientated teaching and studio projects around designing products to help those communities in greater need. Alongside is a rise in the number of sustainable design frameworks, all of which propose potential solutions to the world ecological crisis. However these frameworks may not always be founded on a good, or realistic understanding of the underlying ecological principles, or are over simplified by designers who do not have sufficient understanding of the ecological processes that underpin them. This paper describes some recent activities of the newly formed Sustainable Product Design Research Group at AUT, and presents a recently initiated staff research project to illustrate the role of Universities can play in engaging in the debate around developing a more sustainable future. In this project rapid prototyping product development processes are used as the primary methods with which to explore a recently developed sustainable design approach.