Design Management Journal (2015)

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Murto, P., & Person, O. (2015). Environmentally Sustainable Design in a Business Network: A Study on the Position of Designers in the Development of a Passenger Ship. Design Management Journal, 10(1), 37–49.


The design literature on environmental sustainability often suggests that designers should take a central role in improving the environmental impact of products. However, there is limited research on the practical possibilities for professional designers to cater to such a role, especially in the context of contemporary product development practices where activities, actors and resources are distributed across multiple companies and suppliers in a network.

In this paper, we report on interviews with designers, managers and coordinators involved in a networked development project to design and build a passenger ship with significantly better environmental performance. Through the interviews, we problematise the role designers can play in environmentally sustainable design. Designers addressed sustainability in the early phases of the project. However, this work came to have limited influence on how environmental improvements on the ship were realized in the later phases of the project. Based on this finding, we discuss what impact designers potentially can have on sustainability improvements in networked development projects.

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Strategic Design Integration and Management research group (SDIM) is at the Department of Design, School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Aalto University, Finland