Design Activism: Beautiful Strangeness for a Sustainable World

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Design academics and practitioners are facing a multiplicity of challenges in a dynamic, complex world moving faster than the current design paradigm, which is largely tied to the values and imperatives of commercial enterprise. Current education and practice need to evolve to ensure that the discipline of design meets sustainability drivers and equips students, teachers and professionals for the near future.

Design Activism reveals the power of design for positive social and environmental change - design with a central activist role in the sustainability challenge. Design activists seek to fundamentally challenge how, where and when design can catalyse positive impacts to address sustainability. This book collates, synthesizes and analyses design activist approaches, processes, methods, tools and inspirational examples/outcomes from disparate sources. In doing so, it creates a specific canon of work to illuminate contemporary design discourse.

Design Activism provides a rigorous exploration of design activism that will revitalize the design debate and provide a solid platform for students, teachers and professionals in design and other disciplines who are interested in transformative (design) activism.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'A kind of bible for eco-designers.'

'A must-read for all architecture students and professionals ... A key resource, packed full of graphical diagrams, figures and references ... this book is a real achievement that revitalises the 'sustainable' design debate.'

'This important book rouses the latent activist in us all, to reanimate design discourse with the properties of social, economic and environmental revolution ... and not a moment too soon.'
Dr Jonathan Chapman, Course Leader MA Sustainable Design, University of Brighton

'We admire gymnasts for making difficult tasks look easy. And we enjoy watching acrobats make easy tasks look difficult. In making this important - and difficult - topic so accessible, Alastair has succeeded twice. This is a wonderful toyshop.'
Prof. John Wood, Goldsmiths, University of London

'Having once predicted that design will be the new paradigm for saving the planet in the 21st Century, I am immensely pleased to recommend Design Activism.'
Janis Birkeland, Professor of Architecture, Queensland University of Technology and author of Design for Sustainability and Positive Development

'The author of the Eco-Design Handbook (2004) has yet again created a kind of bible for eco-designers. This book helps everyone to become a better (or good!) designer.'

'This fascinating series of essays looks at how activism through design can help create positive social and environmental change. Part history book, part design catalogue, part toolbox, this book arrives at a crucial moment in our history where we all need creative minds to work on sustainable solutions for our future.'
Leonora Oppenheim

'Design Activism's main strength is its wide-ranging nature, and this is frequetly a benefit of Fuad-Luke's work...I recommend Design Activism as a useful overview of activism within design culture. The book covers a valuable range of conceptual and case material and represents an important step on the way to rethinking design practice.'
Ann Thorpe, Design Activism blog

'This pedagogical book provides a historic and topical overview of design and activism, together with examples, toolkits (virtual and material) and lots of useful references for design activism.'
Judith Ryser, Urban Design

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781844076451
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 7/30/2009
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Alastair Fuad-Luke is a sustainable design consultant, facilitator, lecturer, & writer. He is a contributor to the international debate about design and sustainability, and author of The Eco-Design Handbook, 2002, 2004 and The Eco-Travel Handbook (Sept 2008). He is also a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Plymouth, University College for the Creative Arts, University College Falmouth, and Royal College of Arts in the UK, and has also lectured in the Europe, USA, New Zealand and Australia. He has recently managed the DEEDS (Design Education & Sustainability) project supported by the EU Leonardo da Vinci programme.

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Table of Contents

Figures and Tables xi

Acronyms and Abbreviations xv

Acknowledgements xvii

Preface xix

1 Scoping the Territory: Design, Activism and Sustainability 1

Defining 'design' today 1

Defining 'activism' today 5

Activism and the Five Capitals Framework 6

The Activism landscape 10

Activism in architecture, design and art 17

Motivation and intention 18

Issue-led design and the sustainability challenge 20

Defining the design activism space 24

Drawing lines between 'avant-garde' and 'activism' 26

A preliminary definition of 'design activism' 27

Notes 27

2 Past Lessons: A Short History of Design in Activist Mode, 1750-2000 33

Design as 'giving form to culture' 33

1750-1960: Mass production and (sporadic) modernity 37

Existenzminimum and other socially orientated housing projects by the Deutscher Werkbund 38

Bauhaus myths and realities 39

1960-2000: From Pop and Postmodernism to Postmodern ecology and beyond 41

The Postmodern ecologists 42

The alternative designers 43

The eco-efficiency activists 47

What are the lessons learnt? 48

Notes 50

3 Global-Local Tensions: Key Issues for Design in an Unsustainable World 55

A precarious balance in a changing climate 56

Resource depletion 60

Oil and peak oil 61

Essential minerals 62

Land for food production 62

Water for humans and agriculture 62

Ecological capacity and biodiversity 63

Unsustainable consumption and production 67

Social inequity, poverty and migration 67

Economic inequity and new visions of enterprise 69

Other significant issues 71

Notes 72

4 Contemporary Expressions: Design Activism, 2000 Onwards 77

Thinking about design activism 78

'Sociallyactive design': some emergent studies 78

An emergent typology of contemporary design activism? 79

Another approach to contextualizing design activism 81

The critical role of artefacts in design activism 85

Activism targeting the over-consumers 86

Raising awareness, changing perceptions, changing behaviour 86

Ways of making and producing 95

Eco-efficiency improvements 107

Contesting meaning and consumption 113

Social cohesion and community building 121

Miscellaneous activism 123

Activism targeting the under-consumers 123

Shelter, water, food 126

Raising awareness by education 129

Tackling health issues 132

Miscellaneous activism 133

Notes 134

5 Designing Together: The Power of 'We Think', 'We Design', 'We Make' 141

Dealing with 'wicked problems' 142

The rise of co-creation, co-innovation and co-design 143

The open source and open design movements 144

The intellectual commons 145

Design approaches that encourage participation 146

Co-design 147

Notes 160

6 Activist Frameworks and Tools: Nodes, Networks and Technology 167

People, people, people 167

Toolbox for online world 169

Existing design activism networks 169

Distributed collaboration 169

Ways of sharing visualizations 173

Ways of making 174

Toolbox for real world 175

Selecting the right kind of co-design event 177

Notes 183

7 Adaptive Capacity: Design as a Societal Strategy for Designing 'Now' and 'Co-futuring' 187

Design for a better future 190

The happy sustainable planet? 190

Bio-local and bio-regional 191

Emerging enterprise models 193

New ways of making and building 194

Eco-efficient futures (slowing and powering down) 194

Regeneration and renewal 194

Maverick, solo designer or co-designer? 195

Anticipatory democracy and the 'MootSpace' 196

Notes 200


Appendix 1 Key Design Movements and Groups, 1850-2000: Activist, but Where, and for Whom or What? 203

Appendix 2 The Millennium Development Goals, published by the United Nations (2000): Goals, Targets and Indicators 214

Appendix 3 Metadesign Tools Emerging from the Attainable Utopias Project 219

Appendix 4 Slow Design Principles, Philosophy, Process and Outcomes 224

Appendix 5 The DEEDS Core Principles 225

Appendix 6 Nodes of Design Activism 230

Illustration credits 233

Index 235

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