Slow design

Slow Design is a branch of the Slow Movement, which began with the concept of Slow Food, a term coined in contrast to fast food. As with every branch of the Slow Movement, the overarching goal of Slow Design is to promote well being for individuals, society, and the natural environment. Slow Design seeks a holistic approach to designing that takes into consideration a wide range of material and social factors as well as the short and long term impacts of the design.

Origin and meaning

Slow Design refers to the goals and approach of the designer, rather than the object of the design. In this way a Slow Design approach can be used within any design field. The term was probably first coined by Alastair Fuad-Luke in his 2002 paper "'Slow Design' - a paradigm for living sustainably?", in which Slow Design is seen as the next step in the development of sustainable design, balancing individual, socio-cultural, and environmental needs.[1]

While Fuad-Luke focused on the design of physical products, the concept can be applied to the design of non-material things such as experiences, processes, services, and organizations. In fact, Slow Design may be seen as a path toward the dematerialization required for long-term sustainability as it takes into account the non-material nature of human well being and happiness.

Beth Meredith and Eric Storm attempt to summarize the concept, stating:

Slow Design is a democratic and holistic design approach for creating appropriately tailored solutions for the long-term well being of people and the planet. To this end, Slow Design seeks out positive synergies between the elements in a system, celebrates diversity and regionalism, and cultivates meaningful relationships that add richness to life.[2]

The editor and journalist Spencer Bailey has described Slow Design as “design that’s timeless and made to last, and done thoughtfully, with intent, and with care for our planet.”[3]

Current and future practice

Common qualities of Slow Design include:

  • Holistic – taking into account as many relevant short and long term factors as possible.
  • Sustainable – considering the cradle-to-cradle impacts and reducing harm as much as possible including the precautionary principle.
  • Elegant – finding the simplest and most concise solutions that provide the desired results.
  • Tailored – creating specific solutions that fit a particular situation.
  • Democratic – keeping the process and results accessible to those using and impacted by the design and to non-professionals.
  • Adaptable – developing solutions that will continue to work over time or that can be modified as needed.
  • Durable – making sure solutions can be maintained over time while minimizing the need for repairs and replacement.
  • Non-toxic – eliminating substances and processes that pollute or are toxic.
  • Efficient – minimizing waste of time, labor, energy, and physical resources.
  • Distinctive – promoting cultural, social, and environmental uniqueness and diversity.

Slow design is still a relatively new concept of design thinking, and its implications are yet to be fully developed and defined. It could evolve in the following ways:

  • Longer design processes with more time for research, contemplation, real life impact tests, and fine tuning.
  • Design for manufacturing with local or regional materials and technologies or design that supports local industries, workshops, and craftspeople.
  • Design that takes into account local or regional culture both as a source of inspiration and as an important consideration for the design outcome.
  • Design that studies the concept of natural time cycles and incorporates them into design and manufacturing processes.
  • Design that looks at longer cycles of human behavior and sustainability.
  • Design that takes into account deeper well being and the findings of positive psychology.

See also


  1. Fuad-Luke, Alistair. "'Slow Design' - a paradigm for living sustainably?". 2002. Retrieved 2011-1-20. Archived July 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  2. Meredith, Beth and Storm, Eric. "Slow Design - A Conscious Approach to Creating Well Being". 2009. Retrieved 2011-1-20.
  3. "Spencer Bailey, editor, New York".
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