(Read the full call to action here).
Systems Thinking is “the way”
The current model of teaching and practicing design is rooted in Colonial Imperialism which rejects the cyclical process of nature for one that is linear and unsustainable which consistently excludes non-white cultural voices, creates toxic waste and messaging, increases greenhouse gas emissions that warm our climate, and supports misogyny all in the name of a rising GDP.
“We have an economy where we steal the future, sell it in the present, and call it GDP.” ~ Paul Hawken
This model does not put design as a discipline into the category of “in the common good” as it consistently ignores natural cycles and non-white cultures. We propose to make design a catalyst for the common good by rethinking the design process from linear to cyclical, mimicking nature. The design process should be practiced and taught under a framework called Systems Thinking. Robin Wall Kimmerer, an Indigenous professor of Biology, idyllically describes this methodology:
“The breath of plants gives life to animals and the breath of animals gives life to plants. My breath is your breath, your breath is mine. It’s the great poem of give and take, of reciprocity that animates the world” — Robin Wall Kimmerer
In other words, everything is connected on our planet and our natural systems depend on a dynamic non-equilibrium trying to achieve balance. So, to think in systems, when it comes to the design profession, it means we
“…approach a design problem by being informed, aware of, and influenced by the impacts that our material and vendor choices have on one another, the planet, and consequently on us” — Eric Benson & Yvette Perullo
Furthermore, the best practices, tools, and methodologies from the various design sub-areas like human-centered, service, empathic, sustainable, inclusive, indigenous, social, participatory, experiential, speculative, and transition design (and more) should be incorporated into the Systems Thinking process.
It is common in academic and professional conferences to see innovative design methods for participatory or service design that produce impactful results in one talk, and at the same time, it is equally common for these outcomes to be lacking in considerations for environmental sustainability or regenerative design projects (or visa versa). A more holistic approach to creating is important for the common good to be achieved “for all” through design. We can’t continue to be so siloed. Best practices from each sub-area of design must be integrated into a holistic design process that aims to benefit all.
I’m in. Sign me up.
Our proposal needs refinement from you. We need you to bring the best of what you know into the Systems Thinking process.
Best practices from resources that you already use like the IDEO HCD Toolkit, Social Design Pathways, Decolonial School, International Indigenous Design Charter, Ask Nature, Service Design Tools, User Experience, Speculative, Racism Untaught, and more should be added to the Re-nourish Systems Thinking Toolkit (beta).
If you want to get involved, let’s talk below in the comments about what is “the common good”, how to achieve that in design, and what are you doing that is working toward this goal.
You can also:
- Download the Toolkit (to read, test, and improve),
- Attend our discussion at the “Design as a common good” conference panel,
- Join our workshop at the Climate Designers Party Program.
Excited to hear from you!
Eric & Michelle Fehler