Supporting sustainability thinking in postgraduate design education

DS 76: Proceedings of E&PDE 2013, the 15th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, Dublin, Ireland, 05-06.09.2013

Year: 2013
Editor: John Lawlor, Ger Reilly, Robert Simpson, Michael Ring, Ahmed Kovacevic, Mark McGrath, William Ion, David Tormey, Erik Bohemia, Chris McMahon, Brian Parkinson
Author: Brass, Clare
Series: E&PDE
Institution: SEED Foundation / Royal College of Art, United Kingdom
Section: Sustainability
Page(s): 792-797
ISBN: 978-1-904670-42-1


Conventional design education, driving consumerism and growth, is today unsustainable, and must position itself to allow designers to learn to create responsibly, responding to issues that might be considered outside of the ‘traditional’ remit of design. Like many art and design institutions, we are beginning to grapple with the apparent contradiction in the sustainability debate; we are looking for ways of encouraging students to explore what this might mean in their work and in their future lives, since graduates of this new type of design must be able to earn a living.
Some students are increasingly concerned with sustainability issues, choosing to study design because they recognise that with its cross-cutting qualities and problem solving processes it is an ideal discipline for addressing the social and environmental challenges before us. A sustainability manifesto has been created to help students position their ideas according to three parameters: environmental, ethical/social, and economic. They are asked to continuously reflect on their work to acquire a balance between each of these three parameters, and to adopt a systemic and entrepreneurial approach and a mix of products and services rather than individual object-centred solutions. The manifesto incorporates a range of other existing tools, and is itself designed to evolve and adapt alongside the issues that it deals with, and the students are best placed to help with this. This paper will explain the Manifesto in greater depth, and show how the students themselves are helping to refine and develop it as a teaching tool.

Keywords: Sustainability, design, social and environmental change


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