phd

It will be too long to explain why I decided to do a PhD. I guess I can simply say that it was the next logical step in my professional and personal development, which certainly without the support of my extraordinary wife Udayana, I would not even have imagined doing.


That being said, since September 2011, and thanks to a full scholarship granted by Northumbria University, here I’m, in the cold and wet north of England trying to understand what has been done and what hasn’t to help design more sustainable products.


I’m working under the great guidance of Dr. Stuart English and Dr. Kevin Hilton from Northumbria University, and Mr. Matteo Conti from the Royal College of Art. My research has taken me through the world of biology, thermodynamics, macroeconomics, cognitive psychology and others. I have had the opportunity to read extraordinary authors, some like H. Daly, R. Constanza, N. Georgescu-Roegen, T. Jackson, E. Manzini, D. Meadows, E. F. Schumacher, N. Cross and many, many others.


One thing has struck me deeply: the feeling of humility after realising the enormous amount of knowledge and work done by others, so mankind can stand where it is right now; and the immeasurable knowledge yet to be discovered. I'm becoming an illustrated ignorant, Socrates never had such a profound meaning.


Going a bit into detail, I can say that has been found that around 80% of the impact of products, can be traced back to the early stages of design. Therefore, this very fuzzy, fast and intuitive moment becomes really important. The tools we normally use (LCA, full and slim), or guides and checklist, are very helpful in previous or more advanced stages of design. In my research I’m trying to understand how the designer's work flow may be affected when exposed to sustainability-related information with a 'soft-modelling' tool (Trophec), in early stages of design.

I have conducted several tests mixing various methods for data triangulation, as central structure I'm doing a protocol analysis from a 'think aloud' test, with retrospective and concurrent reports. I have made this test with 52 design students and 6 professional designers, currently I'm writing my thesis, the plan is to obtain the degree after summer 2014.

So far I can say that this method of 'soft modelling' really does work, I have identified some other interesting things, and some ways to further improve the tool, but you will have to wait until I finish the thesis to know more.

Lastly, the data triangulation I mentioned before has been visualised with a 'flow chart' of the design processs. I designed it inspired by many other researchers' work. I can't explain all details yet, but you can see an example here: