Building a network around Design for Sustainability

Back in April, Snook was overwhelmed by the energy in the room at DOTI: From Service Design to Sustainable Environmental Action. The sense of urgency and excitement from fellow designers and organisations left us keen to keep up the discussion. We should be using design to address our global climate crisis. In response, we invited everyone back last week to transform our discussions into actionable ideas.

Together we mapped out our design processes – from scoping projects and building teams, to managing live products/services and navigating policy implications. We then identified points along the way that required intervention.

Our big questions were:

  • How can we adapt our existing tools and processes to make them more sustainable?
  • Do they need to be replaced with new ways of working altogether?
  • What might these look like, and how can we prototype them?

By forming thematic working groups, we identified a variety of new principles and prototypes to test out in our own practices. To name a few, we recognised the following as barriers and opportunities for further work:

  • Finding ways to ask the hard questions: to ourselves and our clients, and at all stages of our project processes. For example: should we be designing this in the first place? Encouraging clients and organisations to identify their sustainability representatives and environmental policies at the start of projects might support this.
  • Bringing futures thinking into conversations now: to consider the long term impact of our work, potential future users and their needs, and how to avoid unintended outcomes. Building time into our projects to free up thinking and consider possible alternatives with our clients was favoured.
  • Working between scales: to navigate policy constraints that often result in red tape. While designers regularly aim to derive impact by working with influential organisations and policy-makers, community engagement and citizen’s/people’s assemblies can offer more direct routes to projects that avoid restrictions and extractive business models.

Our ambition now is to spark the beginnings of a design network across the UK that is dedicated to sustainable impact through design. We’re calling upon individuals with design and sustainability experience to connect, share their knowledge, and plan new projects around design for sustainability. In particular, we want to develop new processes, tools, and principles to prototype and embed within our design practices at scale.

Register your interest in joining us here and we’ll send information about our online platforms and upcoming events.