Statement of Intent
Design for Sustainability Master of Arts Candidacy | Savannah College of Art and Design
The Design for Sustainability Master of Arts program presents a three-pronged approach to innovation. Technical, perceptual and social innovation are employed as means to addressing environmental, economic and social wellbeing. The program’s core courses of study promote triple bottom line thinking through a systems lens in which solving for pattern is pivotal while emphasizing the diversity of each students’ experiences and aspirations. It is within this holistic approach to education that my past experience with the built environment’s effect on human behavior and emerging interests in the role that design can play in empowering human culture to prioritize social equity and environmental justice has been fostered.
I agree with the statement in the United Nation’s Agenda 21 that “the prospect of inevitable global environmental disaster or worldwide social upheaval must not be the legacy we leave our children” 1 and want to commit myself to a professional and personal life of creative action that does not limit the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The farsighted effects of design decisions were rarely examined in my past professional experience with luxury aviation design. It bothered me deeply and inspired me to seek a professional change that would support a purpose driven life. I took the opportunity to volunteer on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana helping a family to build their own straw bale home as a part of a sustainable housing initiative that incorporated construction and design as youth development. In a span of a few months, I experienced the dramatic difference between what those who spend several million dollars on a private jet desire for the future, and what those who only volunteerism and charity can afford them a home of their own desire. The contrast of those experiences catalyzed me towards a redefining of myself as a designer, and set me on a trajectory towards the embodiment of Charles Eames’ definition of the purpose of design, which is that design does not address itself to the greatest number, or the specialist of an enlightened matter or to a privileged class, but rather, design simply addresses itself to the need.
Design’s role in society has experienced major shifts and more recently has found itself of use in problem solving within complex systems to address wicked problems. 2 Shifting mindsets and changing behaviors are daunting tasks, but sustainability designers do not design alone. They know that acting in isolation provides limited perspective and narrow, short-sighted solutions. “An object seen in isolation from the whole is not the real thing” 3 and so truth in understanding is sought out through collaborating across boundaries and employing lateral thinking, acknowledging intuition and recognizing patterns. Through this method of design thinking 4 designers are able to truly see the larger systems and can develop good solutions; solutions that solve for more than one problem, and do not make new ones. 5 I have confidence in the ability for design to innovate ways to create a sustainable world that learns to restore and regenerate. The Design for Sustainability program has cultivated in me a sense of optimism about the future state of humanity on this planet despite the abundance of wicked problems we all face. Now, with a foundational knowledge of sustainability theories and experience putting to practice sustainable principles, I feel equipped to embark on a professional future using design as a means to address the needs of our planet and all its creatures. Specifically, I believe sense of place is pivotal in fostering environmental stewardship and cultural pride and therefore believe we must fill ourselves with “love for neighbor and for earth [by] resisting, remaking, restoring, renewing and revitalizing.” 6 Design can empower people to become “living and contributing members of a particular place”, 7 whether that be our neighborhoods or planet, and be the catalyst for “re-membering” 8 to occur. “Tapping into the consciousness and spirit of the people engaged in a place is likely the only way to sustain sustainability” 7 and I want this aim to be at the core of all the design work I do.
I am attracted to the malleable nature of a sustainability designer using sustainability as a framework upon which decisions can be built, and look forward to a life-long career where I experience contributing to projects as co-creator, communicator, strategist, capability builder, innovator, researcher or facilitator. Though my role may change, I hope to hold steadfast to the principle that sustainability is not about what it means to me, but what it means them, and for that sake, always design with, not for, remembering to measure success on the things that really matter: knowledge, creativity, relationships, health, consciousness and happiness. 9 Brittney Boudwin, Winter 2015
1 Margolin, V. (2002). Design for a Sustainable World. In The politics of the artificial: Essays on design and design studies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
2 A wicked problem is a social or cultural problem that is difficult or impossible to solve for as many as four reasons: incomplete or contradictory knowledge, the number of people and opinions involved, the large economic burden, and the interconnected nature of these problems with other problems. (wickedproblems.com)
3 Fukuoka, M. (2009). The one-straw revolution: An introduction to natural farming. New York: New York Review Books.
4 Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” —Tim Brown (ideo.com)
5 Berry, W. (1981). Solving for Pattern. In The gift of good land: Further essays, cultural and agricultural. San Francisco: North Point Press.
6 Bill McKibben
7 Reed, B. (2009). Reframing Sustainability. In The integrative design guide to green building: Redefining the practice of sustainability. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley.
8 “We are now rediscovering the whole system of life in each unique place, rather than focusing on the fragmented parts in which we have been taught to specialize. We are being called to become indigenous once again–to become living and contributing members of a particular place. We are re-membering.” – Bill Reed
9 BALLE: Measure What Matters,