A WDO Member since 2017, The Sustainable Design School (SDS) is a private institute of higher learning in the Côte d’Azur region of southeastern France, whose programming aims to engage and train students in all areas of sustainable design. WDO invited two members of the SDS’s professional staff, Inken Krevet, Director of International Academic Relationships and Grant Linscott, Academic Director, to share more about the school’s mandate and student vision, as well as the challenges and triumphs of building and teaching a sustainable design curriculum.
Founded in 2013 by three designers, Patrick Le Quement, Marc Van Peteghem, and Maurille Lariviere, the SDS is guided by a sense of responsibility to address our most pressing global challenges. The curriculum combines traditional design approaches with an understanding of climate change and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. As such, students are encouraged to “think beyond one single product and engage within a larger ecosystem that has the capacity to do good [for] society and the planet.”
The school is open to those with either technical or artistic backgrounds who understand the value of meaningful, sustainable innovation through design and are willing to “be part of the ongoing transition of our society and planet”. Indeed, the SDS recognizes that “sustainable design is not a fixed science, it is undergoing permanent evolution,” which is why the school works to foster a multi-profile working environment for students, where they feel safe to create “odd things” and explore bridges to other competencies. In short, the challenge at hand for the SDS, and other similar institutions, is not only to build a curriculum that reflects the most current of sustainable design thought, but also one that is easily adaptable.
While most of their programming has been transitioned online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the SDS programming is comprised of five-year undergraduate and graduate courses, which results in a Masters level diploma called Designer in Sustainable Innovation, recognized at the international level. In addition to this, there is an MSc degree in Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Design, offered in partnership with SKEMA Business School, and plans for a PhD programme, offered in partnership with University Côte d’Azur.
With a holistic vision of the learner and the environment, the school employs a “learning by doing” pedagogy, and seeks to “democratize the learning experience, to unfold empathy, awareness and flexibility.” The goal is to empower graduate students with the “tools, knowledge, self-awareness and development to be the leaders of change for a sustainably designed future.” Part of this process involves a mandatory 6-month internship at the end of their undergraduate studies, with the idea that this tangible experience with partner companies will help students “enforce sustainable design as a strategic asset for companies.”
Krevet and Linscott note that the increasing trendiness of sustainability has no real bearing on the curriculum and pedagogy developed and employed by the school. Quite simply, the SDS has chosen to use the term to enable young people, entrepreneurs and future partner companies to “identify design as a tool for the sustainable transition.” As in the end, being a sustainable designer is not about following trends for profit or notoriety. Rather, as stated by Krevet, it means that one feels responsible, but not hopeless in front of current challenges, and has identified themselves as a partner of the planet and its inhabitants to create a better life for all living beings.