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Published: 2022-11-01 Updated: 2022-11-10, 13:23

Re-imagining design beyond materialism

NEWS Design has been a key driver in the material strides taken by our global civilization. The downsides to development driven by mass consumption are, however, becoming alarmingly apparent. Can design, which helped get us into this mess, respond differently to issues of social and ecological well-being in the future? The artistic research environment “Design after progress” will explore other ways of designing, looking beyond financial gain and towards more-than-human relationships in the world.

Text: Jens Persson

In an unprecedent investment in artistic design research the Swedish Research Council (SRC) has granted 16,8 million SEK to the newly formed research environment "Design after progress: reimagining design histories and futures". Stretching over six years, 2023-2028, it is one of only two artistic research environments to be granted funding by the SRC. The introduction of this research environment will support collaborations within the national and Nordic research communities, further reinforce the expanding design research environment at Umeå Institute of Design and strengthen the overall artistic research at Umeå University.

“The experiments in the project aim to develop concepts, skills and capabilities for designing after progress. Through proposing alternative design practices, we wish to contribute to redirecting design education and design practice towards more socio-ecologically just and participatory processes and outcomes, says Maria Göransdotter, associate professor at Umeå Insitute of Design.

Towards more-than-human perspectives

The research environment will consist of three experimental design studios that build on each other. One that examines and presents alternative design histories, one that tests and explores new design practices and a final one focused on learning that stages future design schools. Through historical research, design experiments and educational situations, the researchers will explore the possibility of rehearsing new ways of designing by shifting towards more-than-human perspectives and emerging participatory, inclusive and democratic methods.

“Personally, I’m looking forward to our joint work in merging historical perspectives and research methods with practice-based and artistic design research practices. I will contribute mainly during the first 1,5 years of the project, with prototyping design histories that contribute to exploring concepts and practices of participation in and through design”, says Maria Göransdotter.

“This includes histories that have had great influence on how participation is enacted through design, but also histories previously given little or no attention in mainstream design history. These histories aim at presenting core values often embedded in design, and to create a space for thinking and doing participation in design otherwise”.

The team in the artistic research environment "Design beyond progress: ideas about design histories and futures" consists of five design researchers from Linnaeus University (Åsa Ståhl), Umeå University (Maria Göransdotter), Malmö University (Kristina Lindström and Li Jönsson) and Gothenburg University (Thomas Laurien). The research environment is hosted by Linneaus University and led by Åsa Ståhl, senior lecturer (and formerly post-doctoral researcher at Umeå Institute of Design together with Kristina Lindström).