Senior Transition Design Studio 2017

Transition Design with Terry, Stuart and Stacie

I am Steven Ji. Welcome to my process documentation to learn transition design.
Use table of content to hep you navigate this document
  • Underlined links bring you to corresponding weeks’ documentation via internal page anchors (not a new page), click on “wormhole to the top” to return to table of content
  • In each week, I inlcuded documentations on
  1. Readings
  2. Team meetings and personal works
  3. Class notes
My group explores the wicked problem of — Access to Clean Water.

My lovely teammates are:

  • Maggie Banks
  • Sara Fields
  • Jesse Kleins
  • Faith Kaufman
  • Tina Park

Table of content

Week 7 • Service Design + Solidify our solutions

  1. Reading Reflection#15: “Sheryl: Case Studies”
  2. Reading Reflection#14: “Leap, conversation between Tommy Lynn and Suzi Rosa”
  3. Reading Reflection#13: “Pre-emptive design”
  4. Reading Reflection#12: “Practical Service Design”


  1. Team Meeting#13:Service Design Scenarios and Blueprint on “Water Filter Solution”
  2. Revise “Water Filter Solution” & Idea Presentation
  3. Team Meeting#12: Critique on solutions for Clean water in Pittsburgh
  4. Jungle Jam — a service design jam session with Molly Steenson


  1. Class 13 • 10.11.2017
  2. Class 12• 10.09.2017

Week 6• Strategies for designing the future

  1. Reading Reflection :“Service Design Jam 101”
  2. Reading Reflection :“Sustainable Lifestyles, Today’s facts and tomorrow’s trends” *


  1. HWQSS, a solution that connects Pittsburgh communities and governments in water treatment efforts
  2. Team Meeting#11: Develop the six solutions
  3. Synergistic solutions vs. Inhibitors
  4. Revisit my collaborative timeline visualization


  1. Class 11 • 10.04.2017
  2. Class 10 • 10.02.2017

Week 5 • Envisioning an ideal future

  1. Reading#9:“Three Horizons”
  2. Reading #8:“Poritt: the world we make”*


  1. Collaborative timeline visualization
  2. Envisioning an ideal of future


  1. Class 9• 09.27.2017
  2. Class 8 • 09.25.2017

Week 4• The possible, probable and preferable future

  1. Reading #7:“Candy: Hawaii 2050”


  1. A theatrical Portrayal of Fears and aspirations of Pittsburgh City
  2. Drawing the fears and aspirations of the Pittsburgh Future
  3. Economic changes in a “Discipline” Pittsburgh in 2050


  1. Class 7 • 09.20.2017
  2. Class 6 • 09.18.2017

Week 3 • STEEP Issues and Stakeholders

  1. Reading#6 : “Jungk : Future Workshops”*
  2. Reading#5 : “Block : Community”*
  3. Reading#4 : “Capra : Deep ecology”
  4. Reading#3 : “Jim Dator : Caring for our next generation”


  1. Class 5 • 09.20.2017
  2. Class 4 • 09.18.2017

Week 2• Research & STEEP Issues


  1. Class 3• 09.20.2017

Week 1 • The beginning of the end

  1. Reading#2 : “Ojai project”
  2. Reading#1 : “Donella Meadow : Leverage points in a system”


  1. Transition Design and me


  1. Class 2 • 09.18.2017
  2. Class 1 • 09.18.2017

Week 7 • Service Design + Solidify our solutions

wormhole to the top

Reading Reflection#15: “Sheryl: case studies”

Sheryl’s cases further reminded me of two phrases:

  • Look hard and ye shall find [those who are the same paths with you; however, the question is what is you are interested in, and what do you want to find?]
  • The greatest question for college students is always what they want to do with every piece of knowledge they take away from school.

After reading about social innovations, I certainly become intrigued in the idea, and I would love to learn more about the scenarios.

Reading Reflection#14: “Leap Dialog, Between Tommy Lynn and Suzi Rosa”

My takeaways:

  • Visual communication and human-centered approach are key value-add of designers. Effective visual communication helps ground people on the same page, and allow all stakeholders to agree on what the problem is. Agreement of problem produces a unified vision on the solution.
  • Metrics and business model are key to successful social entreperise. Understand the status quo so that you can measure if your approach brings unique perspectives to solve the wicked problem your social enterprise is targeting at.
  • Investing time and experience in Freelance, personal taste and seeking for mentorship helps junior designers grow.
  • Business model is an integral part to the social innovation. Economy helps build a new self-sustaining ecosystem. If a social innovator lays down a sound business framework, it could leverage the powerful feature of economy and grow itself much faster than if it had a poor revenue stream. I am curious to learn different business models that social entrepreneurs use to sustain themselves, and I think I will be surprised by how creative people are at building business frameworks. It might even be a fun challenge to visualize different business frameworks people have built to support their companies and scale up.

Most ingenious business frameworks ever:

  1. Long Tail (Scale up distribution channels of niche markets)
  2. Duolingo’s business model (crowdsourcing)
  3. Data-centered business models (leverage the long term benefits of data)

Reading Reflection#13: “Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise”

Or rather, fiction that aspires to fact, and thereby, creates it?

My takeaways:

  • Preemptive: serving or intended to preempt or forestall something, especially to prevent attack by disabling the enemy.
  • Designers should harness the power of business to pursue a preferred future. Business as a tool and as a human activity has great potentials in helping people achieve social good and arrive at a preferred future. A sound business plan helps build a self-sustaining systems. These small scale systems can seeds for social change. When a small self-sustaining system grows enough, it can start to support other projects that continue shifting our society to a preferred future. However, it currently lacks foresight to do so. Despite Futures provides us great tools that. It is much more used to support future strategy-planning for C-level in the corporation. However, designers have a vital role in improving the landscape. Designers are currently integral parts to many businesses. As a new generation designer who is equipped with futures tools and thoughts, I am able to advise corporations on future-visioning and facting, we are able to harness the potential of businesses to go where we go. The problem remains how? I would love to get this book to learn more!

Reading Reflection#12: “Practical Service Design”

This article taught me the following points:

  1. The service blueprint brings values to organizations because it is an intuitive, tangible visualization of the complex service ecosystem that the organizations live in.
  2. The post-its on the service blueprint mirror individual components of the complex system: people, place, props, partners and processes. Because post-its can easily be moved around and replaced, is much faster to re-arrange the system to discover unexpected scenarios that would redefine the service to bring more values to all stakeholders.
  3. The service blueprint helps designers and businessmen develop new services faster and identify breakdowns and opportunities to innovate in the existing services.


Previous iteration with the 5Ps labeled on the right

Faith, Tina and I came together and:

  • Created temporal context to help solidify our CMU Water Startup idea. It helped us flush out the 5Ps in the service we provide. To view more about the timeline we created for the Pittsburgh Water startup, please see below.
  • The CMU Water Filter Startup collaborates with teachers to educate K-12 students about water pollutions in Pittsburgh. It informs the K-12 students and their friends to help all of the students understand the state of the water pollution in their homes compared to other homes in Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh as a whole. That way, these students can also learn system thinking via this project. The end goal of the project is to help people become more aware of how they are using water, and bring about mindset changes because water visibility causes better understanding of water situations.

Faith, Tina and I also decided to illustrate the beginning, middle and the end of the services. Our tasks are:

  • Tina: Startup and schools introduce the assignment to K-12 students
  • Faith: parents and K-12 students interaction at home
  • Steven: In-class discussion near the end of the assignment/service/ education activity

I would like to help people visually experience how the class activity for the students go and therefore produce the following storyboards.

The storyboard I created to go with the end of the service

My pitch in collaboration with Jesse:

Jesse’s part: what did we change …
Me: Poor access to clean water affects Pittsburgh’s 700,000 citizens’ lives and costs PWSA, the overseer of Pittsburgh water infrastructure, millions of dollars a year.
One of its causes is that water quality problems are invisible to its stakeholders. Pittsburgh citizens often don’t adopt active measures to purify their drinking water because they can’t see the harmful substances in water. Pittsburgh water sewer authorities, can’t effectively improve itself because it lacks sufficient information about breakdowns in its own infrastructure.
One of the leverage points we found is Pittsburgh citizens. They have access to significant first-hand water quality data because they are water users. These data are able to help themselves see the pollutions in water, and help PWSA redesign Pittsburgh City Water infrastructure.
Jesse: what the product is about…
This service brings great value to Pittsburgh communities because it makes the invisible pollution in the water visible, and it creates a space to start conversations about water qualities within neighborhoods and between neighborhoods. A desired result is that every Pittsburgh citizen shares the same mindset about Pittsburgh’s water quality:
1.They need to take active measures to protect themselves and their families from water pollution
2. It will take generations to improve the situation
3. Close collaborations between the government and the citizens is needed in the process of collaborations.

How can we improve:

  1. Summarize themes of our
  2. Show long term effects of our solutions
  3. Identify in-depth problems that Max Neef’s framework helps us see

Team Meeting#12: Critique on solutions for Clean water in Pittsburgh

Main points:

  1. Decided on the service product our solution should build:
Connects Pittsburgh citizens and the government in a joint effort to alleviate the water quality problem in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh citizens receive a smart water filter product from the government. The filter cleanses the water and uploads the Pittsburgh citizens’ water quality data to the government in real time. It brings great value to both the citizens and the government. By using the product, Pittsburgh citizens are actively contributing to help government understand the water quality situations in Pittsburgh, and develop policies that are beneficial for long-term overhaul in Pittsburgh.


  1. Every member flushes out their respective concept and contribute to the slide that we will present on Wednesday!

Feedback on my piece:

  1. Emphasized too much on why my product system is important, but less on the what it is (that’s why we combined Jesse and mine together!)

Jungle Jam — a service design jam session with Molly Steenson

Our service mission statement:

A public space that provides opportunties for collaborative music making for everyone

Public space: a playground for children and parents

Collaborative music making: make the music together

Everyone: inclusive, able-bodied and differently abled people


Class 13 • 10.11.2017

My takeaway from today’s class are :

  1. Resolve unfeasible aspects of a long term solution for wicked problem
  2. Parallel brainstorming/solution building method
  3. Takeaways from each team’s presentations

Resolve unfeasible aspects of a long term solution for wicked problem:

1. Lack of source of financial support and vague understanding of required capital to initiate and sustain the solution
2. Alignment in human behaviors and mental models
3. Our seed level projects catalyze system level changes

Parallel brainstorming/solution building method

The task we did for the team presentation is very similar in structure to the future scenario building we did in week 3: each team presented their scenarios and is asked to borrow/identify scenarios that overlap/ enrich their own. I find the method to be really helpful because it allows me to crowdsource ideas that I would have never thought about or didn’t fully think through.

Takeaways from each team’s presentations

Many seed level interventions are indirect solutions share overlapping themes and starting points. As a result, many sound similar and it is PERFECTLY FINE b/c seed level solutions all start with fostering a mindset and posture among stakeholders of the wicked problem. To build an mindset, designers often leverage the power of community meetings as well as education.

Class 12 • 10.09.2017

Today, Molly visited our class, and gave us a short lecture on Service Design. Several things I learned from Molly:

  1. Services provide outcomes. Airbnb provides a home for people in the foreign land. Hair salon provides a space for people to become more confident with their new hairstyle

Then we participated in a service design jam. All of the teams try to come up with a service idea in less than 140 mins around music sharing. My team chose to create a playground experience that allows everyone to co-create music through its interactive music-making facilities and take a piece of music they produced. There are several things I am proud about my team and myself today:

  1. One of the team members strongly endorsed it because it allows us to build a physical manifestation so as to allow us to invite our audiences into the world in our head.
  2. We structured the prototyping process around our pitch. We started the prototyping by assigning tasks to each individual on the team. We first decided that two people will kick off the project presentation. Three other members will then present the scenarios that draw our audiences into our skit, and finally, two more members will go over our service blueprint to recap the step by step service design we created.
  3. I learned a lot about pitching from Maggie and it was really enjoyable: allow your examples to fill up the imaginative space in other people’s head.

Week 6• Envisioning an ideal future

wormhole to the top

6.Reading Reflection: “Service Design 101”

The reading provides me with a useful framework to evaluate my service design concepts and ask important questions:

People: When I design for services, I will always keep in mind of who I design for. The stakeholders of a service is not only the people who consume the services, but also the people who run the services.

Place: services take place in multiple contexts. Therefore, contextual design is crucial. Designing for the right context is very important.

Props: very similar to the contextual design. Thinking about the products that service design utilizes is another really important point I should consider.

Partners: Government influences the service industry tremendously. When I worked in a ride sharing company this summer. The company establishes a live up-date channel so that it is always ready to respond to policy changes that impact the ride-sharing industries.

Processes: No service is perfect, and it is better to be honest and identify potential breakdown points beforehand than having to respond to it when it occurs.

5.HWQSS, a solution that connects Pittsburgh communities and governments in water treatment efforts

My complete write-up is here:

A pitch deck I created to help people understand how by crowdsourcing the

Synergistic Solutions vs. Inhibitors

In Terry’s lecture, I was fascinated by that Max Neef’s needs are manifested through different ways in different contexts. Protection in the context of a nation is manifested through policies; American travel bans on Middle Eastern nations is a manifestation of its lack of sense of protection. In the context of an individual, the protection is manifested through individual behaviors such as returning home before sunset and avoiding to go to certain parts of the city.

Therefore, I tried to introduce contexts in my assignment so as to specify the specific manifestation of Max Neef’s needs.

The satisfiers and inhibitors of MacBook i own — separated by contexts
The satisfiers and inhibitors of New Year Celebration separated by contexts.

Revisit my collaborative timeline visualization

After the critique yesterday, I start to look for ways that allow me to present my ideas clearly and loudly to other people. I came across this piece of strong storytelling, which helped me remember how strong a single piece is.

The use of images and texts, and the manipulation of images produces a strong narrative about what happened

Therefore, borrowing similar styles, I produced the below narrative. Despite its low-fidelity, it is intriguing enough for people to navigate through the photos and learn what will have have happened in Pittsburgh.

Maps contextualizes viewers geographically;
timeline contextualizes viewers temporally;
Personal narratives contextualize viewers socially, politically and culturally.

The three narrative components help people navigate the future I build for them. They also enrich the future that I build for them. Also these three components also contains dimensions. The scale of the map helps viewers understand problems at the corresponding level: the world, the region, the city, the neighborhood, the family; The scale of the timeline and the scale of the story also do the same. Should the unit for the timeline be a century, a decade, a year, a month, a day or a second? Should the written communication be in the voice of first person, second person, third person, a group? Should it take on the voice of a city, a region or the ecosystem?

Yeah, we redid our diagram!!!

Class 11 • 10.04.2017

  1. Each person has a unique set of Max-neef needs. Persona helps us stay focused on a group of people’s needs. We can’t tailor to design for a single person; therefore, we look at how different people/users share an overlapping area of needs. It would be interesting to see the needs/other aspects of persona building in contrast to Max-Neef’s needs.
  2. Why do we specifically use Max Neef’s theories on needs? It is the only theory that decouples needs and satisfiers (the process in which we fulfill our needs). Terry: “The de-coupling allows designers to construct a narrative on how designed products could become synergistic solutions instead of being destroyers/violators”
  3. During the class, I looked at how other people approached the Max Neef’s needs and I learned the following points from them:
  • Other than the contexts, and think about the relationships and interactions between people/organizations within the blueprint.

Class 10 • 10.02.2017


Two final ideas on Transition Design:

  1. Design solutions that revolve around Re-conception of life-styles that are sustainable and place-based (local to the community)
  2. Synergistic Solutions that meet genuine needs (basic needs) vs. want and desires

Basic needs proposed by Max-Neef (sustainable economist): “We all have a set of needs we need to fulfill to realize our full potentials”

  • Subsistence
  • Affection
  • … (others mentioned in Terry’s book)
  • Decouple needs and how we satisfy our needs (Satisfiers) help us realize there are multiple ways to realize our needs

The concept of satisfiers:

  1. Set of actions that help satisfy our needs
  2. More satisfiers depend on designed artifacts / products / services today. In the past, fishing and hunting were our satisfiers, and now it is Yelp, multinational, non-local restaurants :)

Different types of satisfiers:

  1. Violators/Destroyers
  2. Pseudo-satisfiers
  3. Synergistic Satisfiers

Transition Design Strategy:

  1. Develop synergistic satisfiers: Satisfy more needs and leave less consequences behind (undermining other needs) — for example, community garden is a synergistic satisfiers as opposed to smartphones
  2. Re-conceive lifestyles that are more sustainable

What is lifestyle:

  1. How we consume
  2. How we are motivated by our needs, influencers and desires, and choose to satisfy them

Lifestyle shifts at different context:

  1. Household
  2. Neighborhood
  3. Region

Think about:

  1. Solutions appropriate for different level of context
  2. Different level of context affects the solution
  3. facilitate value/design/solution co-creations with local efforts

Transition design therefore believes

  1. synergistic solutions should involve local community efforts because community activities/experiences are synergistic and it is helpful in re-conceiving life-style changes in both macro-er (region, state, nation, world) and micro-er context (neighborhood, household, person) (The basis of Cosmopolitan Localism)
  2. Reducing the dependency community has with multinational exeternal economic entities
  • Terry’s example: Cosmopolitan Localism University — a community in England that invites people to self-serve and interact with local communities to produce food

Week 5 • Envisioning an ideal future

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Reading# : “Three Horizons Reading”

In Futures, there is a gap between the plausible futures scenario builders portray and the preferred futures that vision builders identify for their organizations. Futurists use three horizons framework to alleviate the gaps.

Futurists use the framework to foresee possible steps organizations could take to reach their preferred futures. On the other side, they also foresee possible missteps organizations could take to miss their preferred futures. Three horizons provide valuable space to think about both steps and missteps. The space it creates for discussing the possible interim steps and missteps between now and the future is its core value.

Three horizons always happen at the same time. The first horizon is peaking, while the second horizon is on the rise, and the seeds of the third horizon is barely visible.

Some inspirational quotes from the article:

1) ‘1st Horizon’: the current prevailing system as it continues into the future, which loses “fit” over time as its external environment changes;
2) ‘3rd Horizon’ ideas or arguments about the future of the system which are, at best, marginal in the present, but which over time may have the potential to displace the world of the first horizon, because they represent a more effective response to the changes in the external environment. Although the diagram suggests there is only one such ‘3rd horizon’, in practice, especially in the early stages, there will be several, or many, 3rd horizon arguments being articulated. This is explored later in the paper.
3) 2nd Horizon; an intermediate space in which the first and third horizons collide. This is a space of transition which is typically unstable. It is characterized by clashes of values in which competing alternative paths to the future are pro.posed by actors.


Team meeting#9: Collaborative Timeline visualizations

Yeah, team work!!
Timeline before,.

During our team meeting, we wrote down all of the events that will have happened to produce the “preferred future” that we are able to see right now. However, I do believe Staurt at some point in his lecture also mentioned that we should also look at how some events might lead us to the futures that we would very much like to avoid! I should for sure mention that to my group.

I will work on these post-its for now
I visualized a near future in which Pittsburgh experienced a full-city water outage
Mural process on how I got to the final Twitter posts — however, I am not sure if Tweets are the best ways to tell the stories — I should add a

I really start with a map — I think I dig too deep into the story itself. Map is a very high level approach to the problem.

Sarah’s is very effective in communicating the message

Team Meeting#8: Envisioning an ideal future

After the 8th class, my team came together to look at the ideal future.

Click here for the full article

Pittsburgh in 2050 is also renowned for its governmental efforts in building a state of art water infrastructure as well as its environmentalism.

All Pittsburgh water pipes are lead free. Families, expectant mothers, children and other vulnerable populations never need to worry about lead poisoning affecting their health. The water reservoir system is also pristine. Water alerts because of animal droppings in reservoirs are never heard of in this era. Wastes from households and companies are treated before they enter the sewer. As a result, Pittsburgh rivers are so clear that people are able to see their bottoms.

Environmentalism enjoys popular support across the city. To continue protecting the environment, citizens unanimously endorse the natural resource rationing. On the other hand, wasting water or other natural resources is the most despicable act in Pittsburgh.


Class 9 • 09.27.2017

Think about: In order to solve this system level problem, we need to think about the problems on a holarchic level, there’s always a broader context next to this one!

Class 8 • 09.25.2017

After the class, I start to see a pattern in the class structure. A “idea-divergent” activity follows an “idea-convergent” activity. A new idea will be thrown at us so as to allow us to explore diligently a diverse range of ideas. Then we will converge on a set of ideas in our explorations. For example, we are tasked to explore a range of possible futures, and when all the groups bring back their thoughts, we narrowed our exploration by applying what we found only to help the previous topic improve.

Also, hearing other groups’ explorations in describing the futures is immensely helpful. Looking at what they found and how those futures relate to the topic I was exploring helped me see both benefits and risks in the future they described. The most amazing thing is, something that is considered beneficial in their context actually damages the cleanliness of water, which is the topic my group spent time exploring.

Other groups’ explorations help me enrich scenarios that my group came up with last week. I put them in a word doc and you can see them below.

Week 4 • Writing and Talking about the future

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Reflections on “Hawaii 2050” reading

Beautiful Hawaiian Island!!!

Hawaii 2050 taught me a few lessons on structuring future writing:

  1. Context: Each of the four Hawaiian future starts with framing the context of 2050. The context exists on three levels: the globe, Hawaii, and each Hawaiian island. In retrospect, our team’s writing could benefit from adding conditions of Pittsburgh neighborhoods and nearby states. That way, our future writing would be richer and invite more imaginations.
  2. Specific foci: Education and island tourism economy are two of the recurring themes in all four writings. I believe they are topics of special interests to the workshop Stuart and his team hosted. It made sense that there are topics of specific interest in describing futures. They provide a helpful boundary to the discussion.
  3. STEEP forces: social, technological, economic, environmental changes are described in all four writings.


Team Meeting#: Economic changes in a “Discipline” Pittsburgh in 2050

A fun Saturday afternoon figuring out the future of Pittsburgh

Check out our team’s future scenario by clicking here

The drought has brought profound changes to Pittsburgh. The municipal government and the neighborhoods put forward new rules, regulations and social contracts in order to ensure the survivability of Pittsburgh. Every Pittsburgh citizen receives an equal amount of ration on water, electricity and likewise natural resources. The ration is enough for most of the population. Residents who need more resources beyond their quota have to pay far more money on them than before 40 years ago. Consequently, the financial burden on people who are less immune to diseases are much greater. On the other hand, even though the privileged receive the same resource ration, they can obtain extra natural resources. They spend fortunes on cutting edge environmental technologies, such as rain water purifiers and solar panels, to produce extra natural resources. A new social norm also becomes prevalent: people see spending money outside of sheer necessity as wasteful.


Class 7 • 09.20.2017

My takeaway:

Our class structure is very similar to the process Terry went through in her Ojai project. Therefore, I am prepared for Stuart’s lecture about the future. Also, since I have taken Peter’s Futures class, I am able to understand most of what Stuart’s talking about.

I am glad that I took away a structural method in approaching the future visualization/writing. For me, there are boundary objects in talking about the future and they are:

  1. Time: are we talking about the near future, or far in the future
  2. Context: Setting up a context for the future we are discussing is very important. The context shouldn’t be single dimension either but should cover a spectrum. For example, what is the overall state of nation, state, city and neighborhood in the future we are talking about
  3. Foci: what are some specific topics of interest to us in this future. For example, in Hawaii 2050, the foci are education and tourism economy.
  4. STEEP forces and problems: what is the state of social, technological, economic, environmental and political landscape in the future we are looking at, and how are they different from now and how that difference contributes to STEEP problems?

Class 6 • 09.18.2017


— My community

Looking above me
No more wires severing the sky
I will never die

— A day in my life

Looking above me
No more wires severing the sky
I will never die

Week 3 • STEEP Issues and Stakeholders

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Reflections on “Jim Dator : Caring for our next generation”

The author of this article, Jim, believes we should actively foresee problems that our next generations will face, and find solutions for them. We need to take actions because: we are the producers of many social, technological, economic, environmental and political problems that our next generation will encounter. More importantly, the continuity of human beings depends on the survival of our next generation.

Moreover, we need to take actions because these wicked STEEP problems don’t disappear overnight. In addition, even if we take actions now to alleviate the problems, years will pass by before significant improvements become visible.

For me personally, I think the guideline Jim posted on attributes of a creative person is very helpful to guide my growth as creative problem solver

Class 5• 09.11.2017

4 clusters/types of story:

  • Continued growth: that is continued growth in relation to where we are today, moving forward to the future. Fast, slow, may/may not be evenly distributed
  • Collapse: Might be sudden and dramatic, an effect of a catastrophic event. Share trajectories even if stories have different plots
  • Discipline: Impose above — political discipline / peer to peer agreement/Sign the Paris agreements, Kyoto Protocol and stick to them. Agreeing on the Embracing constraints to avoid collapse is also a discipline. Produce roommate agreements and stick to them
  • Transformation: Technological transformations — possibilities of human intelligence eclipsed by machine intelligence Spiritual shift — change of heart and the change of culture — the return of messiah

Relationship between:

  1. Between the archetypes and self
  2. Generic images from 4 Clusters and specific scenarios

Seeking the widest arrays of outcomes

  1. bottom up — look at stories that are as different from each other as they can be — to seek for boundaries in the system
  2. We want futures to be representative; what do futures look like. What happens if they collapse
  3. Look at the ranges of ideas — and then come back to see what are the ideal situations. There are 4 clusters of stories vs. one instance of a kind of story -There are different ways to tell it (there are different ways )
  4. Drilling down to the more specific so that we are able to share with other people on how these futures look like?

Class 4 • 09.11.2017

The biggest takeaways for me from today’s class are:

  1. The goal of the transition design course is to shift our mindsets in seeing problems. A designer without system sees only the dimension that a problem manifests itself. Terry hopes that all of us, after taking this course, is able to see all of the dimensions that are vertical to the problem we are facing, both higher and lower. That way, we are able to see the root causes of the problems we are facing, and produce solutions that have minimizing side effects. These root causes probably pertain to all elements of STEEP forces.
  2. The key to the research we have done so far is to see the interconnection between all wicked problems we are investigating. The most important takeaway for me is that the most powerful leverage points emerge from the web we build. By inserting wielding leverage points inside the web, we are able to hit several birds with one stone.
  3. Stakeholders are the connected tissues of the wicked problems. They are the materials which wicked problems are made up of. Therefore, understanding the stakeholders that are involved in wicked problem is key to solving the wicked problem. Also, it is very important to identify their opinions that align/oppose with each other.
  4. Something Terry said that spoke to me was that it is absolutely necessary to keep practicing seeing the interconnections between problems I face everyday, every week, every year. The practice will reward me with enough experience to help me untangle the wicked problems in the long run.

Drawing the fears and aspirations of the stakeholders

My drawing on the water ecosystem’s fears

Now looking back it, I may improve it by looking at i

Week 2 • Research and STEEP Issues

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Class 3 • 09.06.2017

Us collaborating on mural as well as brainstorming different ways to produce well-defined post-its

Reading#4: “Dator”

  • Why it is important to consider social change now: The author of this article, Jim, thinks we should be actively working for our next generation to solve the problems they will encounter. What we need to do is because of: They will encounter many problems that are caused by our generation and the social, economic, political, environmental and technological problems that our generation can not solve. At the same time, human continuity depends on the survival of the next generation.
  • We need to take action because the long-term vicious problem does not disappear overnight. In addition, even now we take action to combat these problems. Our actions often take years to make significant changes in society
  • A creative man: I think Jim’s set of creative people’s guidelines can help our generation grow up.

Reading#3: “Capra Reading Reflections”

  • Deep ecology advocates for the balance between self-assertion and integration.
  • All of the examples chosen in this article speak directly to college students. It seems like the writer is speaking directly to an audience who is like me- liberal minded students and design practioners, who makes up the majority group of transition designers.

Deep ecology

Deep ecology is a school of thought that invites us to see every component of this world, living & non-living, tangible & intangible, as inter-connected.


Ecofeminism states that there is a parallel between the exploitation of women and the exploitation of the environment. Therefore, by studying the history, context, methods and consequences of systematic exploitation of women, we can understand better the systematic exploitation of the environment.


Team Meeting #1: We are team Water

Group meeting & Domain Research

Above are some of the research we did in order to better understand the problem space. Here are my contributions to the group:

A broken Infrastructure:

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) is the organization that is in charge of delivering, controlling and monitoring the water quality in Pittsburgh. Its problems such as understaffing, underfunding, poor management along with serious flaws in the initial design of Pittsburgh’s water distribution system bring unhealthy water to Pittsburgh residents.

The PWSA doesn’t have enough staff to suffice its daily operations. In order to tackle the problem, it is outsourcing its operations to third party corporations. Recently, a (local?) company began to collaborate with PWSA and oversee its customer service and bill collection (PWSA needs money the most right now, and that’s probably why it outsources this part of its operation first to third party companies). Unfortunately, corporations’ goal and the government’s goal might not align, and privatization of PWSA also brings new problems to the table:

The infrastructure itself is also underfunded because of the state and city budget cuts. The lack of fund undermines PWSA’s ability to provide services to further ensure the water safety. For example, according to the report: “the DEP’s inspections of public water systems fell from 3,177 in the 2009–10 fiscal year to 1,847 in 2015–16, according to the EPA”. According to the report, the current number of inspections is below the standard number.

The flaws in the water distribution system also impacted the Pittsburgh residents’ daily water usage. In its original design, PWSA never invested in a backup water system in case of emergency. Also, the lead pipes in Pittsburgh’s water distribution system was not properly designed to prevent lead from getting into the water.

Societal influences

Poor water qualities affect the Pittsburgh residents, especially the more vulnerable population. Children, pregnant women, the elderly and the diseased are in constant concerns for their health. From another perspective, the poor water quality also undermines government’s credibilities.

Great impact on local economy

In order to treat the water and renovate the existing water distribution system, PWSA will invest billions of dollars over decades. The money certainly comes from taxpayers. Therefore, water bills and taxes are expected to rise for Pittsburgh residents. The raise is likely to distress the local economy.

Class 3 • 08.30.2017

My takeaways:

  • Process is the product. It seems like the goal for us is to create info-visual diagrams that help us as well as other people to make sense of the information when they stroll through the artifacts we created.
  • So how do we start to see this? Donella Meadow’s most powerful leverages: the mindset/paradigms out of which the system arises.
  • “Bring awareness to the situations, and situations present opportunities” As you gain experience and trust from other people, other people are more willing to support you doing what you want/need to do.
  • “I was 50 before I get to my leverage point to be able to change other things.” — Inspiring words from Terry!
  • Stakeholders are the distinct types of material of which wicked problems are made, consisting of specialized segments and sub-segments.

Week 1 • The beginning of the end

wormhole to table of content

Transition Design and me

Societies around the world are transitioning at ever faster speed. The change can be witnessed at an observable level in two of the top world powers, America and China. In 1990s, America was still a manufacture dominant society. By 2017, over 90% of American economy comes from information, technology, knowledge oriented service economy. At the same time, service economy has also occupied 50% of the overall Chinese economy, matching the output of its manufacture economy for the first time (the age of “made in China” is going to be a distant memory soon).Unfortunately , as societies shift their states of being, their residents are not able to transition their paradigm of living. We still squander every source of unsustainable energy, ignoring the fact that every one of them is exhausting. If our paradigm of living does not change, we will encounter a serious energy crisis soon.

The mission of Transition design is “[calling] for the re-conception of paradigms”(Terry Irwin). Transition design attempts at envisioning a future where we live sustainably. Efforts have been made by previous design disciplines to tackle the problem. However, transition design states that the wicked problem of un-sustainability lies within complex systems. Therefore, designers should be aware of the complicated relationships between systems within the holarchic system. Furthermore, transition design also emphasizes that systems are dynamic. Therefore, we can only gather initial design conditions limited to the particular cross-section of space and time. Moreover, the system is responsive, and we should be prepared to face and observe reactions from the system when we implement the changes.

Personally, the topic interests me because I have noticed a wicked problem that is currently brewing in China. As previously mentioned, China is rapidly transitioning from manufacture economy to service economy. The swift transition does entail both desirable and undesirable consequences. On the bright side, the rise of ride-sharing, e-commerce, group buy, food delivery and etc services have improved people’s qualities of life exponentially. The convenience especially brought by third party digital payment and food delivery services in China have exceeded that in America. The most successful digital payment product in China is WeChat. One can use it to pay for anything in any place in China. Because of its convenience, people start to not bring wallets when they go out. However, the heavenly convenience also has its wicked trade-off: digital security. The development of China’s digital security ecosystem is well behind that of the digital services, especially in the third party payment. The entire digital payment market kinda feels like a vault protected by dozens of old-fashioned locks instead of smart cybersecurity system (doesn’t that remind you of Pruitt-Igoe: establishments that lacks key support for crucial human activities).

Therefore, how should we tackle such wicked problem? After Terry introduced to us many transition design principles, I am curious about how I could use them to start making sense of the problem mentioned above.


Reading#2 : “Ojai Project”

Envisioning the Future: Reconceiving Ojai Lifestyles
1. Envisioning the change of lifestyles vs. envisioning a solution to the problem
2. Lifestyles are powerful leverage points for change in solving for the water shortage (changing the lifestyle often requires the change of the paradigms. The change of paradigms will drive the change of the system goal. The change of goal allows its components to conform to it and move in a new direction)
3. What is a sustainable lifestyle
4. Trends towards lifestyle sustainability
 1. Efficient consumption
 2. Different consumption
 3. Sufficient consumption
5. The visioning exercises — developing “glimpses” of future lifestyles
6. Changing lifestyles is crucial to sustainable futures and system level changes 
7. Developing lifestyle-based narratives for sustainable future.

Reading#1 : “Donella Meadow : Leverage Points in a system”

  1. Constants, parameters and numbers
     1. Great for short term changes, unable to change the system on a larger scale
     2. Most people spend their time on tweaking the numbers
     3. Yellow stone introduced wolves to the yellow stone park, and some positive results arise! The number of wolves — also, adjusting the cost of labor in China will cause societal structure change and the impact is almost immediate. Therefore, I assume it really depends
  2. The sizes of buffers, and other stabilizing stocks, relative to their flows
     1. Buffer is a large amount of flow in comparison with its inflow
     2. Buffer is often concrete infrastructure and therefore hard to change
     3. Leverage point is often places that are properly designed
  3. The structure of material stocks and flows and nodes of intersection
     1. Structure could be changed?
  4. Lengths of delays, relative to the rate of system change
    Whenever someone introduces a new component into a system, or crafts a change in the system, it takes a long time for the system to respond. For example, when the cost of labor shifts, the entire market shifts.
  5. The strength of negative feedback loops, relative to the impacts that they are trying to correct against
  6. The gain around driving the positive feedback loop
    1. Slowing down the growth could benefit the system: because there is delay in the system whenever someone inserts a new component, we often do not notice any changes until much later. Therefore, by slowing down the system, we are able to observe the changes we made. (To be honest, I am not sure)
  7. The structure of information flows
    1. Information flow is a new feedback loop brought forward by the governemnt
  8. The rules of the system
    1. Changing the rules bring a lot of impacts
     2. People behave differently when rules change
  9. The power to add, change, evolve and self-organize the system structures
    1. The ability to adapt, to evolve. This power is called technology in the human world, or whatever?
  10. The goal of the system
    1. Changing the goal of the system is able to bring many parts to affect the system level changes along the way
     2. When the goal of the system changes, the parts of the system conform along the way
  11. The mindset or paradigms out of which the system arises
    1. Paradigm creates the system
     2. Changing paradigm means changing the system
  12. The power to transcend the paradigms
    1. The power to transcend the paradigms enables one to change the paradigm
     2. As the logic above states, changing the paradigm means changing the system.


Class 2• 08.30.2017

Two approaches to organize the information: top-down vs. bottom-up, and we will approach problems from both angles.

Stuart’s advice:

  • Some of the approaches are more fluid and provide more momentum than others. Find the approaches of making sense of the information that is most suitable to your topic!
  • Produce diagrams that are intelligible for all We need to make efforts to make these intelligible to other humans. This is part of the leverage point for the school of design — we are able to create information system loop that helps facilitate behavior changes.
  • You are able to rely on made conventions and start from the already existing taxonomy or you can sort out the tangle by yourself. Either way is fine, as long as you are able to get to your goal: help make the system not only intelligible to you but also for others
  • Do check out other groups and think about what they are trying to do!

The best approach from Stacie and Staurt’s points of views are:

  • Start from the bottom — then the top (bubble up overall topics) — then the bottom (fill in the holes)

As designers, we are able to intervene in many places within this system. However, we also need to be aware of the Holarchic nature of the system (what does this really mean? )

  • Understand the overarching system to better reinforce the current practices
  • Approach: contextualizing the concept (ideas don’t have agencies until they are materialized)
  • Mapping, diagramming, spotting the relationship between elements within our area of focus (problem). Make sense of the problem, draw stakeholder map, draw other types of maps to understand it

Class 1 • 08.18.2017

  • Service Design mission(established area) Service design is the activity of planning & reorganizing people, infrastructure and communication and material components of a service to improve its quality and interactions between service providers and humans”. It combines design and businesses
  • Design for social innovation/social entrepreneurship mission (emerging)Challenge the dominant, socio-economic-political paradigm that is part of the problem inherent in our social interactions. Ask questions about “how big is big enough?”, it’s not all about the money.Ask “how to leverage and use STEEP resources to create solutions”,
  • Transition Design Mission(embryonic)Call for re-conception of the social paradigm. Trans-disciplinary teams have to work together in transitioning large systems towards more sustainable future
  • Vision. We need a vision of what the world should be like. However, we also need to understand tat visions also fundamentally depend on the visionary’s worldviews, belief systems, expectations, assumptions
  • Theories of Change Bring theories from other disciplines to design.
  • Mindset and posturesIt’s important to install a posture of confidence: I don’t know but we will figure out —
  • New ways of designing
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