An Ecology for Design: From the Natural, Through the Artificial, To the Un-Natural

By Viveka Turnbull Hocking.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The term ‘ecology’ used as a metaphor was picked up by the discipline of Design in the late 1980’s with theorists such as Branzi, Manzini, Pantzar and Krippendorff’s exploration of ‘the ecology of the artificial’. This ecological metaphor played an important part in the re-assessment of Design’s role in line with social and environmental issues. As evident in the Munich Design Charter of 1990, an ecological model was used to initiate a debate over the fundamental role Design plays in developing our future. However, during the ensuing decade and a half, understanding of ‘ecology’ and notions of sustainability have changed considerably. This paper aims to re-visit the ecological metaphor, to see if ‘ecology’ is still a useful context for understanding how Design can play a role in sustainable change. The paper will start with a brief exploration of what ‘ecology’ has come to mean. It will go on to show how ‘ecology’ has been used by the field of Design, particularly as a metaphor in the phrase ‘ecology of the artificial’. It concludes by proposing a context for Design that might be more effective in conceptualising how the field can be of significant value in sustainable change.

Keywords: Sustainable Design, Systems Approach, The Ecology of the Artificial, Design Theory, Ecological Metaphor, Interdisciplinary Design

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.41-54. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.207MB).

Viveka Turnbull Hocking

PhD Candidate, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Human Ecology Department, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Viveka studied at the University of New South Wales in Zoology, Philosophy and Design, graduating with a Bachelor of Design with honours. She is now conducting her PhD with the Australian National University, looking at design-led methods for sustainability research. Viveka convenes the Creative Research Discussion Group and is also a Lecturer and Tutor for the School of Design and Architecture at the University of Canberra and at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University.


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