The fixating effect of LCA during ideation in eco-design: a case study

Although life cycle assessment (LCA) is a robust eco-design tool, its capacity to inspire creative ideas among designers is unclear. LCA is often used as a portrait of a product’s environmental hotspots, which are then addressed as design compromises. This highly technical design method usually leads to incremental improvements of products, and appears to do little to foster radical innovation. In contrast to this method, innovative design purposely stimulates creativity by challenging the cognitive fixations that keep designers in the realm of dominant design, in order to develop disruptive concepts that may be far removed from the functional unit as defined in an LCA. It is argued that innovation and radical change, rather than incremental change, are needed to accelerate the transition to sustainability. Yet it has never been shown, in a highly technical engineering context, that more creative solutions are necessarily more sustainable than solutions inspired directly by an LCA. Furthermore, it has not been shown that ideation using LCA necessarily leads to less creative results than ideation using spotlight concepts, or guiding scenarios, to eliminate fixations during ideation, as is recommended by innovative design theory […]

Faculty Supervisor:

Manuele Margni


Andrea Gideon






Environmental industry




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