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Transformative Design

My current work focuses on formulating human-centered, transdisciplinary early-phase design strategies that seek to create desirable and sustainable changes and solutions, ultimately supporting people-planet well-being. 

Status Quo

  • The top 20 research and development spenders in the U.S. spend an estimated $142 billion each year, yet 40-45% of that money and immense amounts of resources (e.g., material, energy, human capital) are invested in user-centric products that never make it to the market and end up as pollutants, scrap, or waste (Christie et al., 2012).

  • Vulnerabilities that are embedded in the system, in the form of design deficiencies and poor human factors, lead to breakdowns and increases in the number of physical injuries, work absence, environmental disasters, and hazards, which lead to significant financial, reputational and organizational losses (Norman, 2013)

  • ....sustainability, health, security, and the joy of living are under a stringent threat (National Academy of Engineering, 2017). 

  • 44,000 to 98,000 preventable deaths occur annually due to medical errors in U.S. hospitals (Corrigan et al., 2000).

  • Modern products are plagued with design flaws that lead to product recalls, errors, obsolescence, safety risks, and market failures (Pahl, 2007).

  • Workplace accidents and injuries cost over $150 billion per year (National Safety Council, 2021).

  • Lack of human factors engineering competency is widely acknowledged as contributing to the abovementioned problems—harming people and overstretching the planet's resources—leading to the deterioration of well-being (Dul et al., 2012).

A Better Model 

I argue that a shift is needed from a short-sighted, reductionist, resource-hungry conventional design thinking approach to a future-focused, holistic, sustainable transformative design mindset.

If the shift does not happen, then: 

  • inadequately designed products and systems will continue to be built, and attaining well-being at the people-planet frontier will not be possible.

  • existing practices will likely contribute to the further perpetuation of unnecessary time, resources, and expense being invested in product design that deteriorates well-being.​

  • The transformative design mindset makes transdisciplinary connections and seeks towards desirable and sustainable solutions or changes, ultimately positively impacting people-planet well-being. 

  • It uses a collection of analytical and creative design principles, technologies, and approaches that put people-planet well-being at the front and center.

Transdisciplinary design mindset

Transformative design mindset fosters transdisciplinary connections.

  • Unlike other design models that consider natural systems unlimited and the broadest, we argued that the "design ecosystem" incorporates all multi-dimensional entities, including natural and human-made systems.

  • The Life-Centered Design (LCD) lens portrays a holistic, interconnected system-thinking model suitable for evolving design methods to facilitate people-planet well-being.

  • LCD lens endorses a radical shift from conventional user-, human-, or environment-centric models to a broader model that captures the design ecosystem with the full picture in mind.

Life-centered design ecosystem

Under the design ecosystem model, humans and human-made systems co-exist and evolve within natural systems. 

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