Sustainable web design, sustainable virtual design - Looking for commentary and collaborators

2 Feb 2012 - 12:02am
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Hi, this is Pete Markiewicz, a web/interactive design instructor in Los Angeles.

I'm currently exploring the idea of ongoing conversion of physical design to virtual services. This is dematerialization - one of the features of sustainable design articulated by Nathan Shedroff in his great book "Design is the Problem: The Future of Design Must Be Sustainable".  

It seems to be assumed that converting CDs to iTune services, or phone books to web directories is automatically more green than physical products - but is it? Also, is it enough that Google is going green, or will designers and developers have to change to improve the sustainability of their work?

In particular, I'm looking at web design. This goes beyond "green web hosts", though they play a part. In parallel with other design areas, I'm interested in the design itself, and how it feeds back on sustainability. With the Internet using nearly 10% of the power in the US, design decisions on the web (e.g. including big default code libraries or CPU-hungry 3D) can easily reduce sustainability.

While we may not need to go as far as the "blackle" proposal for Google's home page a few years ago, web/interactive design will surely recognize a sustainability problem, as have industrial design, interior design, and architecture.

There's also room for exploring the close apparent similarity to good, efficient UX with a "sustainable user experience" - sustainability may be a good way to explain UX/UI decisions to non-technical stakeholders.

If you find this topic interesting, please check my new blog on the topic at Also, I am working on a HTML5 "boilerplate" at, optimized along sustainability lines, rather than the usual responsive web model - it integrates older progressive enhancement principles.

Please feel free to comment (hopefully after looking at some of my ideas on the blog and the sustainability "factoids" page). I'm looking for:

1.Collaborators with experience in sustainability in other design areas, who might be interested in developing analogous systems for the web, virtual worlds, and games.

2. Hardcore physical engineering types - can we really figure out if some technologies used to create UI (think flash) are as wasteful as they say?

Thanks Pete Markiewicz - website with bio and other information at

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