To Craft, By Design, For Sustainability: Deconstructing craft as an input into constructing sustainability design

Rebecca Reubens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientific


Production to consumption systems are shifting to developing countries as they are emerging markets, cheap labour and huge renewable resource bases. There have been several design initiatives aiming to leverage this labour and resource base to tap sustainability aligned markets, as these materials are inherently renewable. Unfortunately, most of these attempts take a technology-intensive industrialized route. This destroys traditional economies and skill sets, instead of mindfully recontextualizing them and realigning them with contemporary sustainability oriented markets thus contributing to the sustainability of these value chains and global sustainability in general. This paper presents design science research, which explores how craft can be deconstructed into sustainability design parameters —including social, economic, ecological and cultural tenets. Craft and the non-industrial production to consumption systems that comprise it—including localized natural resource management, participatory design, socio-economic systems, material culture, and indigenous bioregional knowledge-based livelihood strategies—offer valuable inputs into design for sustainability praxis. However, both craft and sustainability are unfamiliar domains for the industrial designer. Therefore, this paper proposes the Rhizome Approach and the mechanisms to actualize it, towards facilitating craft-design collaborations for sustainability. This includes the Holistic Sustainability Checklist, which seeks to deconstruct craft into sustainable design parameters, familiar to industrial designers. The applications of this approach will be discussed, including the refinement and use of this framework by the author for UNIDO in Vietnam in order to brand and market Vietnamese craft SMEs with the aim of aligning them to sustainability oriented markets.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalMaking Futures
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • craft
  • sustainability
  • sustainable design
  • indigenous knowledge
  • industrialization


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