Design for Sustainability and Resilience
We have inherited our dominant models for production, consumption, and disposal as unsustainable interwoven moving parts of an extraction-based linear economy. Though those pervasive models may be daunting, they thankfully are not monolithic, and a hopeful future for designers has been envisioned over the past few decades by interdisciplinary innovators. This class will study a number of these innovators and foster an understanding of the treasure trove of under-valued knowledge and the capacity that exists for us, as designers, to use. To reflect a critical, unifying and central concern, all projects will involve prototyping an artifact that relates to sustainable food and agriculture.
Most product designers, even when their sympathies and curiosities lead them in their personal lives to explore sustainability, feel trapped at work in siloed roles supporting the production of wasteful, disposable and/or toxic things. This class will provide students with a chance to begin to build solutions, working with sustainability experts and collaborating with change makers (including scientists, engineers, farmers, and other types of specialists). Food has been chosen as the theme because of the designed artifacts, systems, and complementary skills required in its entire lifecycle. Growing, harvesting, processing, transporting, distributing, selling, preserving, cooking, eating, and disposing of the waste related to food-all of these elements touch and shape most aspects of our lives, and scale directly to the planet’s future. By prototyping tangibles (creating design artifacts that will help farm workers who work for a local organic, family farmer, for example) or intangibles (such as social-interaction methods which empower the farmer and farm workers and make use of those artifacts), we will strive to support sustainable development in many forms and contexts.
Much of this class will take place in several locations outside of the classroom, making use of the city and the surrounding region as a living laboratory for design projects. The first third of the semester will involve learning about the work of a number of sustainability specialists and projects. For the other two-thirds of the semester, students will engage as members of collaborative teams with a chosen sustainability specialist and will develop, test, review, and refine a prototype. As this is a process-led project, it is open-ended; most teams will create a prototype as a result of what they learned, report on successes and failures, and prescribe next steps for further development.
Students in this course will come away with a set of tools to:
- Learn from first-hand field experience with change makers working in the greater NYC area
- Acquire deep knowledge around the relationships, systems, and infrastructures in connection to local and global sustainability
- Create and use scenarios and storytelling in a practical application to generate new strategies and prototypes
- Focus on the roles and values of design and the designer in multidisciplinary, collaborative team environments where complementary skill sets are crucial and the generation of trust, empathy, and conviviality between collaborators deepens the creative problem-solving process
- Leverage iterative and integrative design processes
- Discover under-utilized resources, such as the tacit and explicit knowledge of living sustainability experts
Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives, by Carolyn Steel
Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening and Creating New Realities and Power, by Adam Kahane
Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change, by Adam Kahane
In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World, by John Thackara (See also http://www.thackara.com/inthebubble/ and the website of Doors of Perception, the organization he founded, at http://www.doorsofperception.com)
Robinson, Ken. Do Schools Kill Creativity?. TED: TED2006, http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html
Robinson, Ken. Bring on the learning revolution!. TED: TED2010,http://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution.html
Steel, Carolyn. How Food Shapes Our Cities. TED: TEDGlobal 2009,http://www.ted.com/talks/carolyn_steel_how_food_shapes_our_cities.html
McDonough, William. Cradle to Cradle Design. TED: http://www.ted.com/talks/william_mcdonough_on_cradle_to_cradle_design.html
Stamets, Paul. 6 Ways that Mushrooms Can Save the World: http://www.ted.com/talks/paul_stamets_on_6_ways_mushrooms_can_save_the_world.html
And an assortment of videos and written texts defining social entrepreneurship and championing specific stories on the site of the Skoll Foundation: http://www.skollfoundation.org/ and http://www.skollworldforum.com/
Muhlke, Christine, “A Movable Beast,” New York City: New York Times, May 17, 2010.
Collins, Glenn, “Now, Chefs Court Farmers for the Best Ingredients,” New York Times, July 20, 2010.
The New Organic Grower: A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener, by Eliot Coleman
Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo, by Mary Douglas
Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, by Janine Benyus Out of Poverty: What To Do When Traditional Approaches Fail, by Paul Polak
How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, by David Bornstein
The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets that Change the World, by John Elkington.
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Integrative Design Collaborative, http://www.integrativedesign.net/
The Soil Association, http://www.soilassociation.org/