New unique master's programme - Design Ecologies!

18 November 2021

About living systems, relationships, ecological literacy and scorpions. Martín Ávila is a Professor of design and responsible for the master's programme for new students from the autumn of 2022 called Design Ecologies. Here he talks about the new content.

What has not been designed by the human hand? The newborn human? The untouched nature? The idea of the massive impact boggles the mind - the one that production, consumption, materials, energy, processes constitute. Thinking sustainably is necessary. This applies to the design educations as well, here a greater responsibility must be taken to better equip the students for all of the challenges we face in the present and in the future. Hence the new master's programme Design Ecologies.

– My colleagues and I have long discussed having a different, more relational and collective approach in education and also trying to define what sustainability in design really means on an artistic basis. When the anthropocentric, global design culture produces "the artificial" at a time when human activity threatens biodiversity and causes severe climate change, it becomes obvious that natural and artificial systems can no longer be thought of in isolation. They must be regarded in relation to each other – or in fact as one large system. Design Ecologies is the answer, says Professor Martín Ávila and develops on the meaning:

– We see the concept of design ecologies as the sum of the relationships made possible through design. We concentrate on industrial design, systems and relationships that exist in the processes and in the products entire cycle. We train designers who understand and can interact with other living systems and in that way support both social and biological diversity. In short, we explore opportunities that can lead to new sustainable ways of living, he explains.

Design ecologies can also be described as a new and in-depth view of the subject of sustainability in relation to design. Another concept, relatively new in the dictionaries, is "ecological literacy" (ecological knowledge, freely translated) that the students in the programme develop. Simply the ability to understand the principles of different ecological relationships, about how life is all about interdependence. This knowledge is developed in the education through design-driven exploration, which then forms the basis for design proposals that can contribute to sustainable societal development.

Martín Ávila also talks about the concept of design ecologies as something life-affirming and "sustainability that enables continued life". As for the scorpions in his postdoc project a few years ago. In short, part of it was about coexistence not only with nice pets but also with others, for example life-threatening animals.

One of the more common fatalities in central Argentina are children and the elderly who become stung by a scorpion in the shower. In Martín's research project, a series of products was therefore developed that, among other things, highlighted the danger and gave the residents a relationship to the "underworld" of the sewage systems where these scorpions live. A relationship that did not previously exist and which made the residents disconnected from the place they live in.

– As far as I know, Konstfack is the only university that has so far taken on the subject of design ecologies in Europe in an entire programme, and we are proud of that. Being "ecologically savvy" is really vital for every designer today, no matter what field they work in, concludes Martín Ávila.

Read more about Design Ecologies here.