Meet Jan Walter Parr – on a mission to create smart and sustainable connected living
Using circularity, design, and tech to transform our everyday lives
Using circularity, design, and tech to transform our everyday lives
There are many passionate people in EGGS who have the drive to create a more sustainable, greener future. When it comes to circular economy and circular design, in particular, our very own CCO, Jan Walter Parr, better known as JW, is your man. We met with him to chat about his view on circularity and EGGS mission to create smart and sustainable connected living.
JW, you’re Chief Creative Officer in EGGS, but you also have a central role in our focus on circularity. Can you tell us a bit more about this?
“Yes, in EGGS, I’m responsible for growing our creative disciplines. A common denominator for all of them is that we always aim to angle them toward our purpose – crafting lovable futures. I’ve tried to figure out the missing pieces to craft lovable futures, and circularity is one of them. Systemic design is strongly related to circularity, and there are many creatives in EGGS that are already very skilled at this. So, the step to circular design is, in fact, very short, which means a lot of us are capable and skilled to take on circular challenges."
What sparked your interest in circularity?
“Well, over the years, I’ve worked with most sectors and industries. But at this moment in time, I feel that the consumer industries have a lot of untapped potential. And I guess what entices me is that in the consumer industries, things happen fast. Much faster than in the heavy industries or in strongly regulated industries. It's quicker to develop and test a new product. Fast-moving consumer goods are in fact fast moving! Also, I like the handicraft side – making something desirable – lovable -by shaping a product hands-on. I've also always been very interested in consumer or citizen services, especially mobility and public transport. These things all fit under the same umbrella of products and services that are close to people's everyday lives."
How would you explain the concept of circularity?
“Essentially, it means going from a linear use of resources to a circular one. In a linear economy, we produce, use, and throw away. In a circular one, we produce products and reuse the resources so that the materials go back into the value chain. Nothing is lost. It is still possible to create economic growth in a circular concept; we just need to do it differently, without tapping mother earth of all her resources.”
In EGGS, we work with three main areas related to our purpose, one being the mission to create smart and sustainable connected living. Which are the main challenges to solve here?
“That’s a difficult one to answer. I think the answer consists of three things – the first is designing positive consumer experiences. People buy experiences, not products. The second thing is to establish more sustainable ways of living that are still lovable experiences. And the third thing is about creating immaterial value. We need to create products and services that please us, using fewer resources. In some of these cases, circularity comes into play, and in most cases connectivity and tech are enablers.”
“We need to create products and services that please us, using fewer resources. In some of these cases, circularity comes into play, and in most cases connectivity and tech are enablers.”Jan Walter Parr, CCO, EGGS Design
What is required to meet and deal with these challenges?
“We need holistic teams that can approach the challenge from several angles. Design is definitely one of them. It's needed to identify the value we are creating and ensure we make products and services people want and need. But in addition, we also need tech, sustainability competence, business know-how, and systemic thinking.”
How can design contribute to sustainable and connected living? What is our role?
“What we focus on in EGGS is to carve out what is new – the new models,systems, services, and offerings that an organization require to create a new rig. That’s what we do –identify and define problems and possible solutions.”
Do you have any tips for organizations that are innovating towards circular models?
“Plenty! Go for low-hanging stuff if there are. Don’t think that it has to be about something big and untouchable. Start where you can. For companies that are part of a value chain, there are plenty of things you can start with. The results matter even if they’re not 100%. For example, if you work with wood products – start by replacing one part with recycled wood. What’s important is that you get going and do something instead of nothing. That being said, to stay relevant in the future, many companies will need to rethink their business models entirely. So, it’s essential that you’re able to keep two thoughts in your head at the same time – do something now, but also plan for the future. And that future will have to be 100% circular.”
In design, we often talk about people-centred design. Now, there’s also the discussion about planet-centred design, trying to shift the focus from people's individual needs to social and environmental needs. What are your thoughts on this? Are the two mutually exclusive, or can they be joined?
“Planet-centric design is a much-needed switch in mindset from the user-centric one that we’ve focused on for decades. And no, they’re not mutually exclusive. In my opinion, for design to be successful, it needs to include both perspectives. However, the planet's requirements, for example, on environmental sustainability, need to come higher up in the hierarchy of needs than those of individuals. And in some cases, we need to adapt the user to the service or the system. This is a new way of thinking for designers, who have always prioritized the user. To succeed, we need to learn new skills, such as behavioral design and psychology. Design for behavioral change should be our new design material.”
“(…) in some cases, we need to adapt the user to the service or the system. This is a new way of thinking for designers, who have always prioritized the user.”Jan Walter Parr, CCO, EGGS Design
What trends and tendencies can we see for consumer products and services?
“I think one of the biggest trends is immaterialisation. People are moving towards the so-called experience economy, where the value we pay for is not physical, not a product. We pay for experiences. This is part of the trend of products being transformed into services, where we rent or lease instead of buy. This shift has been going on for some time and will continue – it's a megatrend. Now, this is mostly happening in the wealthier parts of the world. In many places in the world, it is still a dream for many to buy their first car, for example, just like it was for us a couple of decades ago. There are theories of poorer countries to skip this stage and leapfrog straight into the experience economy, but I’m not sure it will happen that way.”
What would it take for that to happen?
"That's a complex issue, but I think to start with, there have to be systems in place to enable people to choose this path. Simply asking people not to buy a car when they finally can afford one won’t cut it. You have to have other, more appealing alternatives in place. There will also be a lot of story-telling involved here so that people will want to be part of the new story instead of the old one, so to speak.”
“Simply asking people not to buy a car when they finally can afford one won’t cut it. You have to have other, more appealing alternatives in place.”Jan Walter Parr, CCO, EGGS Design
Last but not least - what does good design mean to you?
“Good design is design that creates a positive, triple bottom line in the end.”
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