Scales, spheres and relationships: an approach to educating future designers

Tania Ivanka, Yoko Akama, Melisa Duque, Juan Sanin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review


In this paper we argue that the current conceptions of sustainability through the Triple Bottom Line are limited, resulting in the social and environmental bottom lines being traded off against economic concerns. Design education reinforces a linear reductionist paradigm of practice. When applied to design for sustainability this paradigm echoes the prioritisation of the economic bottom line through eco-efficient design. So when students are confronted by the complexity of wicked problems and sustainability, they can become overwhelmed and default to eco-efficiency solutions. Our insights are drawn from critical reflection on design education for sustainability practice, a literature review of design education for sustainability and a reflective workshop with education practitioners. These insights have led us to develop a reflective framework of six spheres to enable a more holistic understanding of design
for sustainability. By visualising these spheres as interconnected, students and
designers can engage in constructive reflection and conversations about their ideas in a world of complexity and interconnectedness.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnmaking Waste 2015 Conference Proceedings
EditorsKatharine Thornton
Place of PublicationAdelaide, SA, Australia
PublisherZero Waste SA Research Centre for Sustainable Design and Behaviour, School of Art, Architecture and Design, University of South Australia
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)978-0-9943360-7-1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes
EventUnmaking Waste 2015: Transforming Production and Consumption in Time and Place - University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
Duration: 22 May 201524 May 2015


ConferenceUnmaking Waste 2015: Transforming Production and Consumption in Time and Place
Internet address


  • design education
  • sustainability
  • wicked problems
  • visualisation
  • scaffolding

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