School of Design to Co-Host Symposium and Short Course on Transition Design


Transition Design, an area of design research, practice and study that was conceived at the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University in 2012, was featured in a symposium and short course hosted with Schumacher College on June 17th, 2016.

"The transition to sustainable futures calls for new ways of designing that are based upon a deep understanding of how to design for change and transition within complex systems,” said Terry Irwin, Head of the School of Design.

The areas of Service Design and Design for Social Innovation are now internationally recognized approaches with networks of researchers, educators and practitioners working to evolve the practice and develop accepted methodologies, tools and processes.  Transition Design acknowledges that we are living in 'transitional times'. It takes as its central premise the need for societal transitions to more sustainable futures and argues that design has a key role to play in these transitions. It applies an understanding of the interconnectedness of social, economic, political and natural systems to address problems at all levels of spatiotemporal scale in ways that improve quality of life.

Transition Design advocates the reconception of entire lifestyles, with the aim of making them more place-based, convivial and participatory and harmonizing them with the natural environment. 

For the first time in the United Kingdom, Transition Design was presented as part of a Symposium and a Short Course on June 17th.  The Symposium, Transition Design: Can Design Catalyse the Great Transition?, was hosted by Schumacher College on the Dartington Estate in Devon, England (June 17th – June 19th). The international symposium brought together leading designers, educators, environmentalists and activists working, writing and researching on transition-related issues to explore the potential of Transition Design. Panelists included:

Transition Design: New Solutions for Life on a Finite Planet, is a short course that was offered in conjunction with the Transition Design Symposium (June 17th – June 24th).  The course, taught by the School of Design’s Terry Irwin, Gideon Kossoff and Cameron Tonkinwise, provided an overview and roadmap for further study for course participants and enabled them to take key ideas and concepts back into their careers and communities.

The course focused on the Transition Design Framework, which consists of four interrelated and mutually influencing areas:

  • Vision: The transition to a sustainable society requires a vision of where we want to go
  • Theories of Change: Never in history has the need for change been more urgent. The transition to a sustainable society will involve systems-level, ongoing societal change.
  • Posture and Mindset: Living in and through transitional times requires new ways of ‘being’ in the world. 
  • New Ways of Designing: The transition to a sustainable society will require new ways of designing that are informed by a deep understanding of local ecosystems and culture.

From Schumacher College:

Transition Design applies a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of social, economic and natural systems to conceive solutions that leverage the power of interdependency and symbiosis. It explores the role of design in negotiating between the transition our society is undergoing and the transition toward the future we want.

This pioneering course will introduce you to the tools and concepts of Transition Design providing you with a set of principles and practical approaches that can be applied to a range of circumstances, from everyday teamwork and problem solving, to the redesign of settlements and the reshaping of whole lifestyles.

More info on Transition Design>>

Date Published: 
Friday, June 10, 2016
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