The Living Principles


There are only a few frameworks in the world of systems and sustainability. These serve to organize the various activities, issues, and impacts of a system in order to work with them in a constructive way. Frameworks orient us to a challenge, help us frame that challenge, and then help organize what we want to do about it. These aren’t the same as tools. Think of frameworksas the structure for strategy and toolsas the means of implementation. The major frameworks that deal with sustainability include:

There are a few more but, already, the seven above aren’t terribly common or in wide use. All of these are deficient, too. They all need to be augmented here and there in order to cover the span of issues and impacts we now realize.

As you can see, if we identify the frameworks and tools by the spectrum of issues they note (as the team at Tomorrow Partners has, above), very few cover the big four: ecological, economic, social, and cultural impacts. This is why nearly all of these frameworks are incomplete and need to be combined or augmented, in practice. You can read about these frameworks, in detail, in my recent book, Design is the Solution.

What makes the Living Principles stand-out is that it’s designed not only to address all four areas of impact but to evolve with the times, too. Created by AIGA members Gaby Brink and Nathalie Destandu of Tomorrow Partners and Phil Hamlett of the Academy of Art University, the Living Principles benefits from the frameworks that have come before it.

Building on the framework they created, are tools that professionals of all kinds can use to assess their situation, evaluate their options, and implement change. These include the ActionKit and the Sustainability Scorecard.