Design Thinking Meets Overshoot Day

Costas Papadopoulos and Susan Schreibman brought two groups of 25 undergraduates at University College Maastricht  in May 2019 through a design thinking process to come up with innovative everyday solutions to help lower our resource consumption.

Overshoot Day is an international initiative that marks the day ‘when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in a year’ <>. In 2019 the international Overshoot Day is 29 July, but in The Netherlands it was 14 April.

The students, working in teams of five, were each given a persona (a supermarket manager, parents, fellow students, a concert promoter, restaurant owner) and were taken through a series of design thinking exercises to come up with creative solutions for their target audience. By the end of the hour and a half session students pitched their ideas ranging from ‘We Wash’, a sustainable laundry subscription service for restaurant owners to a package free aisle in supermarkets for customers who want to reduce plastic waste, or the gardening superhero who not only composts his waste, but utilises old furniture and objects as garden sculptures.

Feedback for the session was uniformly positive: 84% of respondents felt the workshop was very or extremely relevant for their studies/future career/job. Comments from student feedback included:

  • Incredibly interesting method, definitely very inspiring workshop, good atmosphere
  • I really liked how interactive it was and how it truly pushed us to think outside the box
  • The interactive parts make the workshop very nice
  • Professional, interactive, fun and helpful!

The success of the exercise was such that it will be reconceived as an exercise for Ignite’s Introduction to Design Thinking and Making.