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Sustainability by design: a new way of thinking

We are all living in a brave new world, where the imperative to address the pressing concerns of our planet has never been more evident. Society is placing a heightened emphasis on resilience and inclusivity. And our clients are not only seeking performance and functionality but innovation, experience, and ultimately more humanity.

So how do we build this brave new world into how we are thinking? How do we make what our clients, the planet and society are demanding innate to what we do and how we do it? 

Recently at Six we have applied this to our experience design thinking.  We all have to start somewhere so we asked ourselves; how do we create experiences which are kinder to both people and the planet? 

We cropped up against the concept of balance, in particular the balance between effectiveness, carbon intensity and inclusivity, and the importance of making informed decisions at every stage of your design process.

  • Effectiveness – creating the engaging experience which fulfils your audience need and your business requirement. E.g. a form fill, or purchase.  
  • Inclusivity – making sure that your digital experience is accessible to all of the diverse range of humans which could use it  
  • Carbon intensity – ensuring the carbon footprint for your experience is suitable for the experience you are creating.

The sweet spot is the middle of the triangle. But we know every business’ triangle looks different. Many businesses are having to make decisions based on more factors than ever before.  What’s more, these factors are ever evolving and often fast-changing. But what we are advocating for is active decision making on all three fronts.  

By understanding your users, their journeys and what you’re looking to achieve, we can help you identify what you want to prioritise. And also establish where to dial up and dial down each of these factors.  

Currently we are evaluating the experience design around our own business, including the rebuild of our own website. There are, of course, many ways to keep the carbon intensity of our site low, including:  

  • Run it on a headless CMS 
  • Keep file sizes low 
  • Use simple fonts and a colour palette that’s less energy intensive when rendered on digital devices etc 
  • Don’t use any rich media 

But are we balancing this against whether this will give us the results that we’re looking for? And whether it allows the fullest range of people to access our insight. And if not, questioning ourselves around whether it is even worth redesigning our website in the first place?  

We are actively discussing the balance; can we budget our carbon intensity and make sure we use our rich media at the ideal point in the experience to drive effectiveness? Do we make the decision to compromise on inclusivity (as it is a cornerstone of our business absolutely not of course). 

Fortunately, sustainability by design isn’t a wholesale change for how we work. We constantly strive to design experiences for our clients that deliver for audiences and keep on delivering for in the long-term to make them a worthwhile investment. But looking at these experiences through a balancing lens of inclusivity and carbon intensity means we create experiences that are truly kinder to people, kinder to the planet and enables our business to thrive. 

If some of these challenges look familiar to you, we’d love to join your conversation about designing experiences that are kinder to people and the planet. Just get in touch.

By Emma Bass, Tim Blass, Laura Millar


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