Transition Design in the Discourse of Sustainability

The design of products and services is not only defined by their functionality and aesthetics, but also by their environmental impact, especially their resource consumption or their impact on the climate. Innovations and ideas – may they be sustainable or not – materialise in products and infrastructures. To make product-service-systems more sustainable and less resource consumptive has been part of the research objective of the Wuppertal Institute from the beginning. 

Therefore, the developed MIPS method analyses the total resource consumption from cradle-to-grave or cradle-to-cradle and indicates respective alternatives. The intensity of use is derived by an evaluation of the service unit. Moreover, a user-integrated approach reveals new design solutions for products and services in terms of sufficiency, efficiency and consistency.The demand of lifestyle oriented and differentiated products and services that also raise the quality of life and at the same time protect the environment is more topical than ever. Therefore, the approach of an eco-intelligent and sustainable design has been extended by the agent integrating design (social design approaches, LivingLabs) up to the transition design.

An interested method for this purpose did Marc Hassenzahl and Matthias Laschke develop at the Folkwang University (cf. to design transformational objects; it fundamentally addresses the charming and desired change of behaviour or routines. These interactive designs are well-suited because they immediately give feedback to the user on his behaviour and, if desired, allow for strategic behaviour.

Living Labs
Starting point for a sustainable transition design - from the social narration to the product-service to the individual action

It is especially the research group "Sustainable Production and Consumption" at the Wuppertal Institute that deals with the preconditions of sustainability and transition design. They cooperate with scientific institutions for design and design education, especially with the Folkwang University of Arts. The International Sustainable Summer School Designwalks compile an interesting team of German and European universities for design together with the Wuppertal Institute.

The Wuppertal Institute aims with ist sustainability research on design at revealing the potentials of design and design research for the energy and resource transition. The methods address social practices of every day life directly and consider the individual usage of time as well as the resource consumption together with the resulting cost of living now and in possible future scenarios. The "Designguides" by the Wuppertal Institute provide a possibility for designers as well as design students to get an understanding of this approach and apply it to their work.


Prof. Dr. Christa Liedtke

Tel.: +49 202 2492-130

Fax: +49 202 2492-138


Here you find research activities in the field of transition design.