Lecture – 4.12.2017

New Ways of Designing

Terry Irwin

Although Transition Design is complementary to/borrows from a myriad of other design approaches, it is distinct in its emphasis on: 1) using living systems theory as an approach to understanding/addressing wicked problems; 2) solutions that protect and restore both social and natural ecosystems; 3) on place based everyday life/lifestyles as the most fundamental context for design; 4) place-based but globally networked solutions; 5) solutions that are designed for varying horizons of time and multiple levels of scale; 6) linking existing solutions so that that they become steps in a larger transition vision; 7) identifying emergent/grassroots solutions in order to amplify them; 8) basing solutions upon genuine ‘needs’ vs. wants/desires; 9) seeing the designer’s own mindset/posture as an essential component of the design process; 10) calling for the reintegration and re-contextualization of knowledge.

Transition Design is, to an extent, an ’emergent property’ of all of the themes discussed in this seminar as well as aspects of more familiar design approaches. The New Ways of Designing section attempts to draw these strands together and challenges students to contribute to the development of a Transition Design process and methodology.

See Additional Resources for this class before you begin the readings.

Discussion Prompts

  • What does it mean to design at multiple levels of scale for varying horizons of time?
  • Why are placed based lifestyles/everyday life the most fundamental context for Transition Design?
  • What do we mean by ‘amplifying’ grassroots efforts to become transition solutions?
  • How can living systems theory help us understand wicked problems?
  • What do we mean when we say that transition designers connect existing solutions to visions of transition?
  • How can a future vision inform connecting, amplifying and informing solutions in the present?
  • What does it mean to say that knowledge needs to be reintegrated and recontextualized, and why might designers be particularly suited to this task?
  • What type of transition solution could be undertaken by a single designer?
  • What type of solutions require larger teams and why?

Read Prior to Class

Supplemental Readings

  • Margolin, Victor. 2002. Design for a Sustainable World. In The Politics of the Artificial: Essays on Design and Design Studies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp 92–101*
Discussion Session – 4.17.2017

Indigenous Design

Tammy Tarng, Monica Looze, Lisa Li, Manya Krishnaswamy, Jesse Wilson and Delanie Ricketts

Indigenous cultures lived and designed sustainably in place for generations. Their designs typically integrated functionality and beauty and were grounded in what James C. Scott in his book Seeing Like a State, describes metis, as a “wide array of practical skills and acquired intelligence necessary in a constantly changing environment and situations”. Transition Designers will need to rediscover what it means to design in place, and develop a new form of ‘metis’ through deepening their knowledge and connection to their local environment with a regional and global exchange of technology and knowledge.

See Additional Resources for this class before you begin the readings.

Discussion Prompts

  • What are examples of sustainable design from pre-industrial societies that might be relevant today?
  • What do contemporary designers have to learn from pre-industrial indigenous peoples?
  • What are examples of designs that would no longer make sense?
  • What does it mean to ‘design for place’?
  • In an era of mass production, is it possible/desirable to ‘design for place’?
  • How does Brand’s concept of ‘long horizons of time’ relate to the way indigenous people designed?
  • How does ‘design for place’ relate to the concepts of ‘needs satisfaction’ and the Domains of Everyday Life?
  • What new design skills will designing for place require?
  • How does designing for long horizons of time relate to the concept of worldview?
  • What role can new technology play in ‘place based’ design?
  • What do contemporary designers have to learn from pre-industrial indigenous peoples?

Read Prior to Class

  • Papanek, Victor. 1995. The Best Designers in the World? In The Green Imperative: Ecology and Ethics in Design and Architecture. London: Thames and Hudson. pp. 223–234*

Supplemental Readings

  • Ingold, Tim. 2011. On Weaving a Basket. In The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 339–348
Discussion Session – 4.19.2017

Integrating Existing Design Approaches

Sylvia Mata-Marin, Denise Nguyen, Vicki Costikyan and Nehal Vora

Within the last few decades, many ‘relational’ design approaches have emerged that emphasize the relationship between things rather than the design of things themselves. This development occurred within mainstream design (involving what Manzini calls ‘expert design’) as well as outside design, in disciplines such as biology, ecology and engineering (non-expert design). The evolution of expert design could be characterized as a move from early user-centered/interaction design approaches to experience design and finally to initial service design methods that began to address entire systems or ‘ecologies’ of relationships. These approaches, while focusing on ‘users’ and ‘customers’, seldom took social or environmental concerns into account.

Conversely, the work of researchers and practitioners from outside the design disciplines (in areas such as permaculture, ecological design and biomimicry) was based upon a deep ecological ethic and holistic worldview. These two groups rarely interacted and until recently, few individuals had successfully bridged this divide. This is beginning to change with the development of approaches such as lifecycle analysis, Cradle to Cradle, LEED, design for social innovation/social impact, participatory design, co-design, and policy design, which combine the methodologies and processes of expert design with the understanding of environmental and social systems from other disciplines. Transition design attempts a further integration by expanding and deepening the spatial/temporal context for complex, wicked problems and attempts to aggregate the knowledge, methodologies and skills necessary to seed and catalyze systems-level change. Transition Design aspires to bridge the gap between design and other disciplines by introducing an ecological world view and ethics into the former and making the tools and methods of design available to the latter.

See Additional Resources for this class before you begin the readings.

Discussion Prompts

  • What distinguishes transition design from other areas of design focus such as design for service and design for social innovation?
  • In what way can a service design or social innovation solution become a transition solution?
  • Is it possible to design for multiple levels of scale and longer horizons of time?
  • How can design projects and initiatives be framed and implemented so that they are ‘steps’ in longer transition solutions?
  • What is ecoliteracy?
  • Why do new ways of designing, in particular Transition Design, need to be underpinned with a more ecological worldview, ecoliteracy, and place-based knowledge?

Read Prior to Class

  • Cipolla, C. and Ezio Manzini. 2009. Relational Services. Knowledge, Technology & Policy, 22(1), pp.45–50*

Supplemental Readings

In-Class Activity

Close class by mapping an understanding of New Ways of Designing (Indigenous Design, Interaction Design with a Transition Design Mindset) onto the double diamond design process.

  • Where might the skills, frames and perspectives learned in this section be most influential to a traditional design process?

The Double Diamond is a widely used visualization of the non-linear design process. Created by the British Design Council, the double diamond describes the divergent and convergent thinking designers employ in framing problems and designing well-considered, human-centered solution.

The first diamond describes the exploratory research phase of the design process, as designers conduct human-centered research to move from a general problem space towards a specific problem. From there, designers diverge once more to explore possible solutions before narrowing down towards a single design.
Assignment #3

Transition Design Case Study

Assignment Summary