Five quotes to prompt ideas, action and resolve

Last week we took part in Design for Planet, the Design Council’s initiative to “mobilise” the UK’s 1.69 million-strong design community.

120 of us gathered at the V&A in Dundee, joined by 5,000 online attendees and 50 sustainability and design leaders to share their ideas and expertise.

It felt fitting in many ways. Dundee is the UK’s only UNESCO city of design and November 9th marked Innovation day at COP26, nearby in Glasgow.

Over two days there were keynotes, panel talks, interactive workshops and a Snook-led Unconference: where the script was flipped and attendees had the power to craft their own programme, focusing on topics they were eager to discuss.

We left bursting with ideas, questions and challenges that we’re taking back to our team to unpack and act upon.

But for now, we wanted to share some of the words that have stuck with us. The theme of combining our forces and resources came up again and again at the event. So here’s where we start, with some key quotes and the first thoughts they’re prompting. We share them in the hope they’ll inspire more action and ideas.

The Design for Planet festival ended last Wednesday evening, but it was really just a kick-off. The real work starts now.

“You as a designer have a massive part to play.” – Anita Okunde

Day 1 kicked off with a powerful address from 17-year-old climate activist Anita Okunde: “You as a designer have a massive part to play. We need you to make ethical and sustainable choices. We need actions not empty words.”

As a multidisciplinary group of fashion designers, graphic designers, service designers, UX designers, product designers and more – it’s clear that the influence of design is colossal.

Cat Drew, the Chief Design Officer at Design Council, MC-ed and told us about the Design Council’s mission to support the design community to address the climate crisis. They have resources and a platform that they can share with everyone in the UK design industry. They’re keen to help us raise awareness with clients and empower us to challenge short-termist briefs and put the planet front and centre.

“As designers, we should be sharing our intellectual property.” – Indy Johar

The powerful duo of Indy Johar and Kate Raworth explored ‘The Big Picture’ in their talk: ‘The systemic change that we need within our structures of economy, power, governance and mindsets.’

Kate Raworth reminded us that endless growth is not natural. We should learn about balance from other cultures like Taoist yin & yang, the Buddhist endless knot example and Maori takarangi ‘double spiral’ to redress this obsession with growth.

Indy Johar urged us to share our intellectual property. Kate Raworth echoed this with her call to revive a commitment to the value of the ‘commons’ and our power as a collective.  There are so many good ideas in our community. It’s about putting them into action now.

We need to push for systemic change – so sharing and circularity become the norm. Why isn’t there a ‘library of things’ in every borough?

“We need to be in an equitable relationship with the land.” – Araceli Camargo

Araceli Camargo’s rousing talk on six principles for a just transition shared expert knowledge from her indigineous culture and neuroscience background.

She laid out that our entire relationship with the planet needs to change: we need to end supremacy and create an equitable relationship with the land. This starts with our language and framing: moving from the “I” to the ‘us’ and from non-human beings to ‘them’ rather than ‘it’.

How might we include these shifts in our own projects?

“Global brands aren’t part of the future, they’re part of the transition.” Urge Collective

Can big business ever be part of the solution when we know we need to consume less? Do global brands really care, or is their messaging just greenwashing?

These were some of the questions that came up in the chat during the online ‘Change the brief: Aim, Frame, Game’ workshop run by the Urge Collective.

Even if we feel like global brands aren’t part of the future, they could play a key role in the transition, helping influence sustainable trends and buying patterns. Whoever wrote this in the chat – let us know if you’re out there!

“How do you facilitate 100 designers? Let them design their own agenda!” – Sarah Drummond

The power was in the people’s hands for the Unconference on Day 2, where attendees at the V&A were invited to come and ‘pitch’ topics.

MC-ed by co-founder and former CEO of Snook, Sarah Drummond, we helped to facilitate 15 sessions on a range of topics including designing at scale with science, changing mindsets to reconnect with nature through an ‘hour of ecology’, upskilling designers in climate literacy and enabling experimentation and co-creation through an Imaginarium.

We’re spending some time as a team synthesising the outcomes of the Unconference. In the meantime, we encourage people to dig into the notes we’re sharing from the event to explore ideas. Also to keep that ethos alive – you have the power to maintain and lead these conversations in your communities.

How do we turn these words into actions?

The most important question is ‘what next?’ We’re set on taking these words beyond the walls of the V&A Dundee; to our teams, clients, families and friends.

Let’s remember that the Design Council is there to galvanize us, but also to support us. You can use the newly crafted Design for Planet video for free: a practical resource for design teams to take to clients to push this agenda forwards.

We’re working on synthesising your ideas around Design for Planet ‘principles’, which we gathered in workshops where we challenged and built upon the Design Council’s Systemic Design Framework (part of the Beyond Net Zero report). We’re keen to turn this framework into a set of practical principles which the design community can sign up to and utilise.

Let’s connect

There’s a lot more to say, and we’ll be sharing further thoughts, plans and next steps soon.

In the meantime, we’re always keen to hear from you. Sign up to our mailing list for the latest updates, and keep your eyes peeled for our next Design on the Inside event, where we’ll carry on this conversation.

Big thanks to the Design Council, The National Lottery Community Fund, National Lottery players, V&A Dundee and Protolabs. The event was organised in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Innovate UK, UKRI, Architecture & Design Scotland, Urge, Snook and S.H.E.D.


16 Nov 2021


  • Sustainability


  • Event production
  • Participatory design