Once upon a time, use.design for change…

Once upon a time, use.design for change…

Once upon a time, use.design for change… 1920 1280 Use Design

Photo du header de RyanMcGuire

When we become aware of the state of the planet, we can no longer remain in denial. This is what happened for the team, which decided to invest as much as it could in actions in favour of sustainable development.

Pierre Rabhi says that “Tomorrow’s solutions are in today’s utopias” and that’s good because at use.design we love finding solutions to problems 🤔🛠
Designers are researchers, questioners, innovators,… Add to that the ethical dimension (see our translation of Mike Monteiro’s article – A designer’s ethical code) and you will have no trouble convincing a team that action is needed!

This is the story of a collective awareness and the implementation of concrete actions to preserve our planet and the people who live it.

At the beginning, there was the creation of an internal project…

After this awareness common to all, materialized by many discussions in which we agreed to feel guilty for doing nothing, we decided to act. To organize our actions, we had to create an internal project around which we would meet every week to exchange, iterate and prototype on sustainable development and its components.

The first approach was to share our enthusiasm with the outside world.
How could we make sure that people were interested? How responsible were we as designers for building a more sustainable world?

As not everyone had the same availability, a team dedicated to these issues was formed and created the SST project (for sustainable). It is my colleagues, Amandine and Louise who will tell you how they started this project in a short interview:

Hello girls, can you introduce yourself in a few words?
“Amandine designer of service and UX at use.design since one year and Louise recently graduated from the Nantes Atlantique design school. Particularly interested in service design and its application in the sustainable development and health sectors. We believe that design can nowadays respond to social challenges through its creative methodology, focusing above all on users to propose innovative and sustainable solutions.”

What was your first objective of the SST project?
“The primary objective of this project was to shed light on our team, and ourselves, on the impact that the designer could have on society with what he delivers into the hands of users. We therefore considered the implementation of a strategy for sustainable development at the agency. We started with an idea from one of the partners to customize methodological tools used in design such as user journeys. The aim is to make clients and employees aware of the importance of sustainable development issues without confusing them with completely different tools.”

What were the different start-up phases of the SST project?
“Benchmarking, a lot of research on sustainable development and its application in general: the concept, applications in design, in our daily lives, CSR, labels,… All this to identify and define doable actions for Use Design that would be of interest to our employees. Then we organized different Lunch & Learn to raise awareness internally and to try to get our employees on board.”

What difficulties did you encounter?
“The biggest difficulty was and still is to transform all this watch and these notions into concrete and accessible actions. Being a small structure, we cannot change everything overnight, and the very change that is necessary requires adaptation from all of us. Thus these actions are often small and sometimes frustrating. This leads to 2 new difficulties: getting employees on board and not forgetting – with the constraints of everyday life – the long-term vision. To do this, it is necessary to take up, question and renew the actions put in place and to animate constantly so that it does not fall into oblivion, which requires a lot of energy and stubbornness 😅.
Another difficulty also comes from outside, since we quickly realize that for a trip, a meal or a purchase in our daily lives, few things are put in place or easily accessible to limit our waste production or have a neutral or even positive impact on each of the pillars of sustainable development.”

What successes?
“I would say that it is first and foremost the debates that our Lunch & Learn have triggered. Many employees were aware of sustainable development but were not necessarily aware that it concerned economic, social and environmental aspects. Then also the fact of succeeding as we can in keeping these topics of interest in the agency with Marie our Office & Happiness Manager.
The implementation of project creation tools (pack templates) also seems to us to be quite innovative and proposes to adopt a new point of view on project development for us and for our customers.”

On the second month we invented the internal “challenges”…

Because we thought that we might not be very legitimate to suggest to others to change their way of thinking and living if we didn’t make an effort ourselves. To make things more fun and because we thought it was better to do “little by little” than rush everyone, each week we added a challenge to our daily lives:

  • One cup a day per person.
  • Delete your spam, notifications / reminders / ads / newsletter / calendar invitation.
  • Try to use Ecosia.
  • Try the Toby plugin.
  • Buy water bottles, drink tap water from glasses.
  • Eat the leftovers once a week (agency and home).
  • Use rough paper to print and force black and white printing.
  • Remember to turn off the light when I leave a room.
  • Remember to close the many windows open on your search engines.

It must be said that these challenges were quickly abandoned… Not totally forgotten but we were no longer following them as they unfolded.
As soon as there was no more regular point, there were no new challenges and the ardour of the first days disappeared. The daily “bad habits” are quickly gaining the upper hand.

So I decided to act on what I had more or less control over and…

On the third month I found new and more responsible suppliers…

Because it is really not easy to part with a supplier with whom everything goes well but unfortunately, its efficiency and price was no longer a unique argument. Always in line with this desire for change, we had to respect our commitments and be in line with our speech.
When we started looking for these small, durable beads, it was soon clear that it was not so easy to find suppliers who respected a certain number of commitments while entering our budget 😅:

  • working in short operating circuit, 
  • seasonal products, 
  • sustainable products, 
  • recyclable products, 
  • respecting the environment, 
  • respecting the rights of their employees,…

So I called on my colleagues, my network, I investigated, I willed, in short!
It takes time, but it’s worth it when you’re convinced you’re doing the right thing. The small bonus is that studying the functioning of these suppliers has made it possible to find and exchange good practices applicable to the office but also to the home.

On the fourth month it was the questioning…

Obviously, it is when you do nothing that you are not mistaken 😉
We had encountered some demotivations but based on the principle that “There is neither victory nor defeat in the cycle of nature: there is movement” as Paulo Coelho expresses it very well in his recovered manuscript.

A little earlier I mentioned a slight abandonment of the “challenges” that did not meet with the expected success. In reality, it was the SST project as a whole that was somewhat neglected by the troops.
To bring the actions back to life we needed to involve the team as much as possible and what better way to get them all involved than in a workshop?

During this 1st workshop (because there will be others), we set ourselves 3 objectives:

> Identify the sustainable development issues that we felt were the most relevant or interesting.
> Prioritize these issues. Give them a subjective order of importance.
> Actuate: put into action the issues that we had all prioritized together.

As I write my article, we are still organizing all the suggestions and solutions made during the 1st workshop, which allowed everyone to express themselves and get involved in the change.
We have planned to launch a second workshop in a few weeks’ time, the outcome of which will be to set up a regular work schedule, organised around concrete objectives (internal and external).
We have relaunched the issue of challenges through a short questionnaire whose feedback we are still waiting for.

The desire to be useful combined with our common convictions pushes us to continue our efforts, without discouragement, for future generations and for ourselves.


Marie Camus — Office & Happiness manager @ use.design, a design agency in Paris that brings innovative strategies, digital products and services to life.

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