40 Comments
  1. My perception certainly has changed. Initially I was looking at how I could effect many of the end results of environmentally friendly practices in my office. Sure I could encourage my co-workers to properly compost and recycle, and while that’s all good, it’s not doing anything to really address the issues that we waste food, that packaging wastes plastic, that people don’t know how to or are just flat out unwilling to recycle. I still feel somewhat powerless to alter that system on my own, but I have better knowledge of ways to go about designing a system that could work to alter those paradigms. So I think that I’m more aware of what’s happening in the world around us and what an intervention point may be or how to better go about looking for it. But does that mean I’m able to actually do anything about it at this point? I’m not so sure. Regardless, I think one goal of this course succeeded, I certainly will take with me an understanding that these complex systems exist and that I can gently nudge projects in their direction or to bring some of the ideals of this class along with me.

    • Jesse, I agree that with the sentiment of feeling powerless against these wicked problems. However, I do find comfort in the fact that there are others feeling the same way that I feel. We’re all itching to make the world a better place and we push back on ourselves and other designers to make them think about the consequences of what they are designing, as well. That’s a good direction to be in.

      What I’m learning more and more (from others in the Transition Design class) is that designers should know when to design and when not to. Perhaps, we should be in the background and assume the role of a facilitator – by bringing people together and conceiving of integrated satisfiers (needs).

  2. I think my perception has changed too. I view transition design as a powerful and holistic framework that can be referenced when thinking of design solutions that I will propose in my future practices. With the framework, it is easier to identify the gaps, mistakes and opportunities that a current design problem is presenting to me. Although one person might not have enough power to change a system, it is certainly promising if everyone is educated about the framework and starts to act on their behalf. System change would definitely take a every long time to achieve, but if we are all aware of the long term effect of our behaviors and start to do something now, the world will become a better place 🙂

  3. My perception has changed, too. It almost becomes intuitive to consider problems from a system-level perspective. I do start to consider more sustainable lifestyles, behavior change, and mindset resetting in my design. Especially Social Practice Theory, Max-Neef theory of needs, holistic worldview, and mechanistic worldview, think temporarily, open mindset and posture, Place-based lifestyle influenced me a lot, I feel I become a more qualified designer and world citizen. Sometimes I still feel overwhelmed facing system-level issues, but I am positive and know all the things will be well, as long as more and more people get evolved and understand the framework. This framework does help us reflect on current status, identify gaps and deficiency, then guide us to find leverage points to change the current paradigm.

  4. I originally questioned the Transition Design Frameworks seemingly conflicting assertions that we need to look at problems holistically, but we also need to design for multiple levels of scale. I think I have come away from this class with a more nuanced view of what Transition Design is. I still find the framework to be somewhat limiting, however. I think Transition Design could almost be viewed as a philosophy that you embody as a designer, rather than a rigid framework to follow. System-Level thinking, Social Practice Theory, Design for Behavior Change, and Max-Neef’s needs will definitely stay with me as I grow in my career as a designer.

    I am still critical of Transition Design’s stance on rejecting science based on incorrect assumptions about science itself, and I think reducing worldviews into “mechanistic” vs. “holistic” is not useful. Constituent parts make up the whole, so reducing systems into parts we can understand is necessary to working with wicked problems. I also hope that transition design can embrace more a more rigorous study of anthropology and social science because I think it’s a very important part of designing for people within systems.

    • Thanks for your thoughts Monica! I agree with your view of how transition design has evolved as a process over this semester. I too had initial scepticism about how to integrate the thoughts and process of transition design into my projects, but over the semester, I realised that the transition design framework helps me situate my process better as a designer.

      I also agree that the division between “mechanistic” and “holistic” worldviews didn’t seem the most intuitive – I saw myself aligning my process as a balance between both the theories.

    • Looking back over my initial post, where I expressed concern about knowing which actions to take in order to have a greater overall effect on an unsustainable system, I would have to say that I still feel this concern. I began this class expecting to be handed a toolkit of solutions. Unfortunately, Transition Design is not able to provide a toolkit of out-of-the-box solutions, nor should it. One thing that has been made abundantly clear is the fact that solutions must be unique to the places and people they are trying to help. Oftentimes the best solution is to simply create better conditions in which non-designers have the resources to fix problems themselves.

      Transition Design is still in it’s infancy and could benefit from having teachers from other disciplines come in to provide insight and additional training. I think I learned the most from the readings on new economic paradigms as well as Donella Meadows’ Places to Intervene in a System.

  5. Michelina Campanella April 22, 2017 at 4:41 pm Reply

    Before entering this program, I was excited about transition design because it’s framework is nested within the natural world and that the supporting disciplines (service design, social innovation, and even transition design) are concerned with making connections between the built world and the natural world. I viewed “interaction design” to mean more than just interacting with technology, but also spurring human to human interaction as well as human interacting with nature.

    As the discussion of the framework in class went on and comments were being made, there wasn’t a single comment about the natural world, which left me feeling isolated and discouraged. As the program comes to an end, I realize that my view of interaction design is not the majority view and that the ‘interactions’ we are being trained to design for are based around technology and the world of the artificial.

    The framework is set up as if the built world supports the natural world through the growing disciplines, but in practice the built world and natural world are two different focal points that are fighting for the attention of designers, and the natural world is being left behind.

    • The framework of nested circles does seem to imply that the build world supports the natural world. Maybe they shouldn’t be nested. Now that we are near the end of the semester, I think a discussion on how we can improve or add the to the framework would be helpful.

      • Thanks for bringing that point up Michelina! We wanted our last class to be reflective on the process that we have learnt and discussed, and we were really happy with everyone’s involvement. We brought up the framework because we too identified certain restrictions with the flow of thought assumed in it. It does leave little space for the natural world to play a bigger part in the design process, and maybe we need to challenge that system.

    • I already posted, but I just wanted to say that I loved Michelina’s point here; thank you for bringing this up!

      My perceptions about transition design haven’t changed much since the beginning of the semester, except that I do feel there’s a disconnect between transition design and the curriculum of the program in general. I liked a lot of the ideas that we discussed in transition design, and the broader interpretation of Interactions is the main reason I decided to come to CMU. But outside of this class, I do feel there is a strong presumption that designers design for technology, not for humans. No doubt we are surrounded by the ‘artifice,’ but if we are talking about changing mindsets and postures and envisioning a better future, then I think we as designers must also be able to envision and design for a world beyond the artifice, that truly is human-centered. What if better-designed technology wasn’t the solution, but less technology altogether? I appreciate that the Design school is probably unique in CMU in that it does welcome a certain amount of cynicism about the role of technology in our lives, but still I feel a broader interpretation of Interactions as far as the projects would be a big step towards incorporating Transition Design-thinking into the entire curriculum and training.

  6. I would say that my perception of the transition design framework has evolved. In my first post, I mentioned that in coming from an advertising background, I was very familiar with the immediate, small-scale, narrow focus of campaigns. I was excited about the systemic and interdisciplinary approach of transition design. Throughout the semester, I took note of several practices that I hope to make use of in the future. In particular, I am interested in backcasting. While looking at current projects for our case study on affordable housing, we came across the London Olympic site and plan. Too often, Olympic villages are built for a a brief period of use, then left abandoned. However, with the London games they planned for the Olympics, but more importantly, they planned for how these buildings would be used after the games. For me, this example highlights how approaching a project through the lens of transition design(while maybe unintended), can have reach well beyond the scope of the immediate solution.

    This is what I hope to take with me in my practices as a designer. How can I use the some of the key transition design principles and bring them into each project? Rather than try to tackle wicked problems from multiple angles, systematically, and over a long period of time, I feel that each problem or project can be approached with the knowledge of the larger system, awareness of mindset and posture of those involved, and take into consideration a more place-based design methodology.

  7. After go through the whole class, I do learn a lot and have further understanding about transition design. I really like several parts of
    1. Theories of change: Learning theory of change is very interesting. This is the basic knowledge to understand wicked problem. How things are interconnected together and how problem can’t be solved by addressing single problem with reductive thinking.
    2. MLP: We learned the car culture problem in America which is also very interesting for me. We understood how America is trenched into this cutlure. I used to be hopeless about certain main stream social problem since each small effort seems to be useless to shift the system paradigm. But learning the MLP and understanding that the current paradigm of car culture only existed around 50 years give me hope that shifting the paradigm is possible. What we need to do is to find out the leverage points.
    3. Everylife and Max-Neef’s satisfier: Transition design focus on sustainability life style, so the everyday life and Max-Neef’s satisfier are proposed to be a ideal future. While it also mentioned about a co-created future. I believe in the co-created part, as a result, I prefer not to propose a ideal future life which seems to be to ideal for us. But I do believe that the theory of satisifier could help us to think what exactly people wants.
    4. Envision the future and backcasting to make up plan: In fact, I think this is a common technique to plan your whole life. Imagine what you want to achieve in the next ten years and from that point to make up the plan. In term of this, I am so shocked that most government plan do not have this part of vision and only focuses on short term solution to address current problem. This technique should be available across all professionals.

  8. Scott Dombkowski April 22, 2017 at 6:12 pm Reply

    My perception of transition design has also changed. One point I focused on in my initial post was “that the transition design framework could provide value for addressing internal problems for a variety of problems”. I still agree with this, but can now see how concepts such as cosmopolitan localism and place-based design can be applied internally. An organization that has products or services that serve a variety of locales can understand those locales and have that understanding inform those products and services. This could come in the form of functionality that is available for the same product in the United States but not Japan. This could also come in the form of internal policies for an organization that has part of their workforce in North America and the rest of Asia. How you go about creating a performance management system should be different for both of those populations, just because the way feedback is communicated in those populations is different.

  9. I would agree that my understanding of Transition Design has evolved a lot this semester. While I’m not necessarily certain there is a clear Transition Design framework that I can apply to my work moving forward, I think that my philosophy as designer has evolved. During my undergraduate design studies, there was very little exposure to theory. I believe it could be valuable to expose designers to Social Practice Theory, Max-Neef Needs, Multi Level Perspective and discussions around mindset and posture. I’m particularly grateful to have taken this course with the MA students who bring a really valuable and diverse perspective to design.

    • Monique, thank you! I agree, I think that the diverse experiences of the fellow MA cohort has been helpful for me not only in this class, but in my other classes, as well. I’m lucky to have started my first journey into design with them.

  10. My perception about Transition Design has changed since the beginning of the semester, mostly because it’s been informed by everyone’s unique point of view. A framework like Transition Design has to be developed and theorized by people with diverse backgrounds and cultural contexts. I wished this class had brought in more non-designers to the conversation. I believed that as a group we could have benefited so much from having lawyers, engineers, teachers, social workers, biologists, etc. actively involved in the conversation, informing our wicked problem and MLP map. As an emerging field it’s important that TD seeks input from other disciplines and reaches out to people outside of academia; people who can’t afford to come to CMU, people that are actually leading grassroot initiatives, working on the ground every single day, building social fabric in their communities.

    • I love that idea! I’ve been a bit disillusioned by now NON-interdisciplinary design can be. One of the benefits of going to a design school that is part of a university and not a stand-alone institute is the opportunity to learn and get participation from other disciplines, but I just find myself in Margaret Morrison all day every day, with no opportunities even to collaborate with other schools. I think having experts from other parts of CMU would have been a fantastic addition, especially in regards to our wicked problems. With so many different pieces, people, and components acting on each other within a wicked problem, designers alone do not have the know-how to solve these problems nor should we claim to. Practice and exposure to working with people of other disciplines would definitely serve as useful training for this type of systems-level work.

      • I agree with you Hajira and Silvia! I would have loved to have been able to collaborate with students from the urban design and public policy programs here at CMU. As I’ve been working on our wicked problem case study, I am realizing more and more how enlightening it would have been to have policy and urban development experts on our team, or even in the classroom to present their perspective on similar issues. The more I dug into our wicked problem, the more I realized how ignorant I was of the history, policy, and complexity of the issue itself, and the more I wished I had the opportunity earlier in the semester to engage with people who study urban development and policy exclusively.

        That being said, I have always seen, even at the beginning of the semester, transition design as an attempt to bring social science theory into the field of design. Cosmopolitan localism, social practice theory, and many of the other theories we learnt in the this class are theories I encountered, in much greater and richer depth, in my undergraduate studies. I still find, as I did in the beginning of the semester, this attempt to bring social science theory into a field where it has been largely absent laudable. Being a social science undergraduate major, of course I believe social science has a lot to offer to many different fields, so of course I agree with the meaningfulness of many of the theories transition design has touched on. However, at the same time, I have found myself disappointed in the way that this class has presented some of the theories that I had studied in my undergraduate classes. In my undergraduate classes, for example, cosmopolitan localism wasn’t just defined — it was positioned as an important contribution to a larger field of academic discourse. The utility of cosmopolitan localism as a concept can best be explained by explaining the theories surrounding it — both those that support the concept AND those that divert from its main arguments. It seems we have only read in this class a series of readings that all support one another in their basic arguments. The larger academic discourse surrounding the concepts we’ve touched on in this class have seemed to me at least to have been left out. I don’t find theory for theory’s sake to be persuasive. What makes a theory persuasive is how it relates to oppositional or divergent theories. I think if we had been presented with a greater variety of theoretical arguments, the class would have been more intellectually stimulating and compelling.

        • Thanks for the great comments Silvia, Hajira and Delanie! I think it’s very important to us as designers to be actually able to collaborate with other experts/people involved in each project we work on! I think it would give transition design process a big boost if we were able to explore it with people coming from different points of view. having worked in an urban design studio as well as architects – I have experienced the difference in their design thinking and the process of them identifying needs an impact. If I were to take back my learnings of the transition design framework to them now, I can imagine coming back with a more improved version of this system – one that can be flexible to people from different backgrounds.

    • Silvia, this is a great idea. We could even start by looking within our group. Many of the students in the class come from non-design backgrounds (especially the MAs). I wish we had more time for group discussions. I always enjoyed the discussion sessions that enabled everyone’s voices to be heard versus the ones where we were just following along with lecture/powerpoint. Hearing diverse perspectives is important as we are helping to shape Transition Design. Yay, Trojan Horses.

  11. My understanding of transition design certainly “transitioned”. Originally I was defining the framework from an individual’s perspective and more focused on how to change an individual, but as the course progressed, I have seen that transition design is not all about individuals but starts from the individual level. In the first reflection, I argued that starting the change from the individual level is important but during the semester, I have seen that not only individual levels but there should be interventions at all levels up to the systems-level to challenge the status quo. In addition to that, I have also experienced how to approach a wicked problem and I have seen although solving a wicked problem truly is impossible, transition design help to map the reasons and consequences of a wicked problem and enable designers to find a solution with minimum negative outcome.

  12. While I understood in the beginning that transition design was on larger scales, I saw it more as separate from the rest of design. It seemed grand, serious. However, after learning more abut Max-Neefs needs and the different levels of perspective that can be brought in when approaching any problem, it became clear that these takeaways included fundamental principles that we can apply to all aspects of our daily, practicing professional lives. I think, even more, hearing everyone else’s perspectives and insights throughout the class has affected how I see transition design as well; not only has people’s input cleared some parts of frameworks and indigenous design, but hearing other question certain parts and wrestle with the parts of transition design that are still in progress has opened my mind to a more critical lens as well.

  13. My perception of Transition design has been changed certainly in that I’ve got more questions then the beginning. Initially, I thought that transition design framework is actionable. It made a sense when I was just looking at it and conceptually imagining how each component work together. However, once I delved into it and had activities, such as wicked problem mapping, and discussions, more and more questions have came up in my mind. Wicked problems are so intangled across multiple areas overtime. How can designers invite the stakeholders who don’t have the perspective and vision in common? How can designers make a system level impact while considering longterm ramifications as well as the unique properties of a local? What kinds of research should be used for the extensive problems? and so on… One thing for sure is that these questions are a good sign to move forward.

  14. It has changed. In the first post, I was not sure if Transition design even made sense, didn’t make sense to me at least. I have come around to understand what Transition design stands for. I am still not sure how to implement anything I have learnt in the class in the near future, but I guess that is not the point. The point for me was the thinking beyond what you can see today, and can predict for tomorrow.

  15. Ashlesha Pradeep Dhotey April 23, 2017 at 11:46 am Reply

    My perception of Transition Design has changed since the start of the semester. I really did not understand the unique point of transition design before and felt like it is very similar to sustainable design, social innovation, and service design. But I must confess, I am starting to understand what transition design brings to the table. Transition design is a thread that ties all the missing pieces together across various fields and systems. It’s a practice of always keeping the long-term vision in mind and having the right posture and mindset to approach wicked problems.

  16. I echo the thoughts of lot of my colleagues here that an in-depth understanding of Transition design has helped me grow as a designer. I feel that over the semester, it hasn’t necessarily changed my perception of it, but, has helped me broaden my understanding of the implications that a design could cause. I find myself being more thoughtful as a designer- thinking beyond the obvious. I am not sure how to advocate the discipline in my practice moving forward unless there is a more widely accepted framework that I could follow.

    • Nehal, I think your point regarding the implications of a design is really valuable. As we go off into the world and start generating designs which impact people’s practices and interactions with one another, I think it’s really important to reflect on the potential surprises and future result of our designs. We have seen technology drastically change human life, for good or for worse; if we take anything away from Transition Design, I think it should be that: as deeply reflective and result skeptical designers.

  17. My perception of Transition Design has evolve during the course of this semester. I am still unsure of how I can apply the framework to my work once I enter the job field; however because of expose through this course, I have began to see how transition design can make a difference. Even if it is just changing even my own mindset a little. With all the different great theories we discussed about, such as Social Practice Theory, Max-Neef Needs, and Multi Level Perspective, I do find myself thinking in a slightly different way than I had previously. I am more conscious of the design decisions I make, when before I would not even be able to pickup on the nuances. Also, I am really glad that this course gave me the opportunity to interact with the MA students. They brought a lot of different thought process and point-of-views that are very different from those of us in MDes.

    • Lisa, I said this to Monique above because she also mentioned the same thing, but yes, thank you! 🙂 The other MAs have been so insightful in my other classes, as well.

  18. In my first post, I focused on the value of transition design in institutional change for nonprofits. I focused on this partially out of my frustration regarding the course’s rhetoric; I felt that the course was communicating that nonprofits were “doing it wrong” out of their own failures. I felt that this ignored the deep knowledge and expertise of nonprofit professionals, and ignored the complex economic and social problems that nonprofits face. This is one reason why I have valued the class’ content regarding co-design and giving up authority/power as designer. I think this is essential, given that designers are now working with social change paradigms and making use of theory with which they are not as deeply familiar as their counterparts in other fields. I feel that it is essential for designers to act listeners first and creators second, and I now see that Transition Design is orienting design even more in that direction.

  19. I’ve arrived at the belief that transition design is too slow-moving of a field to be a suitable response to the changes that civilization and the world is going to face in the coming decades. There are too many groups that are racing to push technology forward. Also, too, are widespread stagnancies that will be shifted in tremendously capricious ways. We are already in a time of exponentials. Humans have consistently shown themselves to be tripped up by exponentials, and the purveyors of transition design are just such humans.

    There are awarenesses that designers need to possess as our capacities as artifact- and system-makers grow, and transition design hints at many of them.

    Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the transition design class, for me, is the identification of the need for better tools to represent and model complicated systems. This is an area that I’m very interested in as a designer, and I see many areas where such tools may occupy in our increasingly nuanced dynamic media.

    • We can look at tools that other disciplines are using that might be helpful for us to adopt (e.g. 3D tools for out Wicked Problem Maps, since the 2D representation isn’t really accurate like Theora mentioned). Perhaps, we can even collaborate with other disciplines to co-create tools! This will help break down silos in the process.

      Gray! As a side note, I thought your group’s insight on inverting the Wicked Problem map is spot on. I also thought Michelina’s suggestion to start with the Case Studies (Assignment 3) before the Wicked Problem Map (Assignment 1) was also smart.

  20. My original post brought up two things: systems level thinking and capitalism. I noted that transition design utilizes systems level thinking to create solutions which are well suited for the ecosystem in which they are conceived, as well as longer lasting in the larger landscape of our ever shifting world.

    My original view still holds true for me, the education I have received in Transition Design has revealed to me that there are people in academia talking about systems level change and how to design solutions for large, long lasting patterns. This is gratifying and it ignites a miniature flickering tea light of hope in a mostly dark and depressing era of human history. However this hope is entirely overshadowed by two interconnected facts: the capitalist system that we live in believes that infinite growth and profit are desirable, and the interconnected, irreplaceable natural ecosystem that we depend on for survival is being systematically devoured greedily in order to produce the necessary growth and profit that capitalism demands. I had thought that this class would in some way address this, I can’t understand how a class that intends to talk about intentionally creating transitions in complex systems over time can fail to address capitalism, which is the system that we find ourselves in.

    I hope that in years to come, the texture of human thinking and attitudes will shift as our life support system is ground away by our own short sighted greed. Perhaps as people are forced to see more clearly, the intention behind the techniques and ontologies that we are attempting to develop in this class will take hold and manifest in useful action.

  21. At the beginning of this semester, transition design was a huge concept for me, a concept which was compelling but vague. I was thrilled by the notion that solving a problem from a holistic point of view. Meanwhile, I was confused that did not know where to start it. I was even skeptical about what kind of designers could be powerful and influential enough to actually implement a transition design project. As we have gone through all the particular theories and had all the guest lectures reviewing specific cases, the answer comes out gradually and naturally.

    Before having transition design, we had always been talking about the role of the designer in our studio, such as everyone should have design thinking, how the designer will disappear as a career, and design will blend in some existing positions in every single walk. The future of design seemed so abstract and random until transition design told me the reason.

    In the context of transition design, the role of a designer will be completely different from before. Instead of trying to find a perfect solution to a single problem, a transition designer should be a facilitator to enable the real experts with contextual knowledge to talk and discuss, an organizer to control the scale of a project with a holistic view.

  22. When I looked back my original post, I feel like I was not sure what kinds of impact the frameworks of Transition Design can bring. I still think the wicked problem can be tamed, or they can be approached, but they’re too difficult to solve. The solution for wicked problem also causing another repercussion. However, the key takeaway from this class is the mindset that designer should have. Yes, I still feel my approach to the wicked problem in daily life seems so inconspicuous, which discourage my good intention. However, I now try to think any problem in system level to find possible design intervention, which gives me broader perspectives that can bring a holistic view. If I was a big frog in a small pond, the lesson from Transition Design seminar definitely encourage me to believe in system level change and what kinds of action I should take as a designer.

  23. I am glad that my perception has not changed much. This course has provided me with some awesome frameworks to understand root causes as well as the process of a problem transforming into a wicked one. I am not too sure that I am still equipped to tackle wicked problems but I am definitely geared to dissect them into actionable bits.

  24. When looking back my first discussion post, I was confused a lot how I can, as a designer, leverage power using design centered thinking and skills in order to influence global scale. And it still seems like there is a long journey to take to fully understand transition design, but I kind of understand how societal change can be occurring slowly. Especially, having diverse professionals inside and outside of the school of design in some of our classes really broaden my viewpoints. I really appreciate those experts came and spoke to us about their perspectives. They allowed me to view a variety of relationship between different fields and TD theories. Really really enjoyed speech from Cheryl Dahle, who talked about overfishing, Dan Lockton, who talked about behavior change, Kakee Scott with Multi-Level Perspective Activity, and collaboration exercises with Hannah DuPlessis.

  25. Looking back at my original post, I don’t think that my perception of the Transition Design Framework itself has changed, however I do think going through the course has shifted my thinking in some meaningful ways that I think will influence my practice as I move back out into the “real world.” Our sections on Social Practice Theory and Max-Neef’s Needs have had a particularly strong impact on how I approach design projects. Design solutions at any level of scale can benefit from an analysis of what social practices influence or create your area of focus and understanding how a particular design satisfies (or falsely satisfies) core human needs. I hope that I will be lucky enough to work on projects in my future career that will allow me to leverage some of the systems thinking, MLP models, and visioning & backcasting strategies we have practiced in this course, but as I felt at the beginning of this course, I am not sure how many of those types of opportunities are available in industry as it exists today.

  26. Reflecting on my post in January, I wrote about my current job and desire to “learn better strategies that will help me navigate and advocate more successfully–how to frame problems on longer timelines, how to arrive at a shared vision with a diverse group of stakeholders, etc.” I also added that I was hoping to get different perspectives on my own.” I agree with those of you who posted about the importance of having multiple perspectives engaged to solve wicked problems–it’s been so helpful to learn from your perspectives during the course. I think the most valuable thing I’ll take away, aside from systems thinking and problem-framing strategies, are methods like visioning and backcasting that promote thinking about problems on long time horizons. I wish I could report back that I’ve had some success in my current role in introducing these strategies, but am glad to have them at my disposal.

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