Towards more environmentally friendly digital design – Case Taiste

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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Master's Programme in Collaborative and Industrial Design
Climate change remains one of the greatest challenges of our time and greenhouse gas emissions continue to warm our planet. Digital products have been seen as a way to achieve environmental friendliness, but slowly the scope is broadening to address the negative environmental impacts of digital products and services. Environmentally Friendly Digital Design (EFDD) is an approach that prioritizes our planet’s health mainly by reducing energy consumption. It is a new and still developing field, consequently lacking academic research, especially regarding the implementation of EFDD practices. This thesis is commissioned by a Finnish digital product development company Taiste Oy, interested in starting to incorporate more environmentally friendly practices. The company has fourteen years of experience in developing and designing digital products and services, providing an excellent context for a case study. The aim of this research is to explore how the implementation of EFDD practices can be started inside a company or organisation. Firstly, the role of designers’ awareness regarding the environmental friendliness of digital design in the implementation of EFDD practices is investigated. Secondly, different theories and methods that might enhance the implementation are looked into. Thirdly, a more tangible level of understanding is pursued by exploring what frameworks and processes may help a company initiate the implementation. Iterative service design and case study approaches were chosen for this research. Observations and interviews were utilised to create an initial understanding and to map out the awareness. Co-design workshops and sharing sessions were conducted to involve employees in the process and to explore how EFDD practises could be taken into consideration in the company’s own product development processes. The findings suggest that awareness as the prerequisite is crucial when it comes to the implementation of EFDD practices and that theories of learning organisations and reflexivity are valuable in understanding awareness creation. Reflexivity could help increase awareness of environmental effects and one’s ability to have an impact, while also opening up space to challenge the established ways of designing digital products. For these purposes, an open dialogue was found to be fruitful. A company should also provide needed resources for the employees for them to start adopting new practices. As EFDD is seen as a complex topic, using company processes as scaffolding was found to be an effective way to anchor the topic into real-world and everyday practices. This thesis contributes to the EFDD field and to the academic discussion. The created artefact is a practical example of how the implementation of EFDD practices can be approached. The research adds to the still scarce academic discussion around the EFDD and implementation while connecting it to organisational learning and reflexivity theories.
Caic, Martina
Thesis advisor
Lundahl, Karoliina
environmentally friendly digital design, sustainability, green transition, environmental awareness, environmental effects, organisational learning, organisational changes, reflexivity
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