October 1, 2019: Sustainability II

Hannah Koenig
Oct 1 · 7 min read

With Year One PhD Candidates

Sustainability Breakfast

Our Year One PhD candidates opened class today by preparing breakfast in a specific way. We had vegan and gluten free foods on three tiers, each representing the Sustainable Development Goals, and selected questions for discussion that had been intermingled with the food. Examples included “How small is small?” and “What opportunities do the SDGs offer for the field of design?”

Our schedule for the morning
A selection of assigned reading

Next, we heard from each of our session leaders on the theme of the morning: small, local, open, and connected (SLOC). The talks varied, though they all touched on each person’s work in relationship to their theme, and ended with provocations for the class.

Small: Donna

  • Donna has done a lot of work in fashion, but started small, with Barbies. As she developed in her career and started making clothing for adults, she learned more about the fashion industry. We buy more clothing and wear it less than ever before, and innovations in the industry have engineered humans out of much of the garment construction process. Everything we wear has been touched by a pair of hands, however, because it’s hard to re-engineer machines to match pace with changing trends. If you send your clothing to a recycling center, it doesn’t necessarily get recycled. It’s sold, burned, or buried.

Local: Erica

  • “Design with/for/of Place.” Erica opened with a photo of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. Jane led the fight against Robert to protect urban spaces and what happens on the ground: “local living economies.”

Open: Hilary

  • The open posture in design practice is a source of strength. For example, designers can exhibit a neutral response when listening and gathering feedback. We have comfort with ambiguity, curiosity to explore unexpected connections, and draw inspiration from the ends of the bell curve. In organizations, we pursue external collaborations, partnerships, shared data, and shared processes. We seek to be surprised: to disprove your assumptions, to roll with and play with incongruous ideas, and to take risks and learn from mistakes.

Connected: Silvana

  • Food connects everything, regardless of knowledge silos. Silvana asked us to read from outside the design field to try to connect with the complexity of the issues she is working on. She chose to work on food because it links to every aspect of our lives, and connects every one of us. It not only represents life, but is a fundamental need; it is a determinant of our health and well-being as humans, and helps us to understand complexity.

SLOC Speed Sessions

Next, we did an exercise where the session leaders distributed themselves to each of the four tables. Participants rotated around the room, having conversations about their thesis and research topics through the lens of small, local, open, and connected.

Recipe

Next, we took a few minutes to reflect on our morning. Silvana asked us to write a sentence on an index card that expresses an insight, idea, or question about our work through the lens of SLOC. The objective for the session today was for each person to take something out of the morning that is useful to them and their projects, and this reflection was key.

Writing and sharing our ingredients

We shared our ideas to the group as we tacked them to the wall. Each sentence became an ingredient in the final recipe. Silvana left us with a final question to consider: what does this have to do with sustainability?

The final recipe
A selection of ingredients

Thank you to Silvana, Erica, Donna, and Hilary for facilitating a provocative, relevant, and engaging morning.

CMU Seminar III Advanced Interaction & Service Design Concepts + Design Theory & Practice // Fall 2019

This course goes by various names. If you’re an MDes student, this is 51–825 Seminar III , Advanced Interaction & Service Design Concepts. If you’re a first-year PhD student, this is 51–903, the Design Theory & Practice seminar. You’ll have slightly different assignments and expe

    Hannah Koenig

    Written by

    MPS candidate, Design for Interactions at Carnegie Mellon University. Learning out loud.

    CMU Seminar III Advanced Interaction & Service Design Concepts + Design Theory & Practice // Fall 2019

    This course goes by various names. If you’re an MDes student, this is 51–825 Seminar III , Advanced Interaction & Service Design Concepts. If you’re a first-year PhD student, this is 51–903, the Design Theory & Practice seminar. You’ll have slightly different assignments and expe

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