Part of the Interdisciplinary Course undertaken as students was understanding the importance of our role as designers not just within the Design sphere; but also within transdisciplinary issues which are outside of a typical design project. Such is the case with the brief of Organic Waste Management. By working with an actual client regarding organic waste and sustainability, we were able to understand and acknowledge the important skills and concepts that we as designers can contribute. In particular these were:
i.) design thinking,
ii) the importance of system methodologies and
iii) creating strategical proposals and solutions for a better outcome.
Approaching issues relating to organic waste solutions often require a variety of skills and thinking; hence involving multiple design disciplines. As shown with the group project of the Caddie Design, different practical skills and methods of thinking were assembled to produce the final project. A group charter of was mapped out, providing a vision of the different skills, interests and characteristics that each member could contribute to the group.
The different disciplines of Fashion, Integrated Product Design and Visual Communications students allowed a broader approach the design brief. Some were more prone to analytical and conceptual methods, others were hands-on and tactile. Some were more prone to the simplicity, while others reminded the group that aesthetic is also important for the interest of the user. There were individuals who were living in local councils that implement a Green Organic / 3-Bin Cycle and thus could current problems and benefits of this initiative. There were also individuals that did not have this in their area which meant that they could contribute a fresh and open approach that could effectively communicate to them as possible future users of the Caddy liner and instructions.
Design thinking focuses not on absolute problem-solving skills but in creative resolutions that propose acting towards creating a ‘better’ or ‘preferred’ future. This is important especially because not all problems are black and white. Most issues are very complex in its nature, and involve many factors such as social, environmental, cultural and technological, which greatly affect each other when a change occurs. An interesting, yet real example of the complexity of real life issues and its consequences is shown through this short and creative cautionary video that occurred in Borneo:
See link: Systems Thinking: A Cautionary Tale
Such is the case in organic waste management which involves a variety of interest groups and issues such as stake holders, government policies, financial limitations; and attempting to encourage communication of organic waste management to individuals of every age, gender and culture. As a scholar Ulrich W. writes, “professional predominance in decision-making processes reaches further and affects more aspects of our lives than ever before, a fundamental conflict between…professionalism and civil society seems inevitable” (Ulrich, W. Reflective Practice in the Civil Society: The contribution of critically systemic thinking, 2010)
As designers, it is part of the process to manoeuvre through the complexity of waste management by strategically organising these into systems. As described earlier, designers understand that there is not a one-for-all answer and thus are able to arrange and segregate factors into reasonable systems groups and from there, investigate and propose the best solution for the design brief. P. Chekland accounts“social situations [as] complex due to multiple interactions between different elements in a problematical situation as a whole, and systems ideas are fundamentally concerned with the interactions between parts of a whole. [Therefore,] it is systems ideas which help to structure the thinking” (Checkland P. Learning For Action: A Short Definitive Account of Soft Systems, 2007)
In the case of Caddy Liner and Instruction project, the group investigated the many issues with the brief ranging from aesthetic qualities, the need for users to be encouraged with the issue of sustainability and recycling, cost effectiveness, and much more. By exploring the different issues and problems, it was narrowed down to what the group deemed as ‘most reasonable’ by focusing on a personal level and addressing the key themes: Clarity, Simplicity, Affordability, Practicality. With this, we were able to continue the design process and produce a caddy liner design and instruction as inferred from these themes.
As one can see in this small example of the Caddy Liner and Instruction Project, we recognise the big contribution that designer make towards tackling problems and issues of society. As the designed process and outcome is realised, we also begin to understand the effectiveness of design thinking and systems methodology in regards to creating and managing complex and situations which do not stay stagnant, especially in an ever-changing world.
Ulrich W. 2000, Reflective Practice in the Civil Society: The contribution of critically systemic thinking, Reflective Practice, 1:2, 247-268, DOI: 10.1080/713693151
Sustainability Illustrated 2014, ‘Systems thinking: a cautionary tale […], Youtube video, May 6 2014, viewed 26 April 2017 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17BP9n6g1F0>
Checkland P. 2007. ‘Learning For Action: A Short Definitive Account of Soft Systems Methodology, and its use for Practitioners, Teachers and Students. 1 Edition. Wiley, Hoboken NJ