Design For Planet Systemic Design Toolkit workshops

Alastair Somerville
3 min readMar 16, 2023
Design For Planet logo

I am working with the Design Council to develop facilitation materials based on their Systemic Design Framework, part of their mission to Design for Planet.

The paper, which was published in 2021, outlines a systemic approach to design practice which they are now developing into tools aimed at designers.

Workshop purpose

What the workshops will concentrate on is the opening moments of a climate crisis project.

Meeting and aligning with groups of people who are coming from different communities, with differing levels of emotion and commitment and with divergent ideas of what should be done and could be done.

From my work perspective, this is about the facilitation of multiple forms of discomfort; like disconnection and distrust.

Design interventions need a foundation of comfort and trust. A project without some kind of alignment and connection at the start in unlikely to succeed.

  • Come along if you are an individual or corporate designer.
  • Come along if you are an individual or organisational activist.
  • Come along if you are full of hope or fear about the climate crisis.

For the workshop, it is that final part that matters to me. The emotions.

Emotions

For the systemic toolkit to work, the organisations and designers using it need to be aware of the many senses of emotions (hope, fear, hate, love and complete disinterest) that swirl around.

Emotion both valorise experiences (providing a scale of meaning) and constrict cognition (reducing perception of alternative meanings). The climate crisis induces strong emotions and we need to recognise, validate and work with them.

How we meet at the start and how we feel individually and communally matters.

Workshop participation

The workshops are both a time to share methods and practices together and a time to test the usability of the toolkit in a workshop format.

What matters to me is participants bringing their own humanity to the workshop.

It is the emotions that are central to this workshop. The sense of hope or despair motivating the desire to create change. The mixture of feelings from positive brightness about new possibilities to the cynicism of previous failures.

As we spend time together using different design tools, we also spend time talking explicitly about our emotions.

That is the hardest thing I seek from participants: an openness to discuss their feelings amongst people who may feel very differently.

I am offering new tools and methods. I am seeking emotional honesty.

Safety

I am aware this means I must facilitate and support that honesty throughout the workshop. This is something I will write about in pre-workshop materials. Safety is crucial when discomfort is anticipated.

We need tenderness when being vulnerable.

Workshop dates (estimated)

4 one-day workshops in final two weeks of April. Workshop numbers of between 10 to 20 people.

3 in-person and 1 online.

19th April Stroud 10.00–16.30

20th April Bristol

25th April London

27th April Online 13.00–19.30 (London)

I am open to running additional workshops for organisations and communities who are interested in this topic in other towns in the UK in April. The deadline is that I need to deliver a report and facilitation package by the end of May.

Poster

Online Workshop poster

Download the poster to share from Dropbox: Pdf of Online Workshop Poster.

Contact

If you want to participate in one of the workshops, please contact me by email a.somerville@acuity.design or on Twitter @acuity_design. You can also use the Contact form.

If you have any comments or queries, just let me know. I am open to both advice and criticism. What I want is to help designers, organisations and individuals find ways to use the toolkit to help design for the planet.

Originally published at https://acuity.design on March 16, 2023.

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Alastair Somerville

Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. www.linkedin.com/in/alastair-somerville-b48b368 Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX