Sustainability Deep Dive 2020: Event Recap

Jun 1 2021 - 8:04pm


IDSA’s Sustainability Deep Dive drew hundreds of eco-conscious designers from around the world. The virtual event focused on sustainable design strategies, processes, and product experiences. 

We were delighted to welcome nearly 600 attendees worldwide to our inaugural Sustainability Deep Dive, which was conducted entirely online over the course of three days. The virtual gathering for professional development, held June 3-5, 2020, attracted design practitioners, students and educators from more than 25 countries to learn about the latest sustainable design trends, tools, and methodologies. 

A Different Kind of Deep Dive 

IDSA’s Deep Dive events began as in-person gatherings, taking place over one to two days and in a different city for each event. Deep Dives are intended for design practitioners to share industrial design-relevant content around a specific subject matter or IDSA Special Interest Section, such as Women in Design, held in San Francisco, CA in May 2019, or Medical Design, held in Boston, MA in October 2019. These events are built to include a mixture of expert speaker presentations, interactive and skill-building workshops, networking activities, and immersive offsite experiences.  

The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 necessitated a shift to virtual events and programming across all industries for the sake of public health. Therefore, the Sustainability Deep Dive originally planned for Denver, CO in June was swiftly transitioned to a three-day Zoom conference with a significantly reduced, “choose your rate” pricing structure. Fortunately, telecommuting from home was not only a viable and safe choice for all SDD participants, but also the most sustainable option. 

A behind the scenes look at our 'command center' as orchestrated by IDSA's Sr. Director of Operations, Jerry Layne

“First, Do No Harm” 

The co-emcees of SDD 2020 were Debera Johnson, IDSA, Founder of Pratt Institute's Center for Sustainable Design and a current professor of industrial design at Pratt, and Stephan Clambaneva, IDSA, Sections Director on IDSA's Board of Directors. Jason Belaire, IDSA, Chair Elect on IDSA’s Board, was a lead organizer on the content planning team, working closely with IDSA Staff, SDD emcees, and partners to transition the event into a virtual format. 

“I knew the importance of this topic, and that industrial designers are continually wanting to learn more and to apply strategy, process, and the product experience around sustainable and circular design principles,” Belaire says. “I owed it to the design community to ensure that we built a movement that would be long-lasting and cause true disruption within our everyday practices.” 

In Clambaneva’s introduction to the event's kickoff on Wednesday, June 3, he spoke to how this time of global tragedy, social distancing, and attendant introspection will likely reshape the conversation around what designers should be doing for sustainability and climate change. 

“The pandemic is hitting us all hard and it is showing us how fragile our current way of life was,” Clambaneva acknowledged. “This situation also has me thinking of all the inspiration garnered from the recent 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and the impact that all of humanity staying home for two months has had on Planet Earth.” This crisis can be turned into an opportunity for industrial designers to make real change happen, he said. “We can't afford to take one step forward and 20 steps back, like we did after 9-11 and the 2009 economic crisis. We owe it to ourselves not to waste another chance.” 

He suggested that all designers adopt a version of the Hippocratic Oath taken by medical professionals, which can be summed up in the phrase, “First, do no harm.” 

“Sustainability, technology and system-based thinking are the key drivers connecting design to business in the 21st century," said Johnson. "It’s time to decentralize user-centered design and include the environment and human rights as priorities."



Sustainable Strategy, Process, and Product Experience  

Day 1 - June 3, 2020

Sustainable Strategy: Presenters showed attendees how to uncover the top-down considerations needed to define a Sustainable, Circular Design, or Zero-Waste company-wide initative. Speakers for the day included Anna Queralt-Fuentes (Ellen MacArhur Foundation) on designing for the circular economny; Dr. Leyla Acaroglu ( on designing systems change, and Seth GaleWyrick (Biomicry 3.8) on biomimetic and cicular product design, among many others. 

Breakout sessions by: Mindesk VR and IDEO

>> See the complete Day 1 lineup here.

Day 2 - June 4, 2020

Sustainable Process: Participants learned to investigate materiality, environmentally-conscious manufacturing processes, eco-design toolkits, guides, and technology that they could immediately take away and apply in their companies for Sustainability, Circular Design, or Zero Waste. The day included in-depth presentations by Dr. Andrew Dent (Material ConneXion), Liz Whiteley (1% For the Planet), Hlynur V. Atlason (ATLASON), and many more. 

Breakout sessions by: Matrix4, 3Designs, and Sustainable Minds

>> See the complete Day 2 lineup here.

Day 3 - June 5, 2020

Sustainable Product Experience: The third and final day highlighted companies and products that are achieving success in their sustainable efforts. The day included talks by Jasmin Druffner (Loop) on the future of sustainable packaging and Noah Murphy-Reinhertz (Nike) on Nike’s new low Co2e Space Hippie shoes, and a sustainable transportation panel moderated by filmmaker Gary Hustwit with industrial designers Raja Schaar, IDSA (Drexel University) Kevin Bethune (dreams • design + life), Michael Hillman (Lime) and Chuck Pelly, FIDSA

Breakout sessions by: iFix It, Autodesk

>> See the complete Day 3 lineup here.

Event recordings

One of the benefits of a virtual event is being able to quickly turn around recordings of each session. You can easily catch up on a session you might have missed or relive the entire experience.

>> Watch all Sustainability Deep Dive 2020 videos here.


Participants really enjoyed watching live sketchnotes of each presentation by designer and illustrator Craighton Berman, with a Zoom viewing option to watch the presentations and sketches unfolding side by side.

>> Download all of Craighton's sketchnotes here.

One of our audience members, Isabella Russo, a senior student in design at The School of Design and Creative Technologies at the University of Texas at Austin, also created her own sketchnotes. >> See those here.


Toaster Ecodesign Challenge 

As part of the Sustainability Deep Dive, IDSA partnered with Sustainable Minds and GrabCad to host an ecodesign competition that invited participants to reimagine the toaster with environmental performance as a key component. Of the 52 entrants, three prize winners were chosen and announced live during the Deep Dive on June 4 by Sustainable Minds CEO Terry Swack and lead juror Shruti Parikh, IDSA.

The first place winner, recent graduate and industrial designer Mary Friedl, received a Prusa i3 MK3S 3D Printer, provided by Autodesk; one free registration to IDSA’s International Design Conference 2020; a one-year membership to Material ConneXion; and two one-year subscriptions to Sustainable Minds’ Eco-concept software and Life Cycle Assessment Software. Friedl's glass toaster concept won top honors for its energy-efficient toasting solution, with 44% environmental improvement over the challenge’s reference toaster, coupled with its modern aesthetic and sturdy, non-toxic materials. 

Learn more about all the entries and the competition here.

First place: Mary Friedl, ‘Contemporary Glass Toaster’ 

See the complete entry here.

Second place: Jeswin P. George, ‘Warmth’ 

See the complete entry here.

Third place: Shane Chen and Shih-Hsuan Huang, ‘Ding' 

See the complete entry here.


Five designers received Special Mentions for their toaster projects: 



Our audience and presenters really enjoyed the experience:

Kinzie Vogel, attendee: “Being able to listen and contribute to conversations surrounding the evolution of innovations and a global transformation, with those who have paved the way, has reminded me why I chose to be a designer in the first place. In other words...that was awesome. So many amazing minds in my living room at the same time!” 

Angela Liutama, attendee: “This was the first IDSA seminar that I attended and I cannot even wait for next year! Make it happen again! I truly find passion and purpose through caring about Sustainable Design, Service, and Business. Learned very valuable and inspirational lessons to think big and better in design, not just with products but to challenge the old system. Thank you IDSA for creating this event.”

Calvin Smith, attendee: “Thrilled to discover the work of Leyla Acaroglu at the IDSA Sustainability Deep Dive 2020. So many great takeaways and resources. A must-watch for designers interested in circular design.” 

Liana Charles, IDSA, attendee: “The sound of virtual conferences has a nice ring to it now. IDSA, you guys have this down! Very engaging, great conference and topics.” 

Joseluis Santillan, attendee: “An empowering week listening to guest speakers taking action in sustainability and interacting with people interested in saving the world at IDSA’s Sustainability Deep Dive virtual event! Visit for more info on this event and upcoming events. Thank you IDSA and their sponsors for such a fantastic time! Special thanks to Stephan Clambaneva, Debera Johnson, and Craighton Berman!” 

Charlie Alfaro, attendee: “3 transformative days listening to guest speakers and participating in deep dive discussions with fellow colleagues sharing their insights on sustainability. Go to for info and future events! Thanks to IDSA and their sponsors for organizing this event. See you next year!” 

Katie Storey, presenter: “I had a great time presenting along with so many other great speakers sharing inspiring ideas.” 

Matrix 4, presenter: “Thank you for creating space for dialogue, shared learning, and inspiration to create more consciously and sustainably!” 


Thank you Sponsors & Media Partners