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Design Impact » About


Design-Impact exists to promote advanced engineering design as a means to transform energy consumption and production practices, shift society’s trajectory toward a path of sustainability, enhance global competitiveness, and improve quality of life.

Sustainability, clean energy, and being ‘green’ are all hot topics right now. It’s hard to escape reports of how our ‘enthusiastic’ consumption is impacting the natural world, political stability, and the global economy. Most of us are aware that we need to make substantial changes, but what and how exactly? What can we do to effect real change and steer our trajectory toward a sustainable path? A transformation of this scale and complexity certainly will require our best united efforts and remarkable human ingenuity.

An issue of exceptional concern is the world’s voracious and expanding energy consumption. Energy is essential for economic growth and prosperity, yet our current energy system is rapidly spoiling the natural environment we depend on. We need a plan of action that produces both:

  • remarkably lower energy consumption, and
  • an accelerated shift to clean, renewable energy sources,

all while maintaining high quality of life. The first item requires that we learn to do more with much less; the second calls for faster innovation and deployment of renewable energy systems. What can we do to accelerate this transformation? What is The Next Big Step Toward Sustainable Living?

All of our energy producing and consuming systems have been designed, that is, someone made decisions about how these systems were to be built. These decisions can have a fantastic influence on our energy consumption. Design affects how we travel, how we eat, and how we work. Design dictates how much energy cars, manufacturing plants, and computers consume. Design has a clear impact; better design is the next big step toward sustainability.

Advanced design techniques, such as design optimization, facilitate significant energy efficiency gains, and can accelerate creation of improved clean energy systems. Adoption of these techniques has been sluggish, yet design practice affects us all. Talking about better design is not just for engineers; we need everyone engaged in this dialogue. Cultural and policy changes are requisite for Design Impact to take hold and produce a real shift toward sustainability. The Design Impact blog aims to bring to light core concepts of advanced design to a broad audience, as well as provide context for the role design plays in society. Please join the conversation.

About the Author

dscn1361_2James Allison is a professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to this he taught at Tufts University and worked as a senior engineer at MathWorks, Inc. in the area of simulation and design of engineering systems. He also has worked at GM and Ford on hybrid powertrain design and engine design. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. James has had a persistent interest in energy efficiency, renewable energy production, and transportation systems. As an undergraduate engineering student he founded a solar car design team, and as a graduate student studied engineering system design, including electric and hybrid electric vehicle design. When not playing engineer, James enjoys mountain biking, climbing, and hiking.

Contact: james at