Designtheorie | Managing Sustainable Design
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12 Dez Managing Sustainable Design

by Prof. Dr. Brigitte Wolf (3rd Sustainable Summer School)

To attain any given or desired goal it is first necessary to be clear about the actual objective, the
manner in which it is to be achieved and the necessary requirements. This involves a number of
diverse activities that includes analysis, thinking, planning, organising and doing. The coordination
of all these activities and processes is what we call ‚management‘ – they constitute, in other words,
the inherent characteristics of management processes. Accordingly, Fredmund Malik divides the
management process into three levels (1):

> The normative level (What are the objectives? Why are they needed?)
> The strategic level (How can the objectives be achieved?)
> The operative level (What are the requirements and how can they be organized?)

The three management levels are closely related to and interact with one another. The question
then arises as to what role sustainability and design play in the various management levels. How are
management levels, sustainability and design related to one another? And, furthermore, how can
sustainability and design help support business success?

Given the facts that determine the environment in which we live, such as excessive resource and
energy consumption as well as a rapidly growing population grasping for a Western way of life, we
not only have to think about intelligent sustainable solutions – we have to act. We have to shape
our way of life to correspond to the given conditions. Creating alternatives which will enable human
beings to live a comfortable life and enjoy safe and secure resources and energy is the great
challenge facing designers today. To many this might seem to be a contradiction, but designers are
indeed trained to solve these difficult problems. It thus makes sense to integrate sustainability and
design into management processes from the very beginning.

When related to a project or an entire enterprise, the normative level defines the objectives and
goals not only in a material and quantitative fashion, but also – and even more importantly – in an
immaterial and qualitative manner. The normative level sets values and is directly linked to corporate
culture. The top level of management decides what makes a project or a company special, such
as user understanding, good design and environmental friendliness, for example. The strength of
a company’s corporate culture as well as its distinctiveness depend on management’s awareness.
As we all know, good design and sustainability are values that are becoming increasingly important …

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