What is Conscious Design and how do I achieve it? 4 Key Elements You Need

Updated: Sep 12

Missed our free Conscious Design Kick-off? Check out the free intro replay here. A fireside chat with industry pros, sharing their work and philosophy on Conscious Design as we prep for our live workshop Conscious Design in Fashion.

Typically when designing a new item, there are four basic elements considered; shape or silhouette, line, color, and texture. As the industry becomes more aware of our effects on the planet, we add in a fifth element to be considered. Consciousness.

So what is Conscious Design? What does that mean?

Conscious design is ethical, sustainable, organic, animal-friendly, or vegan. It is the idea of caring about where your fashion comes from, how much energy and resources went into them, and who made them. It's a process of respecting the planet and all those involved in creating said fashion. Yes, it's true that it's easier said than done; however, as we know from watching many brands achieve a conscious design goal, it is not impossible. The more companies, brands, and consumers start looking at the world (and design) more consciously, the better off our planet will be.

Author of the book "Conscious Design," Ian Peterman says there are four pillars of conscious design:

  1. Observation

  2. Impact

  3. Connection

  4. Inclusion

By incorporating these four pillars into the design, brands, and products they produce will help restore and sustain our planet. That is a big enough "why" in our minds, but let's go deeper into the pillars and give you more reasons to use this philosophy.

1. Observation

To observe is to be conscious. When we take the time to observe anything at all, we better understand what we see, hear, feel, taste, touch, and smell. The more you observe anything is to understand the ins and outs. With all that being said, the more you observe the design process, the more you will design consciously.

When designing, you don't just throw something on the paper and go with it. You observe how that design will work altogether, from the materials and manufacturing to shipping. To know if it will be successful, you take time to contemplate, brainstorm, research, and understand the process and how it will impact your business and those who purchase your product. By using some of your time to observe how your designs will affect the health of the world around you, the return you get is far greater than any other product you just throw on the shelf.

2. Impact

Unfortunately, being blind to a product's total impact is quite common. Most companies have the mentality of "getting the product released as cheap as possible and as quickly as possible." Although you can't possibly know the full impact of your product before it is launched to the public, by observing/being conscious throughout the entire process, you can make a massive change in its impact on the world.

No matter what you create, it will have an impact. Most designers understand how their designs will impact their consumers because they design products to fit their target market; however, many do not think past that point. What about the impact of the materials and working conditions? How your design and product impact is up to you.

3. Connection

To connect is to join together, to provide access and communication. All designs connect one thing to another, one human to another, and how it connects the two is essential when thinking consciously. It's no coincidence that when we use an eco-friendly, ethical, or animal-friendly product, we feel better about our experience. A product that is consciously designed to support the systems of our world and not break them down connects us to not just the product itself but the result of the product's impact.

4. Inclusion

To be inclusive is to not deny anyone or anything access to someone or something. By being inclusive, you allow connections to happen between all those who are involved. Being conscious of inclusion means bringing fairness and diversity to all those involved in the process of your design, from those who created it to those using it. We know that design makes connections, but having an inclusive connection is an even more extraordinary achievement.

Imagine what you can create by taking the time to observe. By starting with these four pillars at the front and purposefully incorporating them into the heart of your design process, you will create more consciously designed products, resulting in a better tomorrow for your company, your consumers, and our world.

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