How can design students and professionals contribute to cleantech?

What has design profession got to do with cleantech?

A lot, in my opinion.

Other than engineers, design professionals perhaps represent the top most segment when it comes to making a difference to cleantech.

Design? Surely I am not joking?

No, I am not.

In my opinion, design professionals have a far more significant contribution to make to cleantech than many other professions.

Why is this so?

Because – change is difficult.

Yeah? So?

In order to make people change the way they behave or do things for a more sustainable world, it is not enough to come up with good cleantech inventions, but equally important to design them such that millions of people would actually WANT to use them.

(You might also want to read these two posts: Saving the world: We could change the way we live, Saving the world: Using cleantech).

As clean technology for most people around the world is “nice to have” right now and not “must have”, it is important that cleantech products have attractive intangibles built into them in order to make millions of people start using them fast.

This is where design plays an important role – making otherwise “dry” cleantech solutions cool, sexy and I-want-it-now.

A good example of this is the Nest thermostat designed by Nest Labs, which was acquired by Google. The idea behind Nest was to have a thermostat designed in such a cool way that many people who had not bothered to use a thermostat earlier (“It’s just a dumb thing”) started using it regularly (“Oh, it is cool”), resulting in a more optimal setting of their heating/cooling equipments, and consequently leading to significant energy savings.

Other examples include:

  • Compact fluorescent lamps – Consumers initially rejected this energy efficient alternative, not just due to additional expense but also because the new curly-bulb shape stuck out of their lamps. Today, the lamp’s design largely mirrors the incandescent bulbs they aim to replace.
  • The success of the second generation Toyota Prius was attributed as much to design as to technology – the same has been the case with Tesla’s electric cars too.

I have been in the cleantech sector for a while now, and I can tell you this: Only very few cleantech entrepreneurs appreciate the importance of design for their product’s success. This is not a problem, in fact, this is an opportunity for entrepreneurs who are willing to spend time on design – they now have a powerful tool to beat the competition and succeed in the market.

All these also obviously imply a significant opportunity for design professionals – they can now use their skills in making a big difference to the world.

How can design students and professionals contribute to cleantech? - Cleantech Guide

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *