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User Experience in the Age of Sustainability: A Practitioner's Blueprint

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User Experience in the Age of Sustainability focuses on the economic, sociological and environmental movement in business to make all products including digital ones more sustainable. Not only are businesses finding a significant ROI from these choices, customers are demanding this responsible behavior. The author looks at user experience practice through the lens of sustainability whether it be a smart phone, service – based subscription solutions or sustainable packaging to expose the ways in which user ...

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User Experience in the Age of Sustainability: A Practitioner's Blueprint

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User Experience in the Age of Sustainability focuses on the economic, sociological and environmental movement in business to make all products including digital ones more sustainable. Not only are businesses finding a significant ROI from these choices, customers are demanding this responsible behavior. The author looks at user experience practice through the lens of sustainability whether it be a smart phone, service – based subscription solutions or sustainable packaging to expose the ways in which user researchers and designers can begin to connect to the sustainability not merely as a theoretical. This book has a practical take on the matter providing a framework along with case studies and personal stories from doing this work successfully. Both hardware and software design are covered.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"I thought that the author made some important points and provided an appropriate level of justification for the various ideas and that overall, the book offers some valid debate on the key issues. It is certainly worth reading…"—, March 14, 2013 "For marketing and design professionals in a variety of fields, this volume on sustainability and green practices in product and service development explores the ways in which ecologically minded consumer preferences influence the design of products and overall considerations of user experience. Topics discussed include approaches to sustainable user experiences, product life cycles, frameworks for sustainable user experiences, and core usability and balance. Chapters include color photographs illustrating examples of well designed products and technologies. Kramer is a user experience consultant."—Reference and Research Book News, August 2012, page 270 "Kramer is a bridge between the disciplines of user experience and sustainability…She first brings clarity to the sustainability body of knowledge…then links sustainability and user experience to a new concept, sustainable user experience, through several sustainability frameworks, including natural capitalism…I hope this book sparks the enthusiasm and effort of user experience professionals, product designers, and system developers to improve the utilization of information resources."—Computing Review, August 2012

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780123877956
  • Publisher: Elsevier Science
  • Publication date: 6/8/2012
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,417,111
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Kem-Laurin Kramer is a User Experience researcher and designer. She has worked both as a manager and individual contributor in a number of market vertical including Mobile User Experience, Web Design, Logistics & Assembly; Energy & Automation; Information & Communication Networks; Medical Imaging & Health Information Systems (Financial & Clinical), to name a few. More recently, she is engaged on GIS, Courts & Justice, Permitting, Licensing and Compliance, and Freedom of Information in the space of citizen centric solutions.
Kem-Laurin was also a pioneer of formal User Experience Research practice at Research in Motion (makers of Blackberry), championing the building of the company's first ever Usability lab and creating traction for the field to evolve at RIM. Since then the Ux practice is now embedded into the company's practices. Prior she was the first Ux Researcher hired at Siemens Corporate Research, in Princeton NJ USA working in the of Medical, Logistics and Automation, Telecom, among other Siemens business verticals, where she used her unique background in Media, usability and communications to drive this practice. Today she works as a Senior User Experience Designer at CSDC and is occasionally speaks at local events on the topic of user experience and sustainability.
Apart from being active in local User Experience community, extolling the virtues of embracing Sustainability Ux analytic practices, Kem-Laurin has also given lectures and talks at local universities, as well as written for Johnny Holland. She has also co-authored a chapter in Nuray Aykin’s “Usability and Internationalization of Information Technology: Travel Planning on the Web: A Cross-Cultural Case Study.”
Kem - Laurin earned an undergraduate degree from The University of Ottawa and a graduate degree from the University of Waterloo, ON, Canada.

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Read an Excerpt



Morgan Kaufmann

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-12-387796-3

Chapter One



* Sustainability and User Experience

* Sustainability Strategy through the Design Lens

* Sustainability and Businesses

* The Impact on Companies

* Greenwashing, Customer Perception, and the User Experience

* Carbon Footprints

* Signs, Symbols, and Visual Ratings of the Eco Age

* Sustainable Design Ethics


User experience has gone through a transformation over the past 15 years, from a unique, customer-centric, value-added service in the realm of system, product, and service design to a commoditized offering that is part of the development cycle. Designing the optimal user experience, whether for a financial services firm or a small business website, creates value by delivering the company's brand, its value proposition, to its clients. The emergence of multiple digital distribution channels and the consumers' use of these channels has made delivering a company's value proposition a necessity, rather than an added value, such that the business case for user experience has become a commoditized offering rather than a value-added service.

User experience, which elevates and places a focus on customers and their interactions with systems, products, and service solutions, is strategically positioned to change itself as a value-added offering by incorporating a sustainability approach in how it translates and transforms the user experience.

Today, customers' heightened awareness of ecological issues and their resulting expectations form one of the major trends and drivers of sustainability as a business approach, and user experience has the chance to transform itself from a commoditized offering into a value-critical service by incorporating a sustainability lens into its framework.

An overview of the rise of sustainability as a corporate necessity due to the convergence of business needs, the regulatory environment, consumer expectations, and other drivers is covered and how that compares and contrasts with the need for user experience. Furthermore, the trends and challenges for sustainable practices are examined in addition to how strategic planners can make a business case for adopting and implementing a sustainability framework that incorporates user experience. The key success factors for implementing a sustainability-led user experience is a foundational goal of this book, which takes readers from the basic and tactical and drives toward more strategic means of engagement.


Sustainability is a loaded word that means different things to different people; so, before any fruitful discussion can begin, it is important to decide on an operational definition, as well as the scope and context of application. Therefore, I target the scope of this book to address primarily the field of design. To be exact, I refer to the general field of user experience, with which many subgroups of designers may identify. This may include user experience design (UX), visual design (VD), industrial design (ID), interaction design (IxD), and other related design fields with similar job activities. Situating the topic of sustainability in the space of design and allowing for some fruitful discussion is the goal of all subsequent discussion.

Today, many great books are written on the topic of sustainability; they range from strictly environmental to sociopolitics to economics and most recently to strategy. However, not much attention has been paid to providing practical guidance to the creators of products and services, even though those very products and services subsequently affect the environment in many detrimental ways.

Designers, like makers of products and services, are key stewards of our world, because the products and services they design influence the ways in which we live. Therefore, it stands to reason that, as the field of sustainability ripens into a practice, we need to take a deeper look at our world and anchor ourselves solidly on this large and amorphous field called sustainability.

Sustainability is not a fad; it is here to stay as both a concept and a viable field of practice driven by growing regulations. It will continue to drive key initiatives at every level of society and may soon govern some of the changes within our own profession. Consider that, over just a few years, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI; n.d.a), an organization driving reporting initiatives, has seen an upward trend in the number of companies and countries reporting on their sustainability initiatives. Recent KPMG research revealed that 74% of top 100 U.S. companies published corporate responsibility (CR) information in 2008, either as part of their annual financial report or as a separate document.

Against the background of the growing criticism and the negative social and environmental implications of globalization, many companies have become active in reporting on activities undertaken to prevent these externalities of production. The trickle-down effect that will eventually give all layers of industry some level of responsibility have led to an onslaught of new job titles such as these Amazon job posts: senior sustaining engineer, sustaining product design engineer, product design sustaining manager. On the reporting front, in Europe and Japan, sustainability reporting accompanies regulatory requirements and government encouragement. The number of reports that now include social issues alongside financial ones has increased considerably. Understanding and viewing the wider sustainability initiative through the lens of our own practice is important to evolve user experience and design as fields of practice and remain relevant as key decision drivers in the product life cycle. At its core, the design of everyday products and services is often the problem that underlies the environmental issues we face in general. Whether it is the design of a poorly built product that breaks down because of poor material selection or the decision to design a product over a comparable service subscription solution, which uses less to no material, are decisions that eco-conscious user experience researchers and designers face. At the heart of it, design is part of the environmental problem and therefore should be a central in finding solutions that produce more sustainable creations.

Many of us will read this book while wrestling with nine-to-five jobs, diminished attention spans, and juggling life with work but also wanting to keep up with the trends and redirections of our fields. Given that, this book is written to get you up and running with the lingo and practice of sustainability in as short a time as possible. It will guide you through understanding the building blocks and allow you to visualize and situate yourself at the center of this exciting field.

At the end of this chapter and subsequently this book, you will feel a high level of confidence both in speaking and thinking strategically about sustainability to peers and managers who have influence to help drive change. After all, user researchers and designers are the same folks who extolled and sold the virtues of usability and "good design" through tireless evangelizing making it the mainstay practice it is today.

Therefore, that brings us back to the most important questions: What is sustainability and why does sustainability matter to designers?


Emerging out of the Brundtland Report is the memorable quote that defines as the idea that, for something to be sustainable, it must "meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

This definition encompasses the social, economic, and environmental needs of both present and future generations and emphasizes the ideal that what we do today determines what is possible tomorrow.

Therefore, we can say that sustainability is an economic, social, and environmental concept that involves meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Today, this definition has received some traction as it departs from the legacy term green and assumes some prominence at a strategic position in industry, alongside corporate initiatives of social responsibility.

In earlier years, the coverall term green was used but, due to the loaded quality of the word (tree-hugging activist, hippie, and radical), many thought leaders moved away from it and embraced terms such as eco or sustainable. Partly responsible for this paradigmatic shift in philosophy is due to the prominent environmentalist Adam Werbach, who in a speech (Werbach, 2008) provided some self-reflexive insight to his earlier work as an environmentalist (which had once added to the loaded term green). In this speech, he suggested that the environmental movement was not well suited to solve the challenge of global warming. In his 2008 speech, titled "Birth of Blue," he proposed using the term BLUE to talk about "green" issues and at the same time to shed the baggage of past approaches. This shift from green to blue departed from a tree-hugger view of the sustainability movement to a focus on the kinds of strategies needed to achieve sustainability goals.

Throughout this book, however, I use the term sustainability in the interest of providing the acceptable and progressive ideals of the movement and departing from more loaded history of the word green.

"People who are part of the BLUE movement aspire to make a difference through the people and products that touch their lives. It encompasses green issues like protecting our last wild places and reducing our output of CO2, but it also includes personal concerns like saving money, losing weight, and spending time with friends and family. BLUE is differentiated from green (other than its requirement to be typed in ALL CAPS) by keeping the 'parts of green that have brought us change and innovation, but let[ting] go of the narrowness.' BLUE builds on the foundation that green has laid, but lets go of its baggage." (Werbach, 2008)


Over the last 30 years, there has been a growing awareness of the environmental problems caused by exponential growth and human development worldwide. In short, many of these problems are affecting us at rates faster than we can curb and counter them. Some of these specific issues range from such things as high rates of consumer goods wastage to air pollution to energy production to transportation and the consumption of natural resources. These are but a few of the issues with which we have to contend. Some clear examples to illustrate are such things as the high disposal rates of mobile phones and other electronics and, subsequently, the high amounts of natural resources needed to replace those mobile phones as well as other similar consumer goods being produced to meet consumption rates.

The crisis is reaching epidemic proportions and the natural resources consumption rate is driving many companies to rethink how to accommodate and innovate in the area of design to avoid penalties and detriment to their reputations. Many companies have also gone as far as the overnight formation of a highly visible web presence under the common header of social responsibility, corporate responsibility, or green to highlight, genuine or not, their commitment to curbing the environmental crisis. Look around and you will note this silent revolution. So, too, many governments have begun a massive policy restructuring that involves damage penalties for companies and consumers who are seen as violators to the environment (intentional or not). These penalties help curb and counter the impact of the environmental degradation that has been happening en masse.

Overall, the collective goal of conscious individuals (customers), companies, and government is to help preserve the natural resources needed to maintain future generations while sustaining their own. This lies as the basis of sustainability, as we will discover. For designers, "sustainability" may initially seem like a concept removed from our daily lives. Why should we care, and how can we affect any change, in our limited capacity, within our respective jobs? For deeper insight into this question, it is important that designers of all types begin to understand

1. The what: The sustainability landscape.

2. The context: What it means to be sustainable in the context of their work.

3. The theory and advocacy: How to embrace and advocate for good design.

4. The practice: How to begin a practice of sustainable design.

5. The strategy for sustaining practice: Lastly, how to maintain traction and momentum to continue to drive change through design.


Excerpted from USER EXPERIENCE IN THE AGE OF SUSTAINABILITY: A PRACTITIONER'S BLUEPRINT by KEM-LAURIN KRAMER Copyright © 2012 by Elsevier, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Morgan Kaufmann. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Sustainability, User Experience and Design

Chapter 2. Approaches to a Sustainable User Experience

Chapter 3. Product Life Cycle and Sustainable User Experience

Chapter 4. Pulling it All Together

Chapter 5. Usable and Sustainable

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  • Posted June 10, 2012


    Are you a user experience professional? If you are, then this book is for you! Author Kem-Laurin Kramer, has done an outstanding job of writing a book that is a practical exposition that engages user research professionals and addresses what they need to know about sustainability to begin some level of engagement. Kramer, begins by presenting an overview of the rise of sustainability as a corporate necessity, due to the convergence of business needs, the regulatory environment, consumer expectations, and other drivers; and, how that compares and contrasts with the need for user experience. In addition, the author focuses on the existing approaches and framework that can help in understanding sustainability from a design process perspective. Next, she focuses on looking at the life cycle of product design in context of sustainability. She continues by pulling together the concepts you have learned so far and provides some practical guidance on how you can set sustainability goals to measure performance, given your role as a design stakeholder. In addition, the author provides direction on the types of sustainability data you can target, given your role in the context of the design cycle. Finally, she discusses sustainability as a new factor in the traditional design and development process. This most excellent book also examines some of the methodologies that can be used to help situate the user experience researcher and designer as key contributors of a metrics- and measures-based design model. Perhaps more importantly, this great book provides some guidance and good examples to illustrate some sustainable design practices at work.

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