The Masterclass by Andy Polaine: Service Design for the Circular Economy
Andy Polaine, designer, educator and writer, held this Thursday the fourth of six Service Design Masterclasses, a special format of the Master in Service Design that aims at investigating cutting-edge topics connected to the world of Service Design.
The topic of the Masterclass was the relationship between service design and circular economy, particularly exploring how the former can be integrated with circularity concepts and approaches so to move towards truly sustainable business models. The speech was articulated in three parts, covering respectively a brief history of environmentalism in design, the current state of economy models and how can service design fit in this landscape.
In the first part, an overview was given on how sustainability slowly entered the field of design, starting from early concepts of green design and arriving to the current idea of circularity, where products and materials are never discarded and always used and transformed to serve a new function. In order for this type of processes to be effective, the circularity has to be maintained throughout the design process, in order to keep the conversation alive and let it seep into the ideation and development phases.
The second part was about what is going on in the world today in terms of sustainability and economy. According to Polaine, there are inherent benefits in the exploration of new technologies, able to bring new expectations and ultimately lead to new business models. In this sense it is also important to have disruptive spikes of consequences that allow humans to realize certain problems and start to act, as it is happening in this period with wild fires in America and Australia.
The one fundamental skill in service design, and circular economy, is too be able to zoom in and out levels of system complexity. Service designers have to move from the famous human-centred design approach to a life-centred one, where the focus is the well-being of life as a whole and humans are in the midst of the loop but not the end of it. An important part of being a service designer for circularity means having the capability to make the invisible visible in companies environments, to tackle specific parts of production processes that allow for a necessary shift towards new and better models.
Change the nodes in a system and everything else starts to change.