Founded in Milan in 1966, the Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) is an institution of higher learning for the fields of design, fashion, visual arts, and communication. Part of the school’s global network, IED Barcelona Design University institutes a unique methodology that transcends the traditional binary mentality of form versus function, offering students a multidisciplinary education with emphasis on sustainable practices.

IED Barcelona’s Master's in Sustainable Product Design: Innovation and Management, for instance, offers a holistic perspective of the industry that encourages students to consider the entire life cycles of their creations, and advocates circular processes. Students gain fundamental knowledge of the economic and social systems they are effecting through their work, graduating as designers who can protect the environment by reshaping consumerist product development.

Artemide Project

‘Design for disassembly’ is the key to sustainable product design, says Oriol Guimerà, IED’s design school development director. Suppliers and manufacturers are concerned with costs, so considering how easily an item can be broken down into reusable material is fundamental to successful implementation of a cyclical product in a capitalist economy. Simultaneously envisioning the creation and destruction of an object is not only poetic, but a responsible approach to production that addresses the global problem of waste.

IED Barcelona students are presented with a challenge by a real company at the culmination of their studies. Recent graduating classes were tasked with reinventing a space along the Canillo River in Canillo, Andorra, adjoining parts of the city and providing opportunities for social exchange in a public setting.

Another graduate project was to create an outdoor lighting system with Artemide that preserves the sustainable principles the students acquired through their theoretical training.

The results are no less elegant or intriguing for their sustainable qualities, and can be appreciated all the more for the depth of thought and consideration behind the production of each piece.

Lighting system Zero by Pedro Pablo Cardona Mena and Fernando Luis Bencomo Arvizo guides hotel guests through outdoor environments using customizable effects.

Photo Luiza Lacava

Guimerà defines sustainability as a process that guarantees quality of life for future generations, and this IED Barcelona Masters programme embodies his ideal by taking initiative to address environmental issues, asking students the daunting question of how design can contribute to global wellbeing. Aesthetics and sustainability are not opposing notions but congruent qualities that can be implemented simultaneously, as evidenced by the work of these graduates.