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german society for
design theory and research

annual conference

Design x Sustainability

Since the UN Climate Conference COP26 in Glasgow 2021, we can say: It can’t continue like this. The history of design is full of ideas and practices on designing for sustainability, from the Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau to Victor Papanek to the Circular Design Guide. Designers are seen as experts in developing holistic solutions to complex problems. The ability to deal with uncertainty holds potential to provide valuable solutions to environmental, social and economic challenges. But in view of the upheavals of society in the Anthropocene, the question arises as to what design is really capable of achieving. Design faces considerable challenges as a discipline and as a field of research: How can we design in a way that conserves resources without perpetuating an order based on inequality? Or are design and sustainability even mutually exclusive?

Design thus seems to have an ambivalent relationship to sustainability. Thus, in the discourse around sustainability in design, a variety of positions have emerged around participation, transparency, and openness with an eye toward the consequences of design for the environment. Organizations like Extinction Rebellion use design means and call for climate justice in their demonstrations. Participation in the production of consumer goods, such as in the Maker movement, aim to contribute to sustainability through decentralized solutions. This shows: Design can create solutions and visions for sustainable futures and take on an interface function. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that design still seems to have a tendency towards elitism. Concepts such as zero waste or newly built climate-neutral city districts seem to address the needs of the already privileged. Moreover, practice shows that a truly sustainably designed consumer culture is still in its infancy. How can a balance between resources, growth and fairly distributed wealth be designed? What alternative proposals can we develop to break patterns that contribute to perpetuating grievances? What are the limits of where design can contribute?

The 2022 annual conference of the DGTF will therefore address key aspects of sustainability that connect to design. What and how can design contribute to sustainable development? How does the sustainability discourse change perceptions of design, in theory and practice? What impact do approaches and discourses of sustainable development have on design education and research?

The annual conference of DGTF 2022 will enable an active exchange of practical approaches, theoretical impulses and empirical findings in presentations and workshop sessions. The contributions will highlight current research and study projects as well as explore future scenarios. How can sustainability be addressed in teaching, practice and research in order to set new impulses for design work?

DGTF in cooperation with Muthesius Kunsthochschule Kiel

Image Credit: Charleen Elberskirch, Lilo Viehweg, Rasa Weber, Charlett Wenig

Website: Conrad WeiseFinn Steffens

Design x Sustainability -