Design for Sustainability in Maker Enterprises

LIVING DESIGN aims to develop effective ways of using design to implement the principles of sustainability in local enterprises – ways that enable the development of long-lasting, desirable products that employ local skills and materials, and that offer new market opportunities – thus ensuring economically viable futures in ways that are culturally relevant and environmentally responsible. The test bed for the project is Cumbria in the Northwest of England.

Funded by the AHRC (2016-2019), LIVING DESIGN is a collaboration between the ImaginationLancaster Design Research Centre at Lancaster University and the Department of Design at Manchester Metropolitan University.

LIVING DESIGN builds on our previous DESIGN ROUTES project, details of which can be found at: http://designroutes.org/


Principal Investigator: Professor Stuart Walker, Lancaster University

Co-Investigator: Professor Martyn Evans, Manchester Metropolitan University

Research Associate: Louise Mullagh, Manchester Metropolitan University

Research Context

Modernity has witnessed enormous advances, growth and confidence in scientific analysis and scientific explanations of the world – as it exists in discernible, material form. However, the prominence given to such thinking has been at the expense of other, deeper ways of knowing that have been a critical part of the heritage of human wisdom for millennia, but which have become atrophied in recent times. This rupture is linked to what Scruton has called ‘cognitive dualism’ and the inadequacy and inappropriateness of scientific explanation to say anything significant about the emergent world of life – interrelationships, meanings and values that arise from the order of nature.

In contrast to the entrenched, but deficient view of modernity/late-modernity, we can also encounter the world in a direct way, as part of the lived experience of reality. In this view, we see ourselves as part of a greater whole. Significantly, it is here that we discover meaning – in the dynamic world of experiences, relationships, and environmental contexts. Meaning in life is not found in achieving pre-determined objectives, nor in acquiring explicit forms of knowledge. It is found in the act of living in a particular way; it is a form of practice.

Existing technological and analytical models for addressing issues of sustainability through design fail to address the overarching systemic issues that maintain a rising trajectory of resource depletion, energy use and emissions. Therefore, there is a need to foster more fundamental change through consideration of the substantive aspects of purpose, values and meaning.

Stuart Walker’s Quadruple Bottom Line of Sustainability (QBL) provides the ability to incorporate such issues into design practice as a driver for meaningful innovation. Through practice-based engagement, this project will examine the effective use of this design approach in local micro maker-enterprises to develop and implement comprehensive interpretations of design for sustainability. Principal beneficiaries will be local designers and micro maker-enterprises (<10 people).