Can designer's help make a better world?

We recently attended the Designing a Better World Symposium at Northumbria University in Newcastle. There were all the usual discussions about how designer's can contribute to social change and to solving the environmental challenges we currently face.

There was also lots of talk of the value of collaboration and how designers will need to work outside their specialist area to tackle these multiple challenges. Jason Bruges and Julia Lohmann, both designers who work across disciplines, talked of the value of collaboration but also made the point that design education does not currently prepare students to work in this way.

Jason describe this kind of designer as a 'hybrid', able to remain a specialist while also remaining open and gathering expertise and knowledge from other areas. He also made the point that, even if we do start to train students in this way, and to consider new ways to approach their role as designers, the jobs dont exist for them. We are training people for the unknown!

This relates to Becky Earley's presentation at our Agendas debate last Friday, about our approach to embedding sustainable design thinking into courses. Here at Chelsea, we teach students new ways to be a textile designer, adding activism and lifecycle thinking under their belts, but then they get out into the real world and are met with a 'ceiling' - there are not enough jobs that exist which can take advantage of this new sort of design activity.

An another note, the highlight from the Northumbria Symposium was Josephine Green's Keynote speech . Green works in what she calls 'social foresight' and has worked at Philips Design for fifteen years. Can designers help make a better world ? She believes, yes if there is a deep purpose behind what design does, and that it is 'sense making'. But no, if we continue with the current industrial production model, and don't move beyond just designing products.

Image: Julia Lohmann


Summer debate continues on-line

Thank you to everyone who came along to the Agendas Debate last Friday. We had a great turn out and some really lively discussions.

The audio from the four speakers will be available shortly, so stay tuned!

We are keen to continue the discussions that came up at the Debate and would like to announce our plan of action! - in the next few weeks over the summer, we will be encouraging you to contribute your thoughts and ideas on the discussion. Then in September, we will offer our own TED summary of the event and the follow-on conversation.

If you attended the event - what did your notebooks say? What were the main points you got out of the discussion?

Or, if you didn't attend the event, but would like to have - what burning question have you got? Do you beleive that sustainable design is just an educator's fantasy?

Some of the key points for me were:

Is the role of the textile designer to stay in the studio creating lovely fabrics, or is their a wider role for us that involves activism as well ? If so, how do we teach this?

If sustainability is such a complex area, that requires cross-discplinary collaboration (as is so often quoted!) why are we not equipping our design students to learn in this way?

All your thoughts and questions are welcome!

More images of the event here .


Final two speakers announced for Summer Debate

We have now confirmed our final two speakers for the debate on Friday:

Sandy MacLennan has worked in textile design innovation for more than 25 years as a consultant to fibre producers, spinners, manufacturers, brands and retailers through his consultancy East Central Studios in London. He also works with education as a visiting lecturer at the RCA and Chelsea and as an external examiner on BA and MA courses. In 2007, Sandy co-founded CLASS a consultancy and network that promotes sustainable textiles and fashion to industry.

Clare Brass is the founder of the SEED Foundation, a social enterprise that explores and promotes new design approaches to meet the challenges of sustainability. Leader of Sustainability at Design Council until 2007, Clare is currently part-time senior tutor at Design London, with students from the Royal College of Art and Imperial College Business and Engineering, addressing issues of sustainability and social enterprise.

It promises to be a really lively and informative event. Remember, no need to RSVP, just turn up for 2pm at Chelsea!


Speakers Announced for Summer Debate

We are happy to confirm two exciting speakers so far, for the TED Summer Debate next Friday 16th July.

Otto von Busch is a TED Associate and fashion researcher who is exploring fashion hacktivism and how fashion can be used for empowerment, self-development and personal growth instead of being a phenomenon of top-down decrees and collective anxiety. Otto has a PhD from University of Gothenburg where he teaches and is also a Visting Research Fellow at London College of Fashion.
Kieren Jones has just graduated from the RCA in Product Design with a wonderful project called The Chicken Project, exploring ways to locally produce objects in a world where resources are depleted and self-sufficient, off-grid living will become increasingly desirable and neccesary. He also calls himself a 'professional amateur', rather than a designer!
The final two speakers will be confirmed early next week.
Image: Otto von Busch, Abstract Machine of Hacktivism


TED's Summer Debate - Friday 16th July 2010

“Sustainable design in the real world is just an educator’s fantasy…”

This is the (e) motion that Professor Kay Politowicz is proposing for TED's AGENDAS 2010 event, here at Chelsea on Friday 16th July 2010. Join us between 2pm and 4pm, to hear four eminent speakers argue both FOR and AGAINST this motion. They will spend five minutes arguing each case, and they aren’t allowed to use slides!

This event is timed to coincide with the UK Texprint ‘First View’ Exhibition, held at Chelsea at the same time. Delegates will be able to view this closed exhibition in the Triangle Gallery between 9am and 5pm on the day. The event will be an informal ‘platform’ debate, intended to bring the issues of sustainability and design to the attention of the assembled Texprint audience, exhibitors and sponsors who are all involved in the design and production of textiles for fashion.

Our intention is to make it a combination of IQ Magazine’s ‘Intelligence Squared’, which says that it is “creating knowledge through contest” and TV’s ‘Argumental’ which claims to be “a celebration of the art of argument”. This event is a chance to do both with speakers having a chance to put a point of view in a series of headline statements and then argue with themselves with contradictory and counter argument.

This fun event is intended to raise the serious issue that is essentially: HOW, not WHETHER to address sustainability in the education of designers. It gives us the opportunity to air concerns about what any of us can or should be doing about it in our different professional circumstances.

Lines should not remain uncrossed. Sensitivities should not be spared, and there will be ample opportunity for the audience to make comments, and for speakers to respond if they wish, followed finally by a vote by all on the motion.

This promises to be a really lively and informative afternoon. Join us if you can – it is free and there is no need to book. Just come along to the lecture theatre at Chelsea (entrance on Atterbury Street). Watch this space over the next few days as the confirmed line up of speakers is announced…
(Image credit: 'Venn Diagram', Matthew Sawyer 2010)


Designer-In-Residence Exhibition Luanch

How can digital textile print be used to enhance and celebrate old heirloom fabric pieces?

Can a 'digital craft' process, using sustainable base cloths, help to reinvent the traditions of quilting and patchwork?

These are some of the questions Clara Vuletich has been exploring as part of a 'designer-in-residence' scheme in the digital print department here at Chelsea. AA2A is a national 'artists in residence scheme', and it has been run for many years at Camberwell College, but this is the first time it has been run within the textile department at Chelsea, with designers!

At TED, we were the first group of designers to digitally print onto sustainable base cloths for the Ever & Again work in 2007, and Clara has continued to use these fabrics to experiment with.

All her processes and samples will be on show as a giant 'sampler', at Camberwell Space, Camberwell College of Art, from next Wednesday July 7th. Read more about the process on her blog Love & Thrift.