Evolution of design for sustainability: From product design to design for system innovations and transitions

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Research units

  • Brunel University London
  • University of Melbourne


The paper explores the evolution of Design for Sustainability (DfS). Following a quasi-chronological pattern, our exploration provides an overview of the DfS field, categorising the design approaches developed in the past decades under four innovation levels: Product, Product-Service System, Spatio-Social and Socio-Technical System. As a result, we propose an evolutionary framework and map the reviewed DfS approaches onto this framework. The proposed framework synthesizes the evolution of the DfS field, showing how it has progressively expanded from a technical and product-centric focus towards large scale system level changes in which sustainability is understood as a socio-technical challenge. The framework also shows how the various DfS approaches contribute to particular sustainability aspects and visualises linkages, overlaps and complementarities between these approaches.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-163
Number of pages46
JournalDesign Studies
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Research areas

  • design for sustainability, design research, innovation, literature review, product design

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