Hannah Jones, Anette Lundebye


Understanding sustainability in terms of our complex, dynamic and inter-connected socio-ecological systems requires a different mindset or paradigm to the industrial mode of thinking that has influenced educational practice for the last century (Orr, 2004, Wood, 2007). Rather than fragmenting the world into separate disciplines for the sake of efficiency, an alternative whole systems approach to sustainability education aims to join-up different skill-sets and types of knowledge to improve effectiveness (Sterling, 2001). This requires a shift from the delivery of knowledge via top-down pedagogic methods, to designing the conditions for a critical co-learning to take place. Here, co-learners work together in groups towards the generation of a shared knowledge or ‘knowledge ecology’ (Fairclough, 2005).
Currently, in the UK and beyond, education for the arts and design is under stress, largely due to economic instability. How can we approach this as an opportunity to re-design design education to design itself, so that it can become really responsive and effective on behalf of the environment? Some hints at this lie in examples of more participatory, contextually imbedded design projects, such as, Marjetica Potrc’s ‘Design for the Living World’ (
Our ambitious 3-hour workshop positions this creative challenge in the arena of Design Ecologies. We will focus on developing scenarios as a way to prospect how design education might respond to a range of possible ecological futures at a systemic level. To achieve this we will use metadesign thinking and methods to support and innovate new modes of collaborative learning.
Metadesign is defined by digital media and interaction design researcher, Professor Elisa Giaccardi, as a ‘shared design endeavour aimed at sustaining emergence, evolution and adaptation’, where the ecological metaphor of ‘design seeding’ replaces a traditional notion of ‘design planning’ (Giaccardi, 2005). Earlier definitions of metadesign can be traced through the field of HCI to Gerhard Fischer’s notion of ‘inviting the creativity of others’ into the design process (Fischer, 2000). Even further back, the pioneer of design methods, John Chris Jones, defined metadesign as ‘the design of design processes and processes of change’ (Jones, 1970, 1991). All of these definitions have in common qualities of openness, collaboration, inclusivity and transformation.
This workshop continues to adapt collaborative tools and methods, which have been developed as part of ongoing research into metadesign at Goldsmiths, University of London. The focus of our research at Goldsmiths has been to optimise synergy within interdisciplinary design teams. This research began with the AHRC funded project ‘Benchmarking Synergy- levels within Metadesign’ (2005-2008), which aimed to explore and develop more joined-up approaches to design for sustainability. Our research has generated a set of metadesign principles for guiding more ethically and environmentally attuned design practice, and a collection of over 80 tools for working in creative teams, towards this goal (

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