Sharing the Load: Developing Capacity for Social Sustainability in Design through Collaboration

Sharing the Load: Developing Capacity for Social Sustainability in Design through Collaboration

Muireann McMahon, Tracy Bhamra
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5856-1.ch001
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Today there is an impetus on professional designers to practice in a responsible and ‘sustainable' manner, with equal emphasis on society, economy and environment (Fletcher & Dewberry, 2002). This is an enormous challenge as the competencies needed to develop these types of holistic solutions are extremely complex. This chapter describes a Pedagogical Innovation in the discipline of Product Design regarding the important role international collaborative projects can play in introducing these competencies into design practice. Iterative cycles of Action Research describe three such projects. A brief over-view of the project logistics is followed by an analysis of the participant experiences. The findings show that building capacity for sustainable design, through collaboration, is not a simple or ‘one size fits all' approach. The research learning advises on how future projects should be structured and delivered and how the competencies acquired could bring about a change in designers behaviours towards a more sustainable future.
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Setting The Stage

The focus of contemporary Product/Industrial design practice is moving away from material led objects to more user-led experiences (Moritz, 2005). The notion of a designer‘s role as that of merely giving shape to physical objects is no longer valid (Nelson & Stolterman, 2003). Design has evolved to become the link between human and social needs and industrial practices. This is achieved by designing tangible and intangible ‘objects’ that give meaning, provide cultural contexts and also the opportunities for individual expression (Hara, 2009). Design now acts as cultural stimulus, a change agent and a tool for social engagement.

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