Designing for Transitions

Track Chairs

Dan Lockton,
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA

Joanna Boehnert,
University of Westminster, London, UK

Ingrid Mulder,
TU Delft, Delft, Netherlands

“Transition Design acknowledges that we are living in ‘transitional times’. It takes as its central premise the need for societal transitions to more sustainable futures and argues that design has a key role to play in these transitions. It applies an understanding of the interconnectedness of social, economic, political and natural systems to address problems at all levels of spatiotemporal scale in ways that improve quality of life. Transition Design advocates the reconception of entire lifestyles, with the aim of making them more place-based, convivial and participatory and harmonizing them with the natural environment” (Irwin, Kossoff, Tonkinwise, and Scupelli 2015)

This track at DRS 2018 welcomes emerging approaches to design research at the intersection of sustainable design and sociotechnical systems theory. Exemplary are the growing international research communities explicitly centred around Transition Design or Systemic Design, aiming to strengthen the role of design in the context of societal challenges. Whether considered in terms of everyday social practices, at a community scale or at the level of global challenges, a framing around designing for transitions brings together considerations of temporality, futures, different types of literacies, participation, social innovation, human needs, and interconnectedness. Designing for transitions involves designing how transitions are conceived, enacted, governed and managed. 

The Designing for Transitions track aims to build bridges between scholars and designers who work on transition in design, whether their work is explicitly framed in terms of transitions, or whether they encompass expertise and framings which take a broader view on design for social sustainability.

Indicative references:

Terry Irwin, Gideon Kossoff, Cameron Tonkinwise and Peter Scupelli, 2015.

‘Transition Design:  A new area of design research, practice and study that proposes design-led societal transition toward more sustainable futures’. Available at: (Accessed 14 May 2017)

Peter Jones, 2016. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD5) 2016 Symposium. Available at: (Accessed 30 Apr 2017)

Ezio Manzini, 2015. Design, When Everybody Designs – An Introduction to Design for Social Innovation. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.