Design Realities: Creativity, Nature and the Human Spirit, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Design Realities

Creativity, Nature and the Human Spirit, 1st Edition

By Stuart Walker


342 pages | 41 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2018-10-26
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Design Realities explores a wide range of topics on creativity, design and spiritual well-being. Using critique, rational inquiry and personal reflection, Stuart Walker looks squarely at our contemporary condition, demonstrates how current assumptions and material expectations are becoming untenable and, most importantly, offers constructive new directions that are feasible, spiritually enriching, and hopeful.

Comprising short essays, lyrical pieces, photo studies and longer discourses, this book takes us on a highly readable and enjoyable journey through some of the most pressing issues of our time. The innovative, intuitive format makes these topics readily accessible, while providing much food for thought about the changing nature of creativity in today’s world.

Written by a leading thinker in the field, this highly original book offers readers something to ponder, discuss, contest and build upon.


"What this book does best is bringing together for the first time some very useful foundational concepts for creative practice in a society that holds holistic well-being as a priority. In the era of ‘future thinking’, ‘smart cities’ and ‘ecosystem design’, I wonder how many scholars have set out to consider and reflect on the makeup and characteristics of the ‘cultural software’ – the historical, ideological and philosophical assumptions – that drives them. Without a doubt, what Walker has produced here is a non-instrumental comprehensive compendium of reflections, directions and premises to build upon, which is well-suited to that purpose."

Laura Santamaria (2019): The Design Journal,

"Inspiringly radical but solidly grounded, this turns conventional norms on their head and offers a more meaningful foundation for design."

Christopher Day MBE, Architect, author of Places of the Soul and The Eco-Home Design Guide

"A rich compendium of sensitive reflections, poems, memories, critical reviews, and short combative essays, this book revisits the designer’s quest for values in a world overwhelmed by consumerism, greed, speed and seemingly unending environmental stupidity. Garnered from a lifetime of reading, travel, teaching and reflective design praxis, the short pieces in this book traverse a vast but always rewarding terrain. The journey is lively and enjoyable, and is lit up from within by the author’s erudition, sensitivity, deep respect for tradition and skill, and persistent ethical and aesthetic sensibility. I am confident that this book of glittering fragments will have a greater impact on young designers than many more seemingly essential tomes in design theory."

Robert Crocker, University of South Australia, author of Someone Else’s Problem: Consumerism, Sustainability and Design

"Design is a discipline that should be looking at the bigger picture. In this book, Stuart Walker has indeed looked at the bigger picture. This is a fascinating autobiography of thought – Walker has reflected on every facet of the world today and suggested alternatives for tomorrow. This is not purely a design thesis but an extremely accessible collection of essays, poems and pictures that engender both contemplation and discourse. Every design student and designer, indeed everyone, should read and discuss."

Rachel Cooper, Distinguished Professor of Design Policy, Lancaster University

"Having read Stuart Walker’s Design Realities there were times when having finished one entry I thought I’d read just one more. With words and images Walker takes us on a very personal journey through time and space contextualized with the experience of an integrating thinker who designs as a manifestation of his life. It will resonate with anyone who thinks or designs and has thought about how we got here, what we might do to make ‘here’ better and how we might leave a legacy that is worth leaving."

JohnPaul Kusz, FIDSA, President JPKusz, Ltd., USA

"We have all heard the figures about C02 emissions, sea level rise and species loss, but we find it difficult to translate these numbers into actions. Stuart Walker provides us with a way of experiencing the urgency and magnitude of environmental degradation through essays, poetry and design objects. Avoiding a didactic approach, he finds more accessible ways of engaging audiences, and in doing so gets to all the places that data and statistics can’t reach."

Suzy Jones, Director, RIBA North – National Architecture Centre

"Design Realities will benefit readers not only in their design practice but also in their thinking. It encourages us all to face up to the reality of the design process and to care much more about nature and people’s true needs."

Professor Huiqin Zhang, Dean, School of Language and Culture, Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology

"Stuart Walker’s thoughtful and well-argued observations offer a powerful perspective on the state of today’s world – where we’ve come from; where we are; and where we should head to in the future. It is a compelling book shaped by a unique human touch and I, for one, feel changed by reading it."

Mark Byford, Author and journalist, Former Deputy Director General, BBC

"In Design Realities, Walker questions, often in a challenging way, deep-rooted notions of our contemporary world. This kaleidoscopic, thought-provoking collection of insights, suggestions and stimulations makes the reader think – and think hard about the realities of what we value and what it all means. It takes you on a journey without defining the destination. So get on board, hold tight and enjoy the ride."

Professor Martyn Evans, Head of Manchester School of Art Research Centre, Manchester Metropolitan University

"Design Realities is excellent. It just makes so much sense! How it is, how it could be, and where we need to go, combined with having each written component broken into so many bite-sized chunks, makes it so easy to understand. … It really is a masterpiece."

Niklavs Rubenis, School of Art & Design, The Australian National University


Stuart Walker is a leading thinker in the design for sustainability field, and this strikingly original book offers something to ponder, discuss, contest and build upon.

… with [its] hopeful and positive message the author shows us that we can, indeed, create new realities not only by engaging with the outer world, but more importantly, by being present in the process of renewal that should be constantly taking place deep within ourselves."

Laura Santamaria, Editor in Chief, Sublime

"My design philosophy is based on my life philosophy and Design Realities being perfectly aligned with that, is my ‘go to’ place for knowledge and inspiration. It is essentially my mentor".

Dean Thom, Industrial Design Engineering Student, RCA and Imperial College, London

Amazon Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars More than just a collection of essays!

9 January 2019

Format: Paperback

"Although I am not a design student Stuart Walker's book resonated with me on many different levels, particularly in terms of its emphasis on sustaining, building on and finding new directions for all that is good in our environment, society, culture and design traditions. It marries academic argument with more personal reflections, poetry and photography that lend harmony and accessibility to the whole, and underline the overarching message. I had expected to just dip in and out, but instead found myself fully absorbed from start to finish."

5.0 out of 5 stars A book of thoughts and inspiration

14 January 2019

Format: Paperback

"I am dipping in and out of this book and finding that each page contains gems (and ideas) which seem to come from Stuart Walker’s heart. It is making me reflect on how I live my life on a daily basis, in a very positive way. It contains stimulating ideas, of topics which I have never even thought of and all in all, I am delighted to have come across it and to be reading it. Thank you Stuart Walker"

Table of Contents

Part 1: Reality 1. As it is 2. A Competitive State 3. Share Price 4. Property 5. Branded 6. Inversion 7. Unbranded 8. Reality 9. Prestige 10. Icarus Falls 11. Sellers All 12. Waste 13. Bypassed 14. Fair Game 15. What else is on? 16. My next fear 17. Time closed 18. A Moment in the Life of a Reed 19. Illusions of forever 20. Local? 21. Burying Your Dead in the Sand 22. Air 23. Carbon 24. Becoming Human 25. Internationalization 26. Craft ’n Kitsch 27. Modern and Traditional 28. Design Think 29. Enough 30. Damage 31. Seeing Part 2: Another Reality 32. How should we live? 33. Moderation 34. Legacy 35. Ashes of Myopia 36. Closest to the Dreaming 37. Fragile 38. Being Alive 39. Nature’s Wisdom 40. Repeated Patterns 41. Profits and People 42. Return to Syros 43. What reward have ye? 44. Atomization 45. Lost 46. Authenticity 47. Change 48. Seriously 49. New 50. The Comb Shop 51. Repair 52. Resurrection 53. Photograph 54. The Human Touch 55. Perspective 56. Art 57. Drive 58. Elevator 59. And more 60. Economy 61. Beyond Protectionism 62. IP 63. Commonality and Originality 64. Secular Society 65. Sacred Time 66. Misreading Religion 67. A Stultifying Dualism 68. Faith 69. Rubens’ Jesus 70. Enculturated Blindness 71. A Christmas Story 72. Mythic Objects 73. Another Reality Part 3: A Future Reality 74. A Wisdom Economy 75. Fair Share 76. Design Rhapsody 77. Spiritual Renewal 78. Cultural Highs and Lows 79. Improving Things 80. Moving on 81. One Manifestation of Wisdom 82. Why 83. After this? 84. A Creative Life 85. Delicate, Evanescent Things 86. Useless Things 87. Dying to Create 88. Live 89. RAW Design 90. Ruination 91. Rejuvenation 92. Things that Endure 93. The Mark Made 94. Handmade 95. Whittling 96. Foraging 97. Artefacts 98. Life 99. Improvisation 100. Progressive Design Praxis

About the Author

Stuart Walker is Professor of Design for Sustainability and a Director of the ImaginationLancaster design research centre at Lancaster University. His research focuses on design for sustainability; product aesthetics and meaning; practice-based design research; and product design that explores and expresses human values and notions of spirituality. He has written and edited numerous books and his propositional and experimental design work has been exhibited across Canada, in Italy and the UK, including an exhibition at the Design Museum, London.

He is Visiting Professor of Sustainable Design at Kingston University, UK, and Emeritus Professor at the University of Calgary, Canada.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / General
ART / History / General
ART / Study & Teaching
DESIGN / General
DESIGN / History & Criticism
BODY, MIND & SPIRIT / Spiritualism