MAPD4100 Sustainable Design Approaches Emneplan

Engelsk emnenavn
Sustainable Design Approaches
Masterstudium i produktdesign – design for kompleksitet
10 stp.


Sustainable Design Approaches is an introduction to the ecological, social and economic challenges the global society is facing today, and how designers may contribute to sustainable industrial production and everyday life styles through new design solution. The course gives an overview of the scientific sustainability principles as well as the political common global goals (Paris agreement and UN's Sustainability development goals, Agenda 2030) and how they may be implemented in the design process. Systems theory and thinking will introduce you to the elements of sustainability as well as explaining the complexity of relations in socio-ecological systems.You will train your design methodology in finding focus, needs and problem definition related to chosen tasks and user groups, as well as exploring a set of design strategies in idea generation and design of final solution. Finally you are also introduced to methods for evaluation of products and services in order to discuss their contribution to a sustainable development on a product level as well as in a systemic perspective. 


Admission to the Master's programme.


After completing the course, the student is expected to have an overview and understanding of the most important environmental challenges the world is facing today and how design can contribute to solving them. Working on this complex topic, knowledge, skills and general competence on advanced level is needed. 


The student

  • understands how products and services can be interconnected in systems and mutually affecting each other 
  • has a good understanding of the scientific principles of sustainability
  • has a good understanding of how to use information about the environmental impact of the product system, to make informed decisions about how the product system should be designed to minimize this impact
  • understands the concept of a circular economy and how design can contribute to achieving this
  • has knowledge about how the behaviour of the user may affect the environmental impact caused by the product, and how the design may affect this behaviour
  • has knowledge about the global challenges of production and consumption as well as how design may contribute to a sustainable development and the UN sustainability goals. 


The student 

  • can take a systems perspective to describe a chosen topic in relation to the sustainability challenges
  • identify needs on a basic level and related user groups
  • identify the main environmental impacts caused by a product system throughout its lifecycle and make rough estimates of these impacts 
  • can justify the choice of sustainable design strategy/strategies to be implemented in the project’s ideation phase, design process & results
  • can make design decisions to enable for additional lifecycles in a circular economy
  • can analyse and compare (socio-ecological) sustainability performance of product concepts in order to identify areas for improvement and select winning concepts
  • can use sustainability analysis results to justify in what ways the suggested offering is more sustainable than the current solution, and to identify areas needing further improvement

General competence 

The student 

  • understands the importance of considering sustainability aspects in a design process, and can identify and apply appropriate tools or methods to minimize or eliminate the negative environmental impact 
  • is able to communicate the design process, use of design strategies and tools, as well as evaluations and decisions made to reach the most promising results for sustainability
  • is able to reflect on the consequences of values and strategies chosen by the designer and company in a systemic perspective.


  • Sustainability principles
  • Sustainability challenges
  • Human basic needs
  • Sustainable design strategies
  • Design for a circular economy (Cradle to Cradle) 
  • Life cycle understanding and estimation ("LCA light") 
  • UN Sustainable development goals
  • Tripple bottom line (people, planet, profit)
  • Systems thinking 
  • Design for sustainable behaviour 
  • Harmful substances in products 
  • Team work processes and reflection of learning

Arbeids- og undervisningsformer

The most important teaching and learning methods for this course are workshops in class, guest lectures, smaller assignments, peer group presentations, excursions, both individual and group project work. The course includes an individual reflection essay about own learning, contribution and group process.

Arbeidskrav og obligatoriske aktiviteter

The following required coursework must be approved before the student can take the exam: 

  • Weekly assignments in groups or individual, orally presented or written submission
  • Reflection essay on learning process, downloaded assignment

Vurdering og eksamen

Group written home examination, which consists of: 

  • One written report. Describing an understanding of the theory, relevant methodology and tool-box for design, research and analyses supporting a design practice for Sustainabilty. The report may vary according to the project and chosen format/layout, but between 10 and 40 pages are expected. 

The examination result can be appealed.

Hjelpemidler ved eksamen

No restrictions on examination resources


Grade scale A-F.


Two internal. External examiner is used periodically.