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Are we asking the right questions? Rethinking post-graduate design education towards sustainable visions for the future

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conference contribution
posted on 07.10.2015, 11:11 by Clare Brass, Francesco Mazzarella
Our society is currently facing complex challenges, such us climate change, loss of biodiversity, ageing population, unemployment, to name but a few. This has created growing expectations on designers and engineers to explore, experiment and implement innovative solutions to such issues. At this critical time, if we want design to be part of the solution, we need to wonder whether we are asking designers suitable and sustainable questions. Both in post-graduate design education and in business, the brief still overwhelmingly requires designers to follow a linear problem-solving approach that focuses on product rather than strategies, services and systems. Traditional design briefs result no longer appropriate to face the challenges of our unsustainable world, as they relate to market, growth economy and human needs rather than society, business models and the needs of nature. Instead, we need to be asking questions about, for example, how we create sustainable business opportunities, how we overcome the barriers for change, or how we facilitate the process of innovation through design methodology. If the role of design is to create new visions and outline strategic directions towards a sustainable future world - for policy makers, businesses, communities and individual citizens – we need those stakeholders to create briefs for designers that allow them to do that. This paper will explain how the reframing of questions has been embedded into SustainRCA’s teaching practice in post-graduate design, art and engineering, leading to the development of new tools and methods, as well as some innovative outcomes.



  • Design

Published in

E&PDE 2015: Great Expectations: Design Teaching, Research & Enterprise


BRASS, C. and MAZZARELLA, F., 2015. Are we asking the right questions? Rethinking post-graduate design education towards sustainable visions for the future. IN: Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, E&PDE 2015: Great Expectations: Design Teaching, Research & Enterprise, University of Loughborough, UK 3-4 September 2015.


Design Society and the Institution of Engineering Designers


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date



This is a conference paper. It was presented at: http://www.iepde.org/epde15/