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If you’re not in an existential crisis as a designer in Sustainable Design, you’re not doing it right!

educational resource
posted on 2023-09-15, 08:50 authored by Joanna Boehnert, Emma Dewberry, Garrath WilsonGarrath Wilson
Sustainability discourses in design have grown and diversified. Originally preoccupied with the remediation of industry processes and practices to drive resource efficiencies (i.e., doing more with less), the field has broadened to recognise a much wider range of ways that design theory and practice can generate ecological value and social justice. This period of history has also witnessed alarming decreases in planetary health, evidenced through the overshoot of many ecological ‘planetary boundaries’ such as a warming climate, ocean acidification, high levels of biodiversity loss and extinctions. Alongside these physical impacts are a series of cultural ones found in the under-representation of voices from people with economic, health, security, and habitat poverties. The position and power of design education and design research for sustainability in creating both strategic and practical positive impact is fractured. The definition of ‘sustainability’ is a case in point. Shifting the language and activity of sustainability from responses favouring amelioration, ecoservice logics and resource efficiencies, to one instead revealed through critical ecological and social value, proves challenging. Misappropriation of the terms ‘sustainability’ and ‘sustainable’ further complicate ways in which new knowledge and understanding can be adequately authenticated against pervasive green-washing, techno-fix reliance and oversimplifications of complex transition imperatives. We now face a critical, ecological turn. The crux of this shift for design research is the need to redefine this discipline space in transitionary times to create the ecological imagination of, and ways for design, as this century progresses.



  • Design and Creative Arts


  • Design

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BranD Magazine




16 - 17




  • VoR (Version of Record)

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© The Authors/BranD Magazine

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Reproduced here with the permission of the editor of the magazine.

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This article was written by members of the Design Research Society Sustainability Special Interest Group. It was included in the “DESIGNERS’ EXISTENTIAL CRISES” section (guest edited by Lesley-Ann Noel) of Issue 68 of BranD Magazine, entitled 'Graphic Crisis and Chance'. The magazine blurb for the issue is below: "In the winter of 2022, the BranD Editorial Department began discussing whether graphic design, which has been dominated by Western design aesthetics, will witness a revolutionary change? What’s more, AI technology has updated as never before. How should graphic designers face the crises in the industry? While researching the graphic crisis, we found that crises could be turned into chances, and finally decided the theme “Graphic Crisis and Chance” for this issue. Starting from the history of graphic design, we reflected on the challenges faced by designers in different eras and how they broke through. We also got the support from scholars and institutions in the field of design research who shared their insights. At the same time, we also explored the theme with designers, collected works using varied media, and sorted out 10 solutions to get out of the crisis. Design is still evolving as the crisis never ends. As Ralph Caplan says: Thinking about design is hard, but not thinking about it can be disastrous. The future is coming. Please think and act now to create a turning point."




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Dr Garrath Wilson. Deposit date: 11 September 2023

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