Sustainable labeling

Communication system for sustainable
product design*

With Lorena Sumaku & Ahn Han Gwe
Milan, 2007

This project was made during my time as a student exchange in Milan at l’Istituto Europeo di Design (IED). I took part in a workshop on furniture design which had two themes: abitare (inhabit) and sostenabilità (sustainablility). My new friends and I used this project as a reflexion about the balance between living and creating in sustainable ways, despite the mass-produced world that surrounds us. Through numerous discussions and making prototypes, we tried to create an innovative furniture design that would tell that story. We were however never satisfied by the results. That’s until we realized that no chair or table could ever say: don’t produce anymore! We then decided to embrace the idea that, even if it was a furniture workshop, we would not create another object. Instead, we took the challenge to help consumers make better-informed choices when buying designer furniture or products by creating a communication system that could eventually become a sustainable labeling system.

With the help of Clara Mantica, an eco-design journalist, we crafted a communication system for products that would educate consumers about their life cycles. 

We realized that the eco-labeling systems already in place were not telling the entire story. Some products can be made out of materials extracted in a proper and respectful way, but might transported half way around the planet. Products can have different levels of sustainability and the Sustainable labeling project was built for people to compare product life cycles between each other and help them make responsible choices.

Thanks to Clara Mantica, the project was published in Ottagono and Interni, two very well-known italian design magazines in their September 2007 issues.

Also, grazie mille to Pierre-Alexandre Poirier for his collaboration on the logo and slogan!

Made at the Istituto Europeo di Design di Milano
*In Italian ‘Sistema di communicazione per prodotti di design sostenibile’

  • Logo for sustainable design products.
  • Product life cycle represented in seven steps: matter, transformation, packaging, transport, use, recycling and cost.
  • The label would is apply directly on the product packaging were it can be seen by the consumer. Each level is stamp with a "yes" or a "no" to indicate whether that particular step in the life cycle is sustainable or not.
  • With the logo and the tagline we made advertisement for public transportation showing well-known design products. The punch line "Eco. Sì bello" means: “Eco. Yes it's nice”. It's also a wordplay: “È cosi bello”, which means something like: “that's how it's nice”.
  • The booth at the final presentation.
  • The team (from left to right): Lorena, myself and Han.