From Brief to Concept: Designing Sustainable Product Service Systems

Written by Maria Mercer

The Sustainable Product and Service Design (SPSD), Case course gave us a realistic, first-hand experience of the design process involved in working on a concept-solution for a real-life case and client. In conjunction with the SPSD Theory course, we gained a good foundation of knowledge which we were able to incorporate into our case work.


The class was divided into four teams and were each given a design brief from our client outlining the sustainability-related project challenge at hand. The teams consisted of students from many educational and professional backgrounds, including design, business, architecture, and chemistry. Each of the team members – even those of us who did not have any prior experience working with product and service design – took an active role in the project work. Throughout the various stages of the design process, I figured out what my strengths were and where I could apply them, while also developing other abilities along the way. This diversity within the teams allowed for well-rounded discussions and research activities which contributed to the overall success of the project outcomes.

The entire process took around six weeks: on the first day, we received the project briefs from the clients. After two weeks, each team presented a re-brief to their client, and halfway through the course, the teams gave midterm progress updates to the class. On the last day, we gave the final presentations with the clients in attendance. This timeline allowed us to gain a first-hand understanding of how the design process works, from the fuzzy front-end to the final concept.

On the last day of the SPSD Case course, it was rewarding to finally present what our team had spent so much time working on in the previous weeks, and to see how the other teams had progressed and concluded their work. Each group gave an informative and inspiring presentation. The resulting four design concepts (briefly described) included:

  • A system for phosphorus recovery and recycling to help prevent phosphorus depletion.


  • A creative application of photovoltaics within a residential area to encourage a more widespread use of renewable energy.


  • A mobile container unit to bring local business and culture to lifeless train stations.


  • A community hub where you can buy, eat, cook and grow low-carbon, sustainable food.


The teams displayed dedication, logic, ingenuity, and collaborative spirit in their work. As a student of the Creative Sustainability program, this was very encouraging to see: if it is possible, in just one course, to put our creative skills together in a way that produces several realistic concepts that have true potential to contribute to a sustainable society, then I am confident that my fellow classmates and I will be capable of engaging in similar processes throughout our professional futures. I hope that we will continue to collaborate with many people, in many places, to find solutions to contemporary issues together for a more sustainable world.

Posted by Creative Sustainability
4 years ago

One response

  1. Shahjahan and Yoriko / October 29, 2016

    To whom it may concern,
    Dear sir / Madam,
    “iimon” We are a very small woman run hand stitching and hand looming business from Bangladesh ; we try fusion fashion for the world. Our work is beautiful with quality, but we don’t know how to reach to the world. Instate of reaching for financial charity, we took our work seriously it is the way out of poverty.
    Though we are not so well in website designing and online media, Yet can you please see or facebook “iimon” or search iimon if any articles. We just want to know; if there is future for us in outside world and how, it is difficult otherwise.