The term "holistic design" has been bouncing around in my head for a few years. Without a formal definition, I've used it privately as my design practice modus operandi -- considering everything from materials, ethics, and how every angle is viewed to the importance of a form's connection to practical and romantic function. So, I finally bothered to google it and found this perfectly succinct description on wisegeek.com:
"Holistic design is an approach to design which considers the system being designed as an interconnected whole which is also part of something larger. Holistic concepts can be applied to architecture as well as the design of mechanical devices, the layout of spaces, and so forth. This approach to design often incorporates concerns about the environment, with holistic designers considering how their design will impact the environment and attempting to reduce environmental impact in their designs.
Aesthetics can also be an important consideration in holistic design. Designers may consider how the design will look as a whole, thinking about different ways in which people will view the design. For example, when designing a structure, the designer reflects on the environment the structure will be built in, thinking about how it will integrate into the existing environment, and also about how views of the structure may change depending on angle, time of day, and other factors. In addition, the designer considers how the space will feel from the inside, and what kind of messages should be sent with the space.
The integration of a consistent look and feel is an important aspect of holistic design. Jarring design elements can throw off the aesthetics of the entire design. Holistic designers try to design spaces with future needs in mind so that additions which change the nature of the space will not need to be made. Designers try to make spaces flexible and easy to maintain to reduce the need to make major changes in response to changing needs.
This approach to design can also consider how other things in the same design family will fit. A designer of computer peripherals, for example, would want to design them in a way which meshes well aesthetically as well as functionally with the computers they are designed for."