PhD Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design have just released episode one of Design in Transition / Diseño en Transición Podcast, a bilingual podcast about designing for systems level change toward more sustainable and equitable futures. PhD Candidates Sofía Bosch Gomez, Marysol Ortega Pallanez, Silvana Juri, Erica Dorn and undergrad Thomas Youn (BDes ’21) want Design in Transition to be a space to talk about the transitions design is taking in practice when it’s concerned with the complex and interconnected challenges societies face today.
Marysol Ortega came up with the idea of creating a podcast “to explore some of the topics we research in the PhD program and enlarge the view and understanding of what Transition Design is.”
“I invited Erica Dorn, Silvana Juri and Sofía Bosch to collaborate on the project and through a co-design, quite horizontal process, it slowly started to take the form and structure we present today,” said Ortega.
“With the support of the School of Design, especially the Head of the School Bruce Hanington and the director of the doctoral program, Jonathan Chapman, we were able to integrate to the process the audio and design expertise of Thomas Youn,” added Ortega. “We own our superb audio quality to his hard work!”
Transition Design is an emerging area of design, as well as the primary focus of the School of Design’s Doctoral Program, in which designers are seen as catalysts for social change, committed to long-term systemic change.
“We believe that in order to achieve a societal shift towards living futures, we must work with the understanding of change through a series of interconnected, complex systems,” said Ortega. “Hence, we must collaborate with other disciplines, such as ecologists, anthropologists, philosophers, economists, political scientists, etc., making transitions to sustainable futures a transdisciplinary effort.”
At Carnegie Mellon University, the PhD candidates in Transition Design are developing new knowledge on how to design for systems-level change.
“We are creating this podcast as a means for encouraging the same supportive and critical research culture we are developing in the program and open it up for designers —as well as any other member of the disciplines mentioned above— interested in these topics while keeping with the ethos of democratizing and widening the conversations transcending language and geopolitical barriers,” said Ortega.
One of the key features of the podcast is that it is presented bilingually.
“As a bilingual podcast, we weave interviews and commentaries in Spanish and English, recognizing and celebrating cultural specificity, and honoring the diversity of ways people sense and make worlds,” said Ortega. “Through this platform, we talk to people from across diverse fields and walks of life who we see as working in systems-level change. We exchange wisdom and open dialogues that we believe are useful in addressing today’s realities.
“Every episode, either in English or Spanish, has always a wrapping commentary in the other language in order for a broader audience to access the reflections and ideas of our interviewees,” continued Ortega. “ This structure stemmed from the fact that the four of us speak Spanish and three of us are from Latin America (Mexico and Uruguay), where we practice and do research, so a form of pushing the boundaries of Transition Design beyond the English speaking world.
“It was also an opportunity to bridge the ways change makers in many parts of the world could be considered as Transition Designers, networking interdisciplinary practices and giving a space beyond the academic one to these conversations.”
For the first season, the team interviewed over 10 interdisciplinary change makers from around the globe to discuss transitions in design theory and practice towards more sustainable and equitable futures. Guests for the first season include: Mariana Salgado, Devon Powers, Adrià Garcia i Mateu with Markel Cormenzana, Shannon Mattern and many others. An Episode 0 is also available and serves as an introduction to the podcast.
“In this pre-season episode, we reflect about the project, our motivations for participating in it, as well as talking about the learnings from this first season we just finished recording,” said Ortega.
Episode 1 of the podcast asks the questions “What are the boundaries and limits of design?” and “How do aspects of intuition and audacity enter into play when crossing them?” Sofía Bosch and Marysol Ortega talk with Mariana Salgado, Argentinian designer, researcher and leader of Inland, a design laboratory located in the Finnish Immigration Services. She is also a producer and host of the podcast Diseño y Diáspora, focused on social design where she interviews designers in Spanish and Portuguese.
Within the context of design for government, Mariana talks about her ideas regarding the challenges when designing in and for institutions both internally and externally, and how in this way designers try to find themselves pushing the limits of design requirements from government bodies and at the same time breaking barriers of the discipline itself.