Life cycle thinking: Make change with design

Kit Thongchim
Kit Thongchim

How can design change the world? How do we design something sustainable for our planet or society? As a creative who has been working closely with sustainable brands and projects, these questions are very critical to me.

Recently, I have come across the thinking approach called, “Life cycle thinking”. I have to admit that, there are some areas I wish I should have dived even deeper into. It also makes me wonder, about what more can we do, especially when we make decisions at each design phase.

Firstly, what is the “Life cycle thinking approach”?

Life cycle thinking approach

To simply explain this, life cycle thinking is about going beyond designing what is most sustainable for the planet, environment, and society. It’s about concentrating on the decision we take at each stage, with the key goals in mind, to reduce a product’s resource use and emissions to the environment as much as possible.

Here are 5 Life cycle thinking stages:

  1. Conceptualisation: Be mindful of the design and choose environmentally conscious materials when possible
  2. Manufacturing: Processing of materials (Assembly and completion)
  3. Distribution: Packaging, transporting and storing products/tools
  4. Lifetime use: Making the most use of what we have
  5. End of Life: Rethinking

So, where can we adopt this mindset into?

Print Production

  • Print production

To the big fan of sustainable designs out there, I believe many of us have heard enough about, environmentally conscious materials, recyclable materials or FSC-certified paper.  So, let’s talk about the people behind the print production! We should take this opportunity to expand our production partners, to work with local organisations, but be cautious against greenwashing. Not only it’s more cost-effective but it also helps local businesses to grow as well. YAY!


  • Event Production

In these past years, brands start adapting their ways of communicating with their customers, to maintain relevance and are always ready to adapt due to any circumstance. While meeting face-to-face is important, the hybrid event can be a way to accommodate attendees and those who are focusing on reducing their personal carbon footprint. Speaking of events, how can we not talk about food? Believe it or not, catering vegetarian food as an option can help the planet, as it requires less resources and energy in processing. Raise your glass up if you are a vegan fan!

Video Production

  • Video production

Today, it’s impossible to deny that video content has become the top priority for marketers and brands. We make decisions based on the content we consume. Whether short-form content, live streaming or even scrolling through one of the giant social media platforms, Tiktok.

So, how can we apply life cycle thinking to video production? Understanding what requires for the video, and its duration. Make a checklist on must-buy items/props or rent, to minimise the wastage after the shoot. Plan out your shoot locations to avoid unnecessary transportation. Reach out to local crews or work remotely instead of flying your crews can help reduce the carbon footprint and save your cost as well!

In conclusion
Can design change the world? Of course, yes! Design with a sensibility to the environment, and society can definitely make a huge impact. I believe everyone is creative, regardless of what job they do, or the experiences they have. Take this Life cycle thinking mindset as your first step. We are the decision-makers, and we all have a role to shave and inspire our society.

So, based on this thinking approach, what will be your next design?

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