Design Engineering
Showcase 2020

Sustainability Fader

Global Innovation Design
Dr John Stevens
Embracing the White Space

How to strategically implement sustainable possibilities and barriers of a concept in the design process? The Sustainability Fader is a new design tool which assesses the level of sustainability of consumer goods. The comprehensive impacts of new concepts or design decisions are verified by 36 sustainability features within the segments people, planet, profit and product. The Fader includes the product’s perspective which contribute to our cultures and the ways we consume, communicate and exist.

We, as global innovative designers, share a collective responsibility for our actions and global reactions. We are impelled to commit to a design practice which allocates a sustainable future for all connected cultures. This complexity means a re-understanding and re-connecting of design decisions.

In 10 to 30 years, some changes in general consumer behaviour and the production of consumer goods will have to be consolidated in order to react early to upcoming difficulties such as demographic changes, resource scarcity and climate change. The global sustainable development goals (SDG) for 2030 by the United Nations question different aspects of the socio-cultural, environmental and economic behaviour of a nation, industry, market or single product. Consequently, various traditions occur to have an uncertain future.

 — Sustainability Fader


Environmental problems are caused by industrial production and consumption of single-use products, such as those made of plastic. In some parts of India, tea drinkers use a disposable cup made of the natural material low-fired clay. Kolkata is one of the places in Western India holding on to the tradition of drinking tea served in “bhar”. Indian ministers see the traditional cup as a national opportunity to circumvent the problems of industrialisation and to comply with the sustainability goals through replacing chai cups made of plastic and paper.

“What are the sustainability competencies and future of the traditional clay cup, called bhar,” is the question of the showcase project developing a new design perspective and sustainability commitment.The project is about a very simple cup but with a complex impact on people, planet and profit. To preserve bhar, the project builds an informative fundament of visualised data and framework around the cup contextualising the national SDGs. It compares four concepts, with the help of the Sustainability Fader, and proposes strategic, experimental, and communicative solutions which incorporate material innovations to close bhar’s ecosystem.

All data and insights are combined in the Sustainability Catalogue and on my website.


The Sustainability Fader translates sustainability aspects of the SDGs and general product needs into 36 sustainability features. Five ranks indicate the level of sustainability from 0 (not sustainable) until 5 (excellent sustainable). The best possible solution would show a perfect circle.

If a designer wants to simulate the impact of a design concept, she assesses the level of influence (quantity, quality, stability) of each feature. Based on the resulting diagram which describes the relationships between the features the designer evaluates the possibilities and barriers of the concept. Comparing or combining several concepts achieve an optimal result of an assessment of the sustainability competencies and future of a consumer good.

Hanne developed the Sustainability Fader to make responsible design decisions for her unknown culture. She used the new tool to compare the concepts recycling, reusing, exchanging and exporting and decided on the most potential concept recycling. After experimental research, she created two new resources and designed various products visualising the potential of the new materials. The new designs offer the opportunity to start re-thinking the environmental impact of disposable products and the consumer behaviour recycling and reusing in India.

All outcomes are available here.


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