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Life-Centered Design: A Holistic Perspective

19/9/2023

There was a time when, in the design world, we only talked about User-Centered Design. Thus, in the process of designing any product or service, we left out of the equation the impacts it has on other people who may not be users or customers of it. In an attempt to make design more sustainable and take more people into account when designing, we have for some time been faithful to the Human-Centered Design perspective. And this is not bad, but it presents some problems: humans are not the only people on planet Earth who are impacted by our activity. So a new, broader perspective is growing: Life-Centered Design.

Businesses like Minimalism are already trying to employ Life-Centered Design. This approach allows any brand to transform its relationship with its environment to have a real positive impact. And thus be truly sustainable brands over time.

Sustainability beyond Human-Centered Design

The closed view on us, the people, has made us design solutions that are very comfortable for us, but that do not take into account other living beings. Nor do they take into account future generations. Our survival as a species will depend on the relationship we have with other living beings and with our ecosystems.

An example of a project with a Life-Centered Design approach is Bee Home, by SPACE10. As we know, the service provided by bees as pollinators is vital to preserve our ecosystems and, thus, avoid health problems and complications with crops. However, bees are in danger of extinction due to our activity. Bee Home is a project that aims to empower people to support these small pollinators in their local environment.

Another example of Life-Centered Design is all the activity being carried out to protect the Mar Menor, in the Region of Murcia. This ecosystem has been degrading for years due to factors such as the region's agricultural and tourism models. And, of course, it is not only the seahorses that are affected: the tourist and agri-food businesses themselves become unsustainable and receive these negative impacts. As well as the many people who live or spend the summer around the Mar Menor, and who have so many memories and experiences of the place.

In order to protect the Mar Menor, a Popular Legislation Initiative (ILP) was started with the aim of giving legal personality to the Mar Menor. That is, making the ecosystem a subject of law and facilitating its protection under the law. It also appears the proposal to create the Embassies of the Mar Menor, entities that aim to give voice to all actors involved in the ecosystem. Also humans and our businesses. About this more-than-human design proposal Brava, architecture and research studio, talks to us.

In line with all this, the Earthrise company tells us about a new legal trend: that of granting legal rights to Nature.

Life-Centered Design: an integrative perspective for sustainability and positive impact.

When you get into research on sustainable and positive impact design approaches and methodologies, you find yourself in a huge sea. If we talk about Circular Design, people usually think about focusing on material flows and how to make products last longer. If we talk about Accessible and Inclusive Design, you might think about products for people with disabilities, but it goes way beyond that. When we talk about Sustainable Digital Design, people often look surprised: a sustainable website? But isn't a website immaterial? We talked about this in previous stories.

The truth is that, if we talk about sustainability and positive impact, we cannot only talk about one of these approaches. We must take into account all of them, and more. In the process of unifying all these perspectives (circular, inclusive and accessible, sustainable digital...), at Monnou we came across the concept of Life-Centered Design. And it seemed to us that it synthesized very well everything we were thinking and doing.

On the other hand, the Life-Centered Design approach takes into account from the macro aspects (global objectives, such as the SDGs), through the meso perspective (local territories and businesses), to the micro vision (the product and the service offered). This is also what we consider in our Creative Regeneration methodology.

The Life-Centered Design perspective in the Monnou Methodology

The Creative Regeneration methodology that we have created at Monnou takes into account, like Life-Centered Design, from the most global aspects (macro) to the details (micro). In the phase we call EXPLORE (macro), we focus on the global and territorial context of the brand. In the ACTIVE (meso) phase, we align the brand's purpose and strategies with this context. This is where we define the value proposition and design positive impact brand strategies. In the IMPULSE phase (micro) we shape the products, services and brand identities, always aligned with the strategy.

In our methodology we always try to empathize with other human beings that are not only the clients or users; and with other non-human living beings. Even so, connecting with the needs and interests of other living beings is not easy. For this, something that helps a lot are activities in nature, such as the ones we have done during Summer Bio Lab. During this weekend encounter, we were able to connect more deeply with the natural environment and learn from Nature.

The shift in perspective from Human-Centered to Life-Centered is already happening in many organizations. It is a new opportunity to innovate so that we can generate positive impact and prosperity for all people and the planet.

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