Design for Sustainability and Resilience

Faculty: Claire Hartten and Kathleen Bakewell



COURSE Description

Many product designers feel trapped in siloed roles, supporting the production of wasteful, disposable and toxic materials. Through the theme of food, this course will examine relationships, systems and infrastructures connecting us to local and global sustainability: growing, harvesting, processing, transporting, distributing, selling, preserving, cooking, eating and disposing of the waste related to food—the elements that shape many aspects of our lives and relate directly to our planet’s future. Working with sustainability experts and change makers (including scientists, engineers, farmers and other specialists), students create designs that address one of the most fundamental aspects of life. Sessions take place at various locations throughout New York City and its surrounding region, as living laboratories for design projects.


Course objectives

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.


Class experience

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.


course deliverables

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