Literature on Sustainable Interaction Design

22 Jun 2010 - 7:17pm
6 years ago
6 replies
1265 reads


I am pretty concerned about environmental issue and as a designer, I produce always more products and interfaces. My concern is to make a sustainable design.

Have you any articles, videos, papers to suggest (on both theoretical and practical side) ?




23 Jun 2010 - 12:49am
Alicia Nachman

Hi Thomas,

      Eli Blevis's CHI 2007 paper ( is a great place to start. Look for all of his papers and those who co-author with him. Interactions magazine ( has also had some great essays on the subject. On this site, search for Ezio Manzini's IxDA '10 keynote video. I would also suggest Nathan Shedroff's book, Design is the Problem.

Sustainable interaction design is a personal interest of mine, and I recently started a blog on the topic at It wouldn't be considered 'literature' just yet ;-), but I'm hoping to start some conversations around designing for sustainable experiences. Would love to have your input.


23 Jun 2010 - 2:06pm
David Scharn

Hi Thomas,

Take a look at Nathan Shedroff, "Design Is the Problem: The Future of Design Must Be Sustainable"

It's more about sustainable design in general, but you can extract strategies for interaction designers. Shedroff claims his book is helpful for interaction designers, but I've had difficulty seeing obvious material for IxDers working with GUIs. Granted, software UI is a tough space to find opportunities for sustainable design, but that's why you asked the question.

At any rate, I highly recommend Shedroff's book. It provides a great overview of the problems we're up against and relevant "frameworks" for approaching sustainability. The references to other sources/literature on sustainable design are worth the price of the book.

Dave Scharn Interaction Designer  


23 Jun 2010 - 9:59am


If you're interested in using interaction design for good, I recommend checking out the behavioral economics lit, particularly the popular book Nudge, by Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein:

Applicable to many fields besides Ix, it outlines specific ways that information design influences decision making.



Diana Gavales

Human Factors Design Engineer

St. Jude Medical Cardiac Rhythm Management


26 Jun 2010 - 4:37pm

This is a very interesting topic for Interaction designers because the obvious answer to this is somewhat threatening to the zeitgeist. Sustainable design is largely design for backwards compatibilty. Don't make people throw away their old equipment in order to use your services. This means designing for low bandwidth, low resolution, standards compliance & diverse legacy platforms.

So we might all be in love with our iPhone but we also felt a bit guilty throwing out our perfectly good Motorola. And because of it we also use a bit more electricity, and we need 3G, which is a whole bunch of new technology infrastructure. But we pay for it so that's our choice. But when we choose to sustain the proprietary, closed media distribution platform like iTunes, or use Apps rather than the web, it is easy to forget that by using, paying for and effectively developing these platforms we are displacing more and more information and services onto these platforms. This is making other technology redundant and forcing an "upgrade" path in order to keep in touch with the shifting infrastructure that carries the information. You have to ask whether getting a multi-touch interface was really worth it.

This is clearly meant to be provocative but ideas like social responsibilty are hard.  That's why people are a bit suspicious of vegetarians.



26 Jun 2010 - 4:45pm

Sorry Thomas, I just read your initial post again and you wanted resources. This is not exactly about sustainability but, as I suggest above I think the issues are linked.

2 Jul 2010 - 4:18am

Thank you all for your responses. I am currently collecting all the information you led me to.



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