This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Utilizing cultural elements to enhance the sustainability of product




Li, Yu

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Industrial and Graphic Design


In the early nineteenth century, the most important environmental issues were not a widespread concern. Humans believed that resources in the planet seemed immeasurably vast, and that nature itself would digest everything and continue to grow. In recent years, our understanding of nature has dramatically changed. We are now facing several environmental issues such as shortage of resources, pollution and waste generation. More and more people are starting to realize that today environmental problems are not simple environmental problems, but design problems. Therefore, increasing the sustainability of products has attracted public attention greatly in recent years. However, when most designers suggest how to make the product more sustainable, they neglect the importance of product life extension. “In many cases, longer-lived products could save resources and generate less waste and increase the sustainability of products significantly, because fewer units are needed to satisfy the same needs.” (Keoleian & Menerey, 1994, p. 656) There are several ways to meet the need to extend product life. Cultural factors have the most crucial influence on the extension of product life. This thesis focusses on building the relationship between cultural elements in the product and sustainability, and how to use cultural elements to increase the product’s sustainability. Finally, this thesis will generate guidelines to help product designer to create a sustainable product or improve the sustainability of their design with the use of cultural elements. By following the guidelines, the designer has the opportunity to create holistically sustainable product, providing a new method to address severe environmental problems while at the same time ensuring the profit of the manufacturer.