cod. 1009619

Academic year 2023/24
2° year of course - Second semester
Professor responsible for the course unit
integrated course unit
12 credits
course unit

Learning objectives

The designer is asked to respond to the contemporary challenges of Sustainable Development, through the design of products and services. The educational experience offered by the module enables students to acquire the cultural and methodological skills to read design sustainability from an environmental, social and economic perspective.
It is also crucial to gain awareness of designers’ professional role from an ethical and social perspective, going beyond the concept of sustainable design to integrate the principles of sustainability into design making.
KNOWLEDGE. The educational pathway leads to acquiring the basic knowledge of the technical-theoretical methodologies needed to assess and pursue the sustainability of a product or service through its entire life cycle. The skills developed also enable the designer to engage with other professionals involved in the design process, learning languages and notions to build an interdisciplinary dialogue, which is indispensable in dealing with the complexity of today's socio-technical systems.
SKILLS. The teaching experience requires students to develop the capacity for critical reading of the project from a sustainability perspective, both in its technical features (materials and processes) and in its complexity as an artefact (environmental, social, cultural and economic impacts). This is done through a project cross-cutting to the three courses involved in the module, which helps students to build their own know-how, interpret the project and understand interdisciplinary complexity. Therefore they acquire the skills to design new sustainability strategies, focusing on valuing the subject matter and the social, environmental and economic systems behind it. Additional knowledge and skills are acquired within the individual disciplinary contributions.
By the end of the course, students will be able to:
• Understand and interpret environmental impacts related to the entire life cycle of products and services to improve their performance;
• Use appropriate methodologies to reduce environmental impacts;
• Discuss the balance of the "3Ps" (Planet, People, Profit) for the pursuit of Sustainable Development;
• Develop a critical view of products, services and systems in the market to be able to interpret the reality around us.
By the end of the course, students will be able to:
• Recognize and define the technological features of devices that are commonly used at different stages of the food chain, from production to sale;
• Implement specific design choices to ensure the operation of these devices;
• Understand and interpret basic food-chain data, along with the methodologies used for their transmission, processing and use to generate helpful information for end users.
At the end of the course, students will be able to:
• Identify strategic and innovation challenges and opportunities for sustainable management within a business organization;
• Analyze existing voluntary standards, risks related to greenwashing, and methods to enhance activities related to sustainable management of product and production processes;
• Identify critical issues in the sustainable management of international value chains, for example, related to crops such as cocoa and coffee.


During the first year of the Bachelor's Degree, students are expected to acquire a basic knowledge of the methodological processes and cultural foundations underlying the project. Students should have critical skills to acquire, during courses, the proper tools to undertake qualitative-quantitative evaluations. Basic knowledge of mathematics and physics is also required.

Course unit content

Environmental sustainability is now an essential prerequisite of the project, especially regarding the food system. The Sustainable Development Goals promoted by the United Nations highlight the urgency of sustainable production and consumption models, in which food supply chains can create greater awareness in people, promoting sustainable behaviours and preventing or reducing the waste production. According to John Thackara (2008), "80 percent of the environmental impact made by products, services and infrastructure around us is determined by the design stage." Thus, environmental product requirements are essential to the contemporary designer's knowledge base. Digital tools for design play a central role in sustainability, and their treatment in teaching is aimed at providing a basic understanding of the leading technologies, especially digital, used in the agri-food world. Understanding the food system's complexity enables the implementation of sustainable management strategies, which apply circular, innovative business models through strategic management methods for sustainability within the business organisation.

Overall, the Design About Food module leads students on a path aimed at acquiring management, technical and design knowledge. The goal is to educate future designers who can read design through the lens of environmental sustainability.
It is a semester-long module and it is held in the second year of the course of study, in the second teaching period.

Full programme

The disciplines in the module address different aspects of the relationship between sustainability, design and food through three distinct but complementary and collaborative educational paths in carrying out a common project.
The course aims to foster in students an awareness of the environmental issues of the food system and the acquisition of guidelines for sustainable design, to be applied to the entire life cycle of food. The topics covered in the teaching are:
• Historical evolution and principles of Sustainable Development (3 hours)
• Design strategies for environmental sustainability of products and services (12 hours)
• System-level sustainability, from Systemic Design to Circular Economy (3 hours)
• Environmental issues and challenges throughout the life cycle of the food system, from cultivation/farming to processing, transportation, consumption and disposal (12 hours)
The role of design in participatory design and shared responsibility (3 hours)
In addition, students will carry out a teamwork exercise on a common topic among the three courses and in collaboration with a local company involved in food production, processing and distribution (27 hours) to apply the theoretical part described above in a concrete case.
The teaching aims to provide basic knowledge of sensors and technologies commonly adopted in the food chain. The lectures will be divided to reflect the different stages of the same:
• 15 classroom hours devoted to:
• Sensors for monitoring production in the field (3.5 hours)
• Tracking of goods during transport (3.5 hours)
• Technological tools for monitoring during processing (3.5 hours)
• Data representation to the end user (3.5hrs)
• 15 hours dedicated to the application of theoretical knowledge in a practical laboratory experience.

• How to calculate the value of "green" investments: does it pay to be sustainable? (3h)
• Decarbonization, net zero and emissions offsetting (3h)
• Voluntary standards to certify sustainability - ecolabels, B-corp, certification by NGOs (3h)
• Sustainability in international agri-food supply chains - case studies of coffee and cocoa (6h)
• practical laboratory experience (15h)


The references for the individual disciplines are:
Each theoretical lecture is supported by slides that are made available to students on the university platform in pdf format. Mandatory references are:
- Carla Lanzavecchia (2012) edited by Silvia Barbero and Paolo Tamborrini. Il fare ecologico. Il prodotto industriale e i suoi requisiti ambientali. Milan, Italy: Edizione Ambiente. ISBN: 978-88-6627-062-1
- Barbero S., Cozzo B. (2012). Ecodesign. Ecofriendly objects for everyday use. Postdam, Germany: H.F. Ulmann. ISBN: 978-3-8331-6308-1
Additional optional readings will be provided at the end of each lecture to further explore the topics covered.
Readings and teaching materials will be provided during the course.
Demartini and Taticchi (Eds) “Corporate Sustainability in Practice: A Guide for Strategy Development and Implementation”, Springer, 2021.
Other readings and teaching materials will be provided during the course.

Teaching methods

The module consists of three disciplines, of which design is the predominant one with 6CFU, while the other two teachings of "Sensors and Digital Tools for Design" and "Sustainable Management" have 3CFU each. All disciplines cooperate to propose a common project to be carried out in parallel and with students working in small groups. The common project will be done in collaboration with an industrial partner. Therefore, students will visit the company and undertake three main joint reviews of the project (one initial, one intermediate and one final) to assess the progress of their work.

Assessment methods and criteria


The exam will consist of a written test consisting of 60 closed-ended and multiple-choice questions that will allow for a maximum score of 30/30. Access to the oral exam is contingent on passing the written test with at least 18/30, and the project will be discussed.
The exam will consist of a written test consisting of a few open-ended questions to which students will have to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts explained in class or the techniques used in the lab. The maximum score will be 30/30. Access to the oral exam is contingent on passing the written test with at least 18/30, and the project will be discussed.
16 closed-ended and multiple-choice questions, each correct answer 2 points, wrong answers -0.5 points (on a personal laptop on the teaching portal platform, in attendance unless COVID restrictions). The exam is passed with at least 18 points. Scores of 31 and 32 correspond to 30 cum laude.

Other information

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