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Image: Mostphotos, Mehaniq

Design after progress: reimagining design histories and futures

Research project 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” explores other ways of designing, moving beyond logics of financial gain and towards worlds of more-than-human relationships.

This project explores how to carefully untie designs’ entanglements with ‘progress’, crafting imaginaries of more socio-ecologically just design, guided by post-anthropocentric and post-capitalist perspectives.The aims are to learn to become better haunted in design, attending to the ecologies of damage left behind by progress and industrialization, and to through participatory and democratic practices develop and articulate skills, competencies, capabilities, and concepts necessary for designing after progress.

Project overview

Project period:

2023-07-01 2029-06-30

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Umeå Institute of Design

Research area

Design, History of ideas

External funding

Swedish Research Council

Project description

This artistic research project engages in re-imagining design after progress, rehearsing and proposing new design practices that stake out how to bear the past into present and futures of design. The aim is to learn to become better haunted in design by attending to ecologies of damage left behind by industrialization, developing and articulating competencies, capabilities and concepts for designing after progress in a participatory, inclusive and democratic way.

The project operates through three experimental design rehearsal studios:

  1. Present-ing Alternative Design Histories: This focuses on uncovering and restoring design’s histories with a focus on participation in and through design. This includes histories that have had great influence on how participation is enacted through design, and also histories previously given little or no attention in mainstream (Scandinavian/European) design history. The histories are brought together with the aim of present-ing core values embedded in design, and to create a space for thinking and doing participation in design otherwise.
  2. Prefiguring Design Practices after Progress: The second rehearsal studio explores and crafts emerging alternative design practices driven by insights from the first studio. It is further informed by post-anthropocentric and post-capitalist perspectives. Collaboratively, the studio sets up prototypical cases where we rehearse how to adjust participatory oriented design approaches to better respond to the aftermath of progress, for example through caring, repairing, revival, un/making, and refusal.
  3. Unlearning Pedagogies for Design after Progress: The third studio is a dress rehearsal for designers. Here we draw together and perform the results from the previous studios and invite designers and design educations to take part and try out the skills, competencies and capabilities necessary for designing after progress. This will partly be done through exhibitions, and a summer/winter school.

External funding

Latest update: 2022-11-18