Blogs >> Can design catalyse the 'Great Transition'? by Ruth Potts

Can design catalyse the 'Great Transition'? by Ruth Potts

ruth potts

Design influences almost every aspect of our lives, from the clothes we wear to the buildings we inhabit and the visual landscapes of the everyday.

It also influences whole systems that shape the way that we live. Now, a fast growing area of design research, practice and study, Transition Design, is setting out to play a key role to play in the transition to a more sustainable, equitable and convivial society.

Conceived at the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Transition Design is one of a range of networks focused on transition, from Transition Towns to initiatives to visualise a ‘Great Transition’ and the Rapid Transition Alliance.

These projects are redefining what we mean by transition

They are doing this by working towards the common goal of the ‘transition’ to post carbon, socially just and convivial societies and sharing a consensus about what, broadly speaking, needs to be done: rapid decarbonisation and the development of circular economies; decentralisation of economic and political structures; development of new kinds of systems through which everyone’s needs are met equally for food, energy, transport, monetary, health, and education, and the recovery of community and restoration of ecosystems.

Published by Schumacher College, The School of Design at CMU, and the New Weather Institute in association with the Dartington Hall Trust and edited by Adjunct Professor of Design at CMU Gideon Kossoff this collection of edited essays taken from a 2016 Symposium of the same name asks the critical question: Can Design Catalyse the Great Transition?

The collection includes one of the last pieces of writing from the late, great thinker and practioner of the new economy, Robin Murray. There are contributions from Ingrid Mulder and Derk Loorbach of the Delft University of Technology, Julie Richardson and Ruth Potts of Schumacher College, Andrew Simms of the New Weather Institute, Sevra Davis and Tony Greenham, formerly of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), Emma Dewberry from the Open University, Lucy Kimbell of the University of Arts London (UAL) and Beatrice Andrews, Tom Crompton of the Common Cause Foundation, Clare Brass, formerly of the Royal College of Art (RCA), Julia Lohmann, Dan Lockton, CMU, Lucy Neal, and Hilary Cottam.

From reframing economics as a design challenge, to how design might help us reinvent socio-technical systems to cultivating imagination, the need to focus on values rather than detail in our visions of the future and what we can learn from past examples of rapid social transformation, the collection enriches the conversation about the immediate possibilities of rapid transition and more sustainable behaviour with approaches and perspectives we can all learn from.

The next symposium is planned for 2020, and papers from the 2018 conference, exploring the perspectives from a range of people active in the broader transition movement, on what is needed to advance rapid societal transitions, will be published in summer 2019.
Ruth Potts is a senior lecturer on the MA Ecological Design Thinking programme which begins in September.