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Design for Sustainability I - EPFL

  • Enseignant(s):   M.Laperrouza   M.Aeberli  
  • Titre en français: Conception pour la durabilité I - EPFL
  • Cours donné en: anglais
  • Crédits ECTS: 3 crédits
  • Horaire: Semestre d'automne 2021-2022, 2.0h. de cours + 1.0h. d'exercices (moyenne hebdomadaire)
      WARNING :   this is an old version of the syllabus, old versions contain   OBSOLETE   data.
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  • Formation concernée: Maîtrise universitaire ès Sciences en systèmes d'information
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This course aims to explore and practice some of the fundamental tools of designing for sustainability with a focus on the desirability and economic viability of interventions.

By the end of the course, the student must be able to:

  • Identify intervention opportunities for ill-defined problems through exploration and framing
  • Apply a sustainability-centered design process
  • Communicate effectively with professionals from other disciplines


Design for Sustainability takes the participants through practical concepts, tools and processes to propose design interventions that aim to improve the co-existence of humans, preserve biodiversity, and life-supporting systems. It integrates environmental, economic, social and cultural dimensions. The course explores interventions at different levels (material, product, product-service system, social innovation, and system transformation). It covers the framing, ideation and prototyping phases of designing for sustainability.

The course builds on the blueprint proposed by the UN's Sustainable Development Goals to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The global and local challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, environmental degradation, social justice require new solutions that challenge traditional innovation mindsets and business models.

Sessions in the fall semester are devoted to design research (e.g., field research, user observation, design thinking, system thinking, sensemaking, framing, ideation). During the spring semester, sessions will be devoted to the prototyping of a solution through a project-based approach.

Teams will be made up of engineers (EPFL), social scientists (UNIL) and designers (ECAL).

As part of the TILT program, some of the course sessions will be given in the form of workshops aimed at strengthening professional competences (communication, interdisciplinary work, open-ended problem solving, project management, etc.). Students will be asked to keep a logbook as a basis for their individual reflexive note.

Keywords: design for sustainability, viability, desirability, ideation, prototyping, SDGs, interdisciplinarity

More information on:

IMPORTANT: This course runs over the Fall AND Spring semesters (3 ECTS for each semester)


  • Bhamra, T., & Lofthouse, V. (2007). Design for sustainability : a practical approach. Aldershot, England, Burlington, VT: Gower ; Ashgate Pub.
  • Ceschin, F., & Gaziulusoy, I. d. (2020). Design for sustainability : a multi-level framework from products to socio-technical systems. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.
  • Manzini, E. (2015). Design, when everybody designs : an introduction to design for social innovation.Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
  • Nova, N., L., L.-H., & M., C. (2016). Beyond Design Ethnography. Geneva: HEAD.
  • Papanek, V. J. (1972). Design for the real world; human ecology and social change. New York,: Pantheon Books.
  • Thackara, J. (2015). How to thrive in the next economy : designing tomorrow's world today. New York, New York: Thames & Hudson.
  • Thompson, P. B., & Norris, P. E. (2021). Sustainability : what everyone needs to know. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Verganti, R. (2016). Overcrowded : designing meaningful products in a world awash with ideas. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
  • Vezzoli, C., Ceschin, F., Diehl, J. C., Moalosi, R., M'Rithaa, M. K., Nakazibwe, V., & Osanjo, L. (2018). Designing Sustainable Energy for All : Sustainable Product-Service System Design Applied to Distributed Renewable Energy. Cham: Springer.



Ce cours est limité à 8 inscriptions. Les inscrits seront choisi dans l'ordre d'arrivée. Inscription par email à - Délai des inscriptions: 28 septembre 2021.


1ère tentative

Sans examen (cf. modalités)  

The course will be assessed on the basis of:

  • Documentation of framework-in-action: 40% (group, during the semester)
  • Intervention blueprint: 40% (individual, end of the semester)
  • Reflexive note: 20% (individual, end of the semester)


Sans examen (cf. modalités)  

As a retake, the student will be asked to present a new intervention blueprint and a new reflexive note.

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