Design's Peter Scupelli will present a paper titled “Teaching Designers to Anticipate Future Challenges with Causal Layered Analysis” at the IASDR conference held in Milan, Italy, October 9-14 at The Politecnico di Milano.
We live in exponentially changing worlds. Design educators are challenged to teach new design methods to productively engage with society’s ongoing problems such as the Sustainable Development Goals, the unfolding climate disaster, zero-carbon lifestyles, circular economies, nuclear disarmament, etc. Such societal-level problems require both short-term design action and strategic long-term vision goal alignments. How might design educators teach new design methods effectively and efficiently within already packed design education curriculums? In this paper, I describe a required design futures course that teaches an experimental form of design, called Dexign Futures, it merges design thinking with futures thinking. One often unstated goal of teaching new design methods is to enable students to transfer such knowledge to other design courses, and, ultimately, to their professional practice. The futures thinking method, Causal Layered Analysis (CLA) is the focus of this paper. Prior research on Dexign Futures, made clear that with a “Personal Futures CLA” assignment, only 19.8% of design students could articulate how the Futures Thinking method CLA related to future design methods and practice. In this paper, I describe a new way to teach CLA called “Studio Project CLA”; it more than tripled the number of undergraduate design students (62%) who described applications of CLA to their design practice. I posit that transfer of knowledge mechanisms likely explain observed performance gains. I hypothesize key insights relevant for design educators to create design exercises for undergraduate design students that likely facilitate knowledge transfer from futures thinking methods into design practice.