From human-centered to planet-centered

EGGS Design at the 2019 WWNA conference

This weekend, EGGS will be attending the annual conference WWNA: “Why the World Needs Anthropologists." EGGS’ vision is that by 2022, we want to be able to measure a sustainability impact in 80% of our projects. To reach this goal, we need to be clear about how to work with sustainability. That's why we, in every project, focus on a triple bottom line; people, planet, and profit. At WWNA, I will be talking more about this and why I believe a human-centered approach doesn’t alone cut it.

Human-centered is good

Personally, I think it is time that we take a closer look at the human-centered approach in the context of sustainability. With a background in anthropology, I am, of course, positive about the fact that so many design companies have incorporated an empathic approach in their design processes. I’m also happy to see that more and more companies see the value in human-centered design and that we, as anthropologists, can contribute to many different areas. Not only can we help ensure that companies identify real human needs, but also that this is done in a correct way and through proper data analysis.

With a background in anthropology, Rikke looks positively on the fact that companies apply a human-centred approach in their design processes. But, she also believes that it's critical that we move forward and adapt a planet-centred approach to be able to reach the sustainability goals. Human-centred and planet-centred need to walk hand-in-hand.

…but it’s not enough

  • When it comes to sustainability, the human-centered approach might fall short– if we are not careful. Human-centered design tells us to go ask, observe, and analyze humans to find the best solutions for them. Having this as our starting point does not give us the answers to solve the problems of sustainability. It may do the opposite:

  • Human needs and habits created the problem we have with the environment, climate changes, and lack of recourses.

  • People’s behavior, routines, and tendency to conformity are too inherent to make drastic enough changes.

  • People’s potential lack of knowledge, competences, and interest can be a constrain to succeed with sustainable design.

Sustainability is a complex issue

As anthropologists, we are trained to look into and analyze the sometimes irrational behavior of humans. As designers, we are trained to conceptualize, develop, and test solutions for unknow needs, unspoken needs, and future needs. But even though designers and others working with design thinking, have a growing interest in and focus on sustainability, it is still at the early stages. Sustainability being such a complex and at times, non-transparent area, there needs to be structures and clear processes supporting this approach.

With human-centered design, we strive to create offerings catering to human needs. In planet centred design, we also open up for adapting human behaviour to the planet's needs.
Rikke Elisabeth Fredriksen, Lead Designer, EGGS Design

Planet-centred is eventually also human-centered but in a much longer time perspective. It might lead us to propose products and services that "nudge" us and seem uncomfortable or different in the short run, but that benefit us all in the long run. Our job as anthropologists and designers is to make these nudges as desirable as possible.

Let’s talk more about this

At WWNA, I will be talking more about the challenges of designing for sustainability and about EGGS triple bottom line approach. I hope that this will both inspire and also cave grounds with fellow designers and anthropologists in the course of the conference and the following more hands-on workshops.

See you there!

Sounds interesting?

Rikke Elisabeth Frederiksen

Have a chat with our Lead Designer
Rikke Elisabeth Frederiksen
+45 316 49 083

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