Cat Drew, Jennie Winhall, and Cassie Robinson
Design Council | Shared Infrastructures | ALT/NOW
Report summary and reflections on turning into practice
System Shifting Design was published by the Design Council and The Point People in 2021 as an emerging practice observed by designers across the world who are working to deliberately and generatively create new systems of regenerative planetary health. The report starts with a critique of the existing system of design before setting out some characteristics of both ‘system conscious design’ (designing with an awareness of the wider system in which you are part) and ‘system shifting design’ (designing to deliberate transition to a new system), and some provocations for how the design system itself needs to change to support this more radical and necessary way of designing. A way of designing that works at the level of deep structures and narrative as well as physical things or spaces, that makes to reveal and invites further possibility rather than purely solving discrete problems, and assembles and provisions collectives of organizations who can shape the transition.
In this paper, the authors reflect on the nine months since publication, how the wider context of design and funding practice has changed, how the report’s ideas are being translated into practice, and some of the significant challenges with doing so. They observe that while ‘system conscious’ design is becoming increasingly mainstream, ‘system-shifting’ design is still emergent, with some important new voices and writing, but significant effort is needed to explain and invest in the deep work needed to change the heart of our current systems.
KEYWORDS: systemic design, system-shifting design, design for the planet, design for transition, infrastructure, provisioning, emergence