Design for Sustainability and the Design Studio
Author: Steven Clune
This paper explores the complexity of engaging undergraduate student designers with sustainability in the master and apprentice model of the design studio. There is a growing call for design practice to reorientate towards a more sustainable form and it is suggested that design educators have a responsibility in driving this shift. A four-year action research project enquired as to why undergraduate industrial design students could not Design for Sustainability (DfS). Interventions were identified and implemented to address this concern. These were: (1.) increasing students’ understanding of unsustainability and its relational complexity, and (2.) improving student engagement by focusing on the pedagogy of deep learning. Deep learning almost mirrors the problem based learning model of the design studio. However in practice, realising deep learning as the desired pedagogy required critical reflection from the educator to introduce a student centred approach to teaching. The paper then locates these findings amongst broader educational and industrial design education for sustainability literature. This exposes the juxtaposition of the studio as a place where the teacher-as-researcher can actively integrate progressive DfS concepts, however, leaves the studio susceptible to the troubling question of what happens when the master does not know?
The overarching objective of this paper and my work as a Design for Sustainability (DfS) researcher and teacher is to facilitate DfS in the literal sense of the definition. That is, to design to enable positive change towards a sustainable society. I argue that for designers to engage in the above objective, design must understand the role that it has played in contributing to unsustainability 1.
Stated most profoundly: design is part of the problem. We are unsustainable as a society due to the over consumption of natural resources in our everyday life, which design has made a significant contribution to. This, it is argued, occurs primarily through embodied and inconspicuous consumption of goods and services. Energy, water and natural resources are embodied within products and services used every day, and which largely go unknown by the consumer. As Frascara (45) notes: “ready-made products appear like magic”. We only see the tip of the iceberg (as low as 5%) of what we consume. Inconspicuous consumption refers to the unnoticed use of resources in everyday circumstances. Our daily practices such as dressing in clean clothes, commuting to work and eating are so habitual that one does not consciously notice the consumption and systems that are supporting such simple practices. What is hidden is that design has a strong history of making such practices more convenient to do, which in turn aids the ease at which we consume. In addition, the stakes for reorientation to a more sustainable society are continuing to move higher and timeframes becoming more urgent. Peak everything and climate change require significant reductions in resource use, both for mitigation and preparation for adaptation in a significantly different world.
The approach used in this study would be best described as first person Action Research (AR) (Kinsler) via the teacher-as-researcher (Stenhouse). The study involved undergraduate design students as both participants and future design practitioners. Sustainable Design: Sustainable Futures (SDSF) was the specific subject for analysis, and was the final of three sustainable design subjects taught within the sustainable design stream of the industrial design undergraduate program. SDSF’s structure differed to the traditional lecture–tutorial form and consisted of two intensive design-focused all-day design studios where assessment tasks were accelerated. Weekly tutorial sessions and online discussions were also utilised. The ‘conceptual design scenarios’ that students produced at the end of the subject embodied the entirety of the compulsory sustainable design curriculum. 400 ‘scenarios’ were analysed over four years against a range of sustainability metrics. The assumption was that student designers’ tacit understanding of sustainability is placed within their resolved ‘scenarios’. This understanding of sustainability was used to direct interventions into the subject that was being taught.
Throughout the study, I worked closely with colleagues from the ‘sustainable design stream team.’ This team was composed of four design academics responsible for developing and delivering the sustainability curriculum within the undergraduate Bachelor of Design/Industrial Design program. The team included the head of school, two colleagues who assisted in delivering the all-day workshops and myself. The team held regular meeting across the course of the study and debriefed after each all-day workshop and final assessment tasks.
The AR process followed Susman and Evered’s five phases of AR (extrapolated in Figure 1). AR was used due to its foundations in education (i.e. McNiff) and Cal Swann’s identification of the strong correlation between AR and the design process. Swann suggests that AR should be familiar to designers, as designers have skills in synthesising complex problems (diagnosing); suggesting alternative solutions (planning); and prioritising and implementing such solutions to improve the situation (acting).
Figure 1. Action research cycle across four years
Understanding unsustainability and the Design studio
This first section of the paper demonstrates how increasing the students’ understanding of unsustainability and its relational complexity was shown to improve student design outcomes in the early years of the case study. Analysis of the baseline design work produced by students illustrated two key findings. Firstly, conceptual design solutions leading to a 95% reduction in resources, or 85% reduction in carbon emissions (IPCC; Vergragt) were extremely rare. Secondly, the solutions illustrated an overtly technically orientated approach to sustainability, with the majority of solutions presented in isolation from the daily activities they were attempting to make more sustainable.
As a result of the baseline results, a plan was made to increase and make explicit students’ understanding of unsustainability. This was achieved by emphasising to students the scale of change required to reorient the ecological crisis; the relational complexity and contribution of design to our current unsustainability; and exposure to a range of ‘sustainable’ social solutions that may at first be considered outside designs sphere of influence. Toolkits were also developed to encourage students to critically define why we are unsustainable in relation to the theme they were studying, prior to designing any solutions. A range of exercises were introduced to encourage relational and creative problem solving techniques that would assist in strengthening their design solutions (an overview of the tools and exercises used are presented in the appendix).
Figure 2 illustrates how this shift in the understanding of unsustainability has been correlated into a potential design solution. The group with the transport theme shifted from defining unsustainability as a technical issue related to car design to unsustainability as being car dependent. This shifted their ‘conceptual design scenario’ to a service design consultancy that facilitated ‘work and study from home’ solutions. The interventions as a whole shifted students’ thinking in a new direction as the work from home scenario has the capacity to significantly conserve resources.
Sample student work (yr. 2) – defining the transport problem as car dependency
Figure 2. Sample students design work and definitions of unsustainability
The definition of the unsustainable problem being worked with was shown to strongly determine the quality of the design outcome in terms of DfS (how you define is how you design). To enable industrial design students to design for sustainability, a sound, targeted definition of unsustainability is first required. As Dewey states, ‘a problem well put is half-solved’ (Ethics 173). While it may seem elementary, understanding unsustainability in its relational complexity is the first step in attempting to design for sustainability.
Embedding deep learning in the design studio for sustainability
While the early years of the study focused on ‘what to teach’, I made a key transition as a studio educator when the focus of the AR study shifted dramatically to ‘how to teach’ (pedagogy). The initial exploration into pedagogy for DfS identified that ‘deep learning’ was recommended to enable education for sustainability (i.e. Benn; Fien, Scott and Tilbury; Fletcher and Dewberry; Warburton). A deep approach to learning implies that students that are engaged, enthusiastic, understanding and appreciative of the subject matter (Lublin 2).
The major challenge I encountered as an educator was that while the pedagogical approach of the design studio appeared sound, students were not engaged. Deep learning and design education appear to be a perfect fit, as deep learning mirrors the problem-based-learning by doing model of the design studio (Clune Deep learning). Schön’s theories of deep learning were based on the study of architecture’s design studio, which apply equally to industrial design education. As Fletcher and Dewberry (p.39) state: “The level of similarity of these two approaches perhaps suggests that an entirely new pedagogy need not be developed for the learning and teaching of Design for Sustainability”. However, my interpretation of the industrial design students’ engagement with the studio would indicate that a deep approach to learning was not occurring, raising the question: why was this not engaging?
To answer this question, Warburton’s strategies to encourage deep learning were compared to strategies employed in the subject taught (see Table 1). This indicated that the unit could be delivered with a more student-centered approach by combining the knowledge and understanding of the student through personal experience.
|Strategies to encourage deep learning in Education for Sustainability||Evidence of strategy in place in Sustainable Design Education at the UWS|
|Combine mastery learning and discovery learning. In mastery learning, student responsibility and involvement are encouraged, but the|
teacher controls curricular planning and sequencing. In discovery learning, self-directed learning by students is encouraged with teacher
|The assessment tasks asked students to explain in historical terms why the present is unsustainable.|
|Combine knowledge and understanding through personal experience of the student.||NO STRATEGY WAS IN PLACE!|
|Promote concepts and principles as opposed to hard facts; view these concepts and principles across the triple bottom line of|
sustainability; and debate concepts and principles through real examples.
|In-class debates were held around current best practice and the advantages and disadvantages with regards to sustainability. Criteria for|
sustainability are based upon principles developed within the class.
|Use conceptual frameworks and mind map relationships between key concepts.||Relational thinking prompted by the four-quadrant method of strategic foresight and our hybrid model of scenario planning (see|
Lopes, Clune and Andrews).
|Stimulate deep learning through asking questions (student or teacher), making predictions, and developing explanations||Strategic foresight studios developed future scenarios; asked prompting questions; and required students to make predictions supported by|
|Build individual awareness as opposed to rote learning facts. Utilise problem based learning||Final design solutions were a form of problem-based learning.|
|Utilise curriculum AR.||Already employed by the researcher.|
|Emphasise how to achieve behavioural change, raise awareness as well as learn about effective remedial strategies.||Focus of the unit was on how the conceptual design scenarios make our ‘default everyday practices more sustainable’.|
|Source; Warburton 48|
This understanding of deep learning was applied as an intervention in the third year of the study in two ways. Firstly, I used the design research method of an ‘empathy tool’ (IDEO) to simulate a student’s experience of the teaching session. The empathy tool assisted in identifying ‘barriers’ (Lublin 2006) to students engaging in the subject matter, such as multiple assessment tasks due on the same week physically constraining engagement. By simulating the student experience ‘ambiguous’ aspects of the subject were restructured. For example, key learning tasks were chronologically scaffolded around themes of past, present and future design issues as students moved through the semester.
Secondly, strategies were thought through to place a greater emphasis on the knowledge and understanding of the student. The delivery of the unit was consciously altered by shifting from the master (one who holds the knowledge), to one of facilitating reciprocal reflection from the student (Bacic 67). Schön identified reciprocal reflection as vital to learning reflective practice. This was his foundation for design being able to resolve complex problems–which unsustainability is. Reciprocal reflection places the appreciative knowledge of the students at the heart of their learning experience.
After the pedagogical intervention, progress in the level of thinking displayed in the ‘conceptual design scenarios’ was evident. This suggests the pedagogical intervention had appropriately facilitated contextually responsive design activity. The progression in student thinking was evidenced by ‘conceptual design scenarios’ that moved beyond presented sharing or community activities as the ‘solution’, to scenarios that attempted to facilitate such activities by design. The scenarios attempted to reconcile a social interpretation of unsustainability with the technical means to deliver change.
Figure 3. Sample of student design work (yr. 3) ‘Programmable stove’
The ‘programmable stove’ (Figure 3) illustrates a social interpretation of unsustainability matched with technical design. Through research the student designer attempted to identify ‘why we are unsustainable with regards to the kitchen?’ Their social research highlighted a lack of knowledge of how to cook from base ingredients, and an over-reliance on the convenience of microwave and frozen foods. Therefore, the ‘conceptual design scenario’ attempted to remake the convenience of frozen microwave dinners with traditional meals and seasonal food. Convenience is achieved by redesigning the oven interface to operate in a manner similar to a microwave. If you want to simmer food for five minutes you program the stove-top to simmer for five minutes. The stove also offered the capability to rematerialise past activities in cooking as the interface guides you through the necessary steps to prepare and cook your meal. In doing so, the stove regenerates the lost art of cooking and assists the user to learn.
A final observation from the design studio was that ‘conceptual design scenarios’ that offered the highest sustainability potential (like sharing and walking) pushed students to an unfamiliar area far beyond pure product orientated design. In this circumstance, the ‘empathy tool’ was used again to seek out and expose non-product vocations to student designers as viable careers (Clune opportunity not responsibility). This aimed to make a broader type of DfS relevant. I argue that the use of design in non-product design vocation has exploded through initiatives such as the DESIS (DEsigning Social Innovation for Sustainability) Network, design thinking, service design, interaction design and product service systems. These all provide avenues for non-product design outcomes.
The student conceptual designs generated through the AR case study were quantified via content analysis. The results indicated that the focus on pedagogy (how the material is delivered) had a significant impact on the students’ ability to ‘Design for Sustainability’. An overview of the first three years of the study is presented in Figures 4-6.
Figure 4. Shift in results yr.3 (solid) compared to yr. 1 baseline and yr.2 (outlined) for resources reduction
Figure 5. Shift in type of innovation yr.3 (solid) compared to yr.1 baseline and yr.2 (outlined)
Figure 6. Shift in approach yr.3 (solid) compared to yr.1 baseline and yr.2 (outlined)
The results show that student ‘conceptual design scenarios’ shifted across the course of the three-year study. The scenarios progressed to offer solutions that used significantly less resources across their lifecycle; and had grander intervention points beyond simple product redesign, as the designs attempted to shift social norms and behaviours. The above results are largely a product of first person AR. The following section locates the results of this case study and the teacher-as-researcher in relation to the state of contemporary design education for sustainability.
Beauty and the beast, the teacher-as-researcher and the design studio
The case study of AR interventions presented within this paper highlight the value of the teacher-as-researcher in improving students’ capacity to DfS in undergraduate design education. The design studio provides an ennvironment where educators can amend both content and pedagogy. Studios are often flexible enough to keep pace with rapid progression in the field of DfS, without the need for major curriculum revision that can be timely. For example, Ramirez et al identified that design studios taught product service systems prior to a formal introduction in the curriculum. Such an approach advocates Stenhouse’s original intent of the teacher-as-researcher, which views the teacher to be in the best position to drive curriculum reform. This position has drawn criticism in recent years (Carr and Kemmis; Kemmis; Jon) with respect to the agency afforded to the teacher. However, the premise they give for the deteriorating agency of the teacher is that “control over what is taught and how is gradually, but deliberately, being whittled away by central government education policies” (Jon 30). This argument does not directly apply within undergraduate industrial design education (particularly the design studio) as studios are largely developed and delivered by academics, with no national curriculum. Therefore, design education is in a unique position.
The contemporary relevance for the teacher-as-research in design can be argued for the following two reasons. Firstly, the teacher-as-researcher provides the ability to improve ones teaching through a process of “thoughtful refinement of professional skill…generally achieved by a gradual elimination of failings through the systematic study of one’s own teaching” (Stenhouse 39). AR and its privileging of critical reflection is of benefit in disciplines where academics rarely have teaching qualifications. The teacher-as-researcher can make a significant contribution to this field. Secondly, the teacher-as-researcher can contribute to curriculum design, and generate new knowledge to remake education for the growing field of sustainability. The design studio and the teacher-as-researcher support Habermas, and Dewey’s (<em>Democracy</em>) premise of education as the projection of the type of society we could be. In that “we may produce in schools a projection in the type of the society we would like to realize, and by forming minds in accord with it gradually modify the larger and more recalcitrant features of adult society” (Dewey Democracy 317).
At the same time, the design studio is susceptible if the design educator plays an overtly significant role (as was the case in the early years of the AR study). The troubling question I have for DfS education is: What happens when the master does not know?
This question is not presented as disrespectful to ID educators as unsustainability is extremely complex and requires solutions that are critically informed to facilitate a paradigm shift towards a more sustainable society. I will expand on why the question is troubling prior to offering my position.
The design studio is the champion subject for teaching designers (Dutton; Green and Bonollo; Graham), traditionally delivered via the master and apprentice model that views the teacher as the client. In this situation, students do their best to satisfy the client and are rewarded with grades. The parameters of the project are set by staff with the nature of the project, milestones and submission requirements established by staff (Green and Bonollo; Dutton). The dependency of students on staff within the studio results in an uneasy relationship, as there is “a heavy dependency on staff for generation and resolution of ideas” (Green and Bonollo 217). In such a circumstance if the understanding of unsustainability is poor the resolution of ideas will be limited.
Design institutions and educators’ understanding of unsustainability has been the focus of Mariano Ramirez’s work over the past decade. His global surveys identify that the understanding of unsustainability by ID educators has historically been concerning as weak definitions of DfS were identified (although progress is occurring). In 2004, the definitions focused on “end-of-life concerns (design for reuse, recycling and disposal) and the distribution phase” (Ramirez Ecological Sustainability 2). In 2007, educators focused “mostly on minimisation of environmental impacts and usually not covering aspects of promoting equity” (Ramirez Sustainability Integration 3). The above definitions are not representative of the relational complexity of unsustainability. Further, Ramirez found that in 2012, the majority of educational design institutions globally practice DfS in some capacity, however 1/3 of design schools globally show no evidence of sustainability in the curriculum or student outcomes (Ramirez Inclusion). An inadequate understanding of unsustainability is still a fundamental barrier to enabling student designers to DfS. This is compounded by the lack of sustainability content taught worldwide, and is problematic.
Historically it has been easy to critique design education as “striving for solutions without having a fundamental grasp and definition of the problem [unsustainability]” (Fry 4). The obvious conclusion is that more needs to occur to progress a sound understanding of unsustainability and integrate DfS in design education. The teacher-as-researcher has a significant contribution to progressing this agenda. To return to the question of what happens when the master does not know, the student-centered pedagogical approach matched with the reciprocal reflection advocated by Schön goes some way to enable exploration of complex wicked problems such as unsustainability. I see asking students to reflect and think through the possible consequences of their design scenarios as a key means to address the ‘not-knowing’ for both the student and educator.
While the results of the case study are from one discipline in one institution, the findings are seen to be broadly generalizable for design educators seeking to engage student designers with sustainability. While interdiciplinarity is important for realising sustainability, this case study has not engaged in the concept in any significant way. My present work applies the findings identified within the paper to facilitate the conceptualisation of sustainability solutions with a broad range of disciplines, within and outside of education. The tools used and the approach taken in my current work strongly resembles those presented in this paper.
This paper has shown how the ‘teacher-as-researcher’ and AR were used to enhance DfS solutions in the design studio. This was achieved by: (1.) assisting students to appropriately define understandings of unsustainability prior to designing conceptual solutions; and (2.) drawing on the pedagogy of deep learning to encourage a student `centred approach to learning. The case study has shown that integrating such approaches within a design studio setting led to the enhanced capacity of students to improve DfS outcomes. These findings are seen to be broadly generalizable for design educators seeking to engage student designers with sustainability.
The findings, when located amongst broader educational and industrial design education for sustainability literature, identify that design education is in a unique position to integrate progressive DfS within the curriculum, however this may be overtly dependent on individual educators. I posit that AR and its reflective practice is one means of strengthening the capacity of design educators for sustainability.
Bacic, Monique. “The Central Role of the Designer’s Appreciative System in Socially Situated Design Activity.” Diss. U of New South Wales, 2007.
Benn, Suzanne. Education for Sustainability Integrating Environmental Responsibility into Curricula: A Guide for UNSW. Sydney: U of New South Wales, 1999.
Carr, Wilfred, and Stephen Kemmis. “Staying Critical.” Educational Action Research 13.3 (2005): 347-58.
Clune, Stephen. “Deep Learning and Industrial Design Education for Sustainability.” Connected 2010 – 2nd International Conference on Design Education. U of New South Wales, 2010.
—. “Opportunity not Responsibility; Engaging Industrial Design Students in Design for Sustainability.” Journal of Design Research 9.9 (2011): 241 – 253.
Dewey, John. Democracy and Education. New York: The Free P, 1966.
—. “Ethics, Logic, Psychology.” The Essential Dewey. Ed. Larry Hickman and Thomas Alexander. Bloomington: Indiana University P, 1998.
Dutton, Thomas. “Design and Studio Pedagogy.” Journal of Architectural Education 41.1 (1987): 16-25.
Fien, John, William Scott, and Daniella Tilbury. “Exploring Principles of Good Practice: Learning from a Meta-Analysis of Case Studies on Education within Conservation across the WWF Network.” Applied Environmental Education and Communication1.1 (2002): 52-262.
Fletcher, Kate, and Emma Dewberry. “Demi: A Case Study in Design for Sustainability.” International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 3.1 (2002): 38-47.
Frascara, Jorge. “Communications for Change: Strategies and Difficulties.” Design Issues 12.3 (1996): 45-59.
Fry, Tony. “Know Your Enemy: Defining the Problem of Unsustainability.” Shaping the Sustainable Millennium Conference, Queensland U Technology, 2000.
—. A New Design Philosophy, An introduction to Defuturing. Sydney, U of New South Wales, 1999.
Graham, Elizabeth. Studio Design Critique: Student and Faculty Expectations and Reality. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State U, 2003.
Green, Lance, and Elivio Bonollo. “Studio-Based Teaching: History and Advantages in the Teaching of Design.” World Transactions on Engineering and Technology Education 2.2 (2003): 269-272.
Habermas, Jurgen. Toward a Rationale Society: Student Protest, Science and Politics. Trans. Jeremy Shapiro. Boston: Beacon P, 1971.
IDEO. IDEO Method Cards. San Francisco: William Stout Architectural Books, 2002.
IPCC. “Summary for Policymaker, Climate Change 2007: Mitigation.” Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007. Ed. Bert Metz et al.
Cambridge: Cambridge U P, 2007.
Jon, Nixon. “The Teacher as Researcher: Contradictions and Continuities.” Peabody Journal of Education 64.2 (1987): 20-32.
Kemmis, Stephen. “Participatory Action Research and the Public Sphere.” Educational Action Research 14.4 (2006): 459-76.
Kinsler, Kimberly. “The Utility of Educational Action Research for Emancipatory Change.” Action Research 8.2 (2010): 171-89.
Lopes, Abby Merrick, Stephen Clune, and Tara Andrews. “Future Scenario Planning as a Tool for Sustainable Design Education and Innovation.” Connected 2007 International Conference on Design Education. U of New South Wales, 2007.
Lublin, Jackie. “Deep, Surface and Strategic Approaches to Learning”. Good Practice in Teaching and Learning. Centre for Teaching and Learning. Dublin: UCD. (2003): 1-11. Web. 18 March 2007.
Manzini, Ezio and François Jégou. Sustainable everyday, scenarios of urban life. Milan, Edizioni Ambiente srl 2003.
McNiff, Jean. Action Research, Principles and Practice. London: Routledge, 1998.
Ramirez, Mariano. “Ecological Sustainability in Australian Industrial Design Education.” Futureground International Conference of the Design Research Society, Monash U, 2004.
—. “Inclusion of Environmental and Social Aspects of Sustainability in Industrial Design Education.” Sustainable Development at Universities: New Horizons. Ed. Walter Filho. Berlin: Frankfurt em Main, 2012. 148-58.
—. “Sustainability Integration in Industrial Design Education: A World Wide Survey.” Connected 2007 International Conference on Design Education. U of New South Wales, 2007.
Schön, Donald. The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. Ashgate: Aldershot, 1991.
Stenhouse, Laurence. An Introduction to Curriculum Research and Development. London: Heinemann, 1975.
Susman, Gerald, and Roger Evered. “An Assessment of the Scientific Merits of Action Research.” Administrative Science Quarterly 23 (1978): 582-603.
Swann, Cal. “Action Research and the Practice of Design.” Design Issues 18.1 (2002): 49-61.
Tonkinwise, Cameron. Dematerialism and the Art of Seeing Living or Why Architecture’s Self-Images lead to McMansions. Thursday night lectures. U of Sydney, 2005.
Vergragt, Phillip. “Leap Frogging to Sustainable Households.” 8th Greening of Industry Conference, Ways of knowing. U of North Carolina, 1999.
Warburton, Kevin. “Deep Learning and Education for Sustainability.” International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 4.1 (2003): 44-56.
About the Author
Stephen is a sustainable designer, researcher and educator with over nine years experience is sustainable design education. He has joined ImaginationLancaster as a senior lecturer in sustainable design. Stephen previously worked at the Centre for Design, RMIT University, where he worked on applied sustainability research projects across a broad range of scales. Such as the role of packaging in preventing food waste, to facilitating workshops on climate adaptive landscape solutions in regional Australia. Stephen’s core research interest focuses on how design (and design thinking) can assist in the move towards a sustainable society, with a particular interest in design as a facilitator of change. His work draws on a diverse range of tools from social practice theory, behavioural change and Live Cycle Analysis.
Dr Stephen Clune
Senior Lecturer Sustainable Design
+44 (0) 1524 10792
Appendix: Select Design for Sustainability activities
The below table introduces select examples of activities I used in teaching student designers’ to Design for Sustainability.
|Timeline outlining the trajectory of practices and stuffAsk participants to map out the trajectory of a particular practice (e.g. cleanliness, shopping, transport etc.) over a significant amount of time. Include important social, technical, economic and political events, and the evolution of related design artefacts.||The timeline assists students to acknowledge the dynamic nature of design and correlation to everyday practices. The timeline can then be re-read to identify how design has contributed to our present unsustainability. The timeline illustrates the significance of designed stuff in our everyday life.|
|Game of Ontological Design: 1. Use metaphor to view stuff (artefacts) as actors by asking what did ‘product X’ design, create, kill, proliferate, favour, or alter?2. Explore via a mind map Fry’s claim that ‘design designs’ (Defuturing 6), by visually mapping out answers to the following questions:- ‘What did the microwave design? What products have the introduction of the microwave encouraged, what traditional practices and skills|
has the microwave affected?’- ‘What did the car design? What did Henry Ford’s ‘car for the masses’ enable? What products/activities are dependent on the use of cars?
What existing practices does the car deter?’
|The responses to the tutorial game escalated design as having a far greater significance than first assumed. The mapping of the microwave|
left one participant stumped on how you could defrost food without the microwave. This is evidence of a lost practice. The proliferation of single serve microwave meals and associated ‘microwave safe’ packaging, a symbiotic relationship with the freezer, the convenience to eat when you want shifting family eating arrangements are all frequently identified as being facilitated by the microwave. Design begetting design, creating and destroying practices 2.
|Death of a thousand cuts Ask students to complete the equation on resource use from 1900-2000 ‘death of a thousand cuts’ adapted from Tonkinwise.Resource use = population x stuff owned x rucksackPopulation 5 fold increaseStuff owned 3 fold increase (kg/person)Ecological Rucksack 3 fold increase (rucksack/kgRelevant for 1/5 world population (multiply again by 5)||The equation highlights the compounding effects of population growth and resource consumption. The conclusion from the equation is a 45 fold increase in resource use from 1900-2000. This is dramatically increased again if the remaining world population consume in a manner similar to the developed world.This increase in resource use is a rationale for the large scale (factor 10) reduction in resources required. An emphasis on the scale of change led to more ambitious student solutions.|
|In class debates: ‘Is the Tesla Roadster an effective transport solution for Sydney?’Brief the affirmative team with white papers from Tesla motors (electric car manufacturer from the USA) outlining the benefits of electric cars to cutting emissions. Brief the negative team with urban design and public transport papers, such as Curitiba’s public transport initiatives and the Paris Vélib bike share program. Students are given 30 minutes to prepare for a 20-minute debate.||Through a balanced debate and facilitated discussion, the advantages and disadvantages of particular solutions arise. The results of the debate are actually not as important as the issues that arise. In that the debate encouraged the consideration and validity of ‘social’ as well as ‘technical’ solutions.|
|Day in the life scenario1. Create a ‘day in the life scenario’ for a developed persona. 2. Detail the flow of everyday actions and design interactions that may|
take place across a 24 hour period for your persona. 3. Critically reflect on the day in the life scenario once complete to flag activities that are sustainable or unsustainable – and require redirection.
|The ‘day in the life scenario’ focuses students on individual behaviours in context as a source for design innovation, and provide opportunities for relational thinking in determining hot spots of inconspicuous consumption.In reality the ‘day in the life scenario appeared most ambiguous for students to carry through on a clear trajectory to their design|
|Human centered design brief Develop a human centred design brief following the below formTo assist your persona to complete the daily activity ofpicking up the kids from school within the quadrant comprising of Urban Sprawl/Home Ownership, whilst satisfying the design criteria of: A. low material intensity (less material removed from nature therefore having a smaller environmental impact); B. low energy use in any form — electricity, fuels (solutions must be highly efficient across the life of the product); C. high regenerative potential (enhancing and if possible regenerating environmental and social resources); D. providing a positive experience in that completing the activities is fulfilling and E. reducing car dependency.||The design brief assisted students frame the problem. Moving their designing to the underlying problem, such as moving from the car as the problem, to the movement of people as the problem, to the need to move as the problem. The brief also allows for inclusion of criteria like regenerative potential (Manzini and Jegou).The human-centred functional design brief’s enables a focus for traditional design and creativity tools to be applied.|
|Think back‘Think back’ is a variation of the ‘what if’ question and that asks ‘what if we had no electricity?’ ‘What if we had no water?’ etc. The questioning assists students to identify radical solutions through functional innovation by severely limiting the palette of resources they have to design with. The ‘think back’ exercise differs as it involves asking students to think back to a time in history when the current problem they are working with was not an issue of unsustainability as it is currently defined.||Think back is an ideation technique that assists students to identify solutions that have worked in the past. This strategy proved successful in identifying passive techniques for storing and preserving food, and social solutions such as informal barter networks. These solutions were then reinterpreted in a contemporary setting.|
|Think forwardAsk students to think through the possible consequences of their design solutions. What may happen if they proliferate? Would this lead to a more sustainable society?||This line of questioning is perhaps the most challenging for design students (and design academics). Strategic foresight in identifying potential consequences of design solutions is a field requiring further development.|
|Future design vocations for reflectionAsk students to reflect on the viability of future Design for Sustainability vocations in. 1. A conceptual designer, 2. An entrepreneur realizing sustainable service systems, and 3. A design for sustainability consultant that may advise on means to reduce individual, business or communities impacts via design.||The presentation and discussion of future design vocations appeared to validate the relevance of the DfS content as taught to students. Students could be said to become aware of and accepting of non-product orientated solutions.|
- This paper is orientated towards sustainability, however definitions of sustainability have intentionally been avoided. I posit that the definition should arrive from an exploration of why we are unsustainable in a specific context. ↩
- The dialectic of sustainment may be introduced through the above tools as it becomes clear that creation is indivisible from destruction, making indivisible from unmaking, and futuring indivisible from defuturing ( Fry, defuturing). As new practices are introduced, existing practices may decline or die ↩