Lecture – 4.3.2017


Dan Lockton

Transition Design proposes that more radically new ideas and compelling visions of sustainable futures are needed. These long term visions are conceived through a circular, iterative, error-friendly process that can inform small, discrete design solutions in the present  Designers are uniquely suited to develop compelling visions of sustainable futures because of their experience in areas such as scenario development, future-casting and speculative design. Transition ‘visioning’ helps transcend the limitations of the present and creates a space in which we can speculate and wonder about how things could be. These future-based visions can serve as measures against which to guide, inspire and evaluate design solutions in the present. In order for designers to contribute to the development of compelling visions and narratives for a sustainable future, they need to acquire knowledge and skills that are emerging out of several new initiatives and organizations.

Design’s role can be seen here as less about solving assumed static problems, and more about understanding complexity and speculating in an informed way about how things could be different through co-creating visions: offering at once both propositions and statements, ‘This?’ and ‘This!’ as Dilnot (2015) puts it. Imagined futures can motivate, inspire, exemplify, horrify and provoke action; this would be a plural field, a flowering of alternatives which opens up discussion of, and provides examples—and potentially even ‘patterns’ for—different futures, with different voices, humble in its certainty, but confident in its challenge to existing paradigms. Design which adopts a singular, linear vision of ‘the future’, and future human behavior, does not deal adequately with the complexities of humanity, culture and society, let alone our place within the ecological systems of the planet.

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

Discussion Prompts

  • Why are designers well suited to envisioning sustainable futures?
  • What are the potential problems with future visioning?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of envisioning sustainable futures?
  • Can compelling visions of the future change the way we frame projects/solutions in the present?
  • Are societal transitions possible without long-term visions?
  • How can we bring rigor to the task of envisioning sustainable futures?
  • What new skill sets and knowledge are required for this type of designing?

Read Prior to Class

Supplemental Readings

ASSIGNMENT #3: Case Study Template

(Assignment 3 will now be given on Wednesday, April 5) An important skill set of Transition Designers is to identify and critique existing solutions within the context of Transition Design and reframe them as steps along longer ‘transition pathways’. Building a database of projects in a range of societal systems in order to identify the characteristics of transition designs/initiatives will be an important step in creating a Transition Design pedagogy and process. For this assignment, you will work in the same groups with the problem maps you created in the first assignment.

We have developed a two part Transition Design Case Study Template (below) that will serve as the basis for your final capstone project. Step One asks groups to find an existing project related to/found within their problem map and critique it from a Transition Design point of view. Groups will apply several ‘filters’ in order to ascertain whether or not the project could become the basis for a Transition Design solution. Part two of the case study asks you to envision a solution applying the principles of Transition Design. See the Assignment 3 page for more details.

Due at the end of the semester, case study presentations 4.24.2017 – 5.01.2017

Discussion Session – 4.5.2017

Place-Based Lifestyles & Everyday Life

Jeffrey Chou, Theora Kvitka, Lauren Miller and Hajira Qazi

Place-based lifestyles and everyday life are the most fundamental and important context for Transition Design. Both are more likely to be sustainable when the ways in which communities control their needs are self-organizing/self-determined, rather than controlled by external, centralized institutions. Transition Design proposes the re-conception of whole lifestyles that are rooted in local ecosystems, cultures and histories, and address quality of life issues within the context of the everyday.

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

Discussion Prompts

  • What constitutes a lifestyle?
  • What is the difference between everyday life that is place based and everyday life that is not place based?
  • What does the concept of resilience mean in relation to everyday life?
  • Can we design for resilience?
  • What does it mean to design for place?
  • How can communities foster symbiotic relationships with their ecosystems and can these relationships be designed, or can we only design for ‘initial conditions’?
  • Why is everyday life the primary context for transition design?
  • What are the ways in which everyday life is more sustainable when communities are in control of the satisfaction of their needs?
  • What are the primary institutions that control the satisfiers of of your everyday needs?
  • Can designers aid in communities regaining control of the satisfaction of their needs? How?

Read Prior to Class

  • Orr, David. 2005. Place and Pedagogy. In Zenobia Barlow and Michael K. Stone (eds) Ecological Literacy: Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World, pp. 85–95. San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books. pp 86–94*
  • Casey, Edward. 2013. Being Before Place. In The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History. Oakland, CA: University of California Press. pp ix-xvii*
  • Hopkins, Rob. 2008. The Transition Concept. From The Transition Town Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company. pp 134–136*

Supplemental Readings

Discussion Session – 4.10.2017

Domains of Everyday Life and Cosmopolitan Localism

Manjari Sahu, Willow Hong, Mackenzie Cherban and Scott Dombkowski

In many traditional societies everyday life was organized and interconnected at different levels of scale: households, neighborhoods, villages, cities and regions — the ‘Domains of Everyday Life’ — within which communities largely met their needs in local, decentralized, placed based ways. In the modern era, however, control of the satisfaction of needs has been ceded to centralized institutions and this is directly connected to the decline of both the ‘Domains’ and to the unsustainability of everyday life. Transition to sustainable futures will involve the redesign/reinvention of the Domains as self-organizing, integrated and nested forms within which communities regain the control of the satisfaction of their needs, and the development of multiscalar networks of resilient, sustainable communities in harmony with their ecosystems. This is cosmopolitan localism — a regionally and globally networked social, political and economic and technological system in which most needs can be satisfied locally, while some remain reliant on global networks.

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

Discussion Prompts

  • What is the difference between self-reliance and self-sufficiency and which is preferable in a cosmopolitan local society?
  • What are the contrasts between cosmopolitan localism and globalization?
  • How can we use the Domains of Everyday Life to define ‘local’ in a cosmopolitan localist community? In what ways would cosmopolitan localist communities be more collaborative and why?
  • What forms of government and economics are consistent with cosmopolitan localism and what are the different types of networks on which these will depend?
  • What are the advantages of thinking about everyday life as being organized at different levels of scale?
  • Can the concept of the levels of everyday life serve as a guide in framing and conceiving transition solutions?
  • How does the character of everyday life change at each level of scale?
  • What are the wicked problems associated with the decline of the Domains of Everyday Life?
  • What are the ways in which design/designers can help restore the Domains of Everyday Life?
  • How are the Domains of Everyday Life related to the theories of changed discussed in previous classes?
  • In what ways might needs (at various levels of scale) be satisfied more effectively?
  • In what ways do new technologies have an important role to play in developing cosmopolitan localism?

Read Prior to Class

  • Sachs, Wolfgang. 1999. Cosmopolitan Localism. In Planet Dialectics: Exploration in Environment and Development. London: Zed Books Ltd. pp. 105–107*

Supplemental Readings

  • Shirky, Clay. 2008. Small World Networks. From Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. New York: Penguin pp 214–221*
  • Ward, Colin. 1982. Spontaneous Order. From Anarchy in Action. London: Freedom Press. pp 31–39*

In-Class Activity

Close class by mapping an understanding of Visioning (Place-Basked Lifestyles & Everyday Life, Cosmopolitan Localism, Critical Design) 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.