A small and progressive London-based firm is managing to deliver on its philosophy and methods with a focus on sustainable and inclusive design. Sprout Design is demonstrating how sustainability can be integrated into the design process with real-world clients, and as part of an explicitly commercial process.

Sprout Design is successfully deconstructing some of the pervasive myths aimed at tainting the benefits and value of responsible design.

By delivering eco-design outcomes on commercial projects in a volatile EU marketplace, Sprout Design is clearly forging new pathways in the competitive landscape that are based on attention to environmental performance and sustainability more broadly.

Sprout was established by Guy Robinson and Rob Brown, and both directors have had an interesting trajectory in terms of their academic background.

After studying engineering at Cambridge, both went on to complete masters degrees in industrial design engineering at the Royal College of Art. Between them, they have considerable and diverse experience in product and interior design, as well as architecture.

What becomes apparent about Sprout Design’s approach is the importance placed on holistic thinking and the value of addressing sustainability from the outset. It’s clearly not an add-on or eleventh-hour consideration.

Design for sustainability is a source of innovation at Sprout Design and is explicitly embedded during the development of the brief and in the concept design phase. These methods reflect a strong collaborative model and seem to strive for meaningful consumer features, including useability and sustainability.

What starts to make Sprout Design relatively unique is the focus on inclusive and sustainable design within a commercial context. While there are many advocates, enthusiasts and ‘specialists’ in the area of eco-design and design for sustainability, there seem to be few that have thrived in a truly commercial consulting context, especially at the boutique or micro business level.

Robinson, Brown and their team indicate what is possible when design for sustainability is marketed and argued in a business-savvy manner. Their language is practical and to the point, their clients are real and their products are award winners.

The continued strengthening of product-oriented environmental policies, directives and standards is no doubt assisting a more positive image of product sustainability and the design consultants that can help business achieve it.

In this atmosphere of dramatic regulatory change, ethical corporate shifts and informed consumer choice, smart firms like Sprout Design are perfectly positioned to guide and direct their clients toward creating environmentally improved products, that are accessible to many and desirable in the marketplace.

User and human-centred research, life-cycle assessment, as well as all the tried and tested eco-design strategies, are utilised at Sprout Design in a pragmatic yet robust way. At no time, however, does one sense that these issues are treated lightly. Indeed there seems to be a driving objective to stay lean and at the fore-front of design for sustainability.

Many larger, mainstream design consulting firms could benefit from some knowledge transfer by looking more closely at Sprout Design – as a specialist service provider, as a competitor, as a collaborator, and as a significant beacon in how the design profession is evolving in light of a firming sustainability agenda. 

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