Petz Scholtus: About Good Design and What it Has to Say

Good design can get us out of the current economical, ecological and emotional crisis we are in, Petz Scholtus encouraged TYPO Sustain attendees on Friday afternoon.
The Barcelona-based eco-designer said that whether designing a poster, shoe, house or plane, all use the same principles. She emphasized that because Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles of Good Design include “environmentally friendly” and “long lasting”, that designers can’t sacrifice the other eight in the name of sustainability. In fact, she posited, she is surprised when design awards go to non-eco friendly projects.

Photo @ Gerhard Kassner
Using the 10 principles as a foundation, there is more to good design when thinking in terms of sustainability. The reality is, Scholtus pointed out, good design is complicated. What may appear to be common sense, isn’t always. For instance, choosing a ceramic mug over paper cups is only worth it after 71 uses and repeatedly washing a t-shirt makes it less-sustainable than the manufacturing process. A lifecycle analysis should be done when a project is begun to evaluate all steps from materials to production to transportation to use to end of life. Designers have to look at the big picture.

  • Good design uses the right material. Follow the charge of Cradle to Cradle and focus on upcycling instead of downcycling.
  • Good design is not being moved around. Design products to be transported sustainably.
  • Good design multi-functions. Packaging doesn’t have to be thrown away, can be integrated into product.
  • Good design consumes less. If energy is saved in the manufacturing process, it shouldn’t be negated by the energy the product uses after.
  • Good design is shareable. Libraries are a timeless example of the co-op method, why not apply this to other products?
  • Good design communicates well. Think of what the consumer wants to know. For example, electricity meters that show you how much you’re saving in money are more effective than other data the user may not know how to interpret.

Illustrating her talk with beautiful infographics on somber statistics, Petz repeatedly emphasized another role designers play in solving the world’s problems:

“We need good graphic designers to take this information that is kind of boring in a scientific document and make people go ‘ooh’ and pay attention,” she said.


Petz Scholtus

Petz is an eco-designer working from Barcelona. Equipped with iPhone and solar bag she fits into the category of »eco-urbanista«, and believes that living sustainable is fun, sexy and possible through good design. Petz delights in designing products but believes that the world has enough chairs and so has set out to designing services and experiences. She also writes for TreeHugger, lectures and organises creative events.