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Priming Designers to Communicate Sustainability

[+] Author Affiliations
Jinjuan She, Erin MacDonald

Iowa State University, Ames, IA

Paper No. DETC2012-70274, pp. 461-474; 14 pages
  • ASME 2012 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 7: 9th International Conference on Design Education; 24th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology
  • Chicago, Illinois, USA, August 12–15, 2012
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4506-6
  • Copyright © 2012 by ASME


A prime is an artifact, exposure, or experience that stimulates increased cognitive accessibility of mental content. Priming designers has thus far focused on generating more features, novel features, relevant features, and addressing latent customer needs. This article presents a design method that uses priming specifically to help designers to communicate sustainability via design at an early stage in the design process. The authors have determined that sustainable products face a special challenge in the market because many of their best features, such as decreased energy usage, recyclability, or material selection, are hidden from the customer. Marketing messages are not always trusted. Designers need to communicate sustainability to the customer through product features that customer will identify as sustainable. We propose and test a new design method that designers can use to generate product features that communicate sustainability to the customer. The method involves priming the designer with a sensory-heightening activity before generating ideas for sustainable features. We investigate primes in the form of a questionnaire or a collage activity. The design method significantly helps designers to generate product features that communicate sustainability.

Copyright © 2012 by ASME
Topics: Sustainability



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