Design for Micro-Utopias: Making the Unthinkable Possible, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Design for Micro-Utopias

Making the Unthinkable Possible, 1st Edition

By John Wood


226 pages

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Paperback: 9781138252424
pub: 2016-09-09
Hardback: 9780754646082
pub: 2007-12-21
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315258157
pub: 2017-03-02
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Everyone is already painfully aware of our predicament - ecological extinctions, dwindling fossil fuel reserves and economic chaos. The solutions are less obvious, despite the many opportunities that surround us. We have never had more access to resources, knowledge and technology but this is not the problem. What we lack most is creative thinking, fuelled by collective optimism. In a pragmatic world run by careerist experts this is hardly surprising. As voters and consumers we are trained to choose and complain, but not how to envisage what we really, really want. How can we design a better world unless we revive the art of dreaming? For without dreams we are lost. Perhaps it should be the duty of all citizens to imagine alternative futures; in effect, to think more like designers. After all, designers have always been dreamers, and have often found ways to realize their dreams. Design for Micro-Utopias does not advocate a single, monolithic Utopia. Rather, it invites readers to embrace a more pluralized and mercurial version of Thomas More's famous 1516 novel of the same name. It therefore encourages the proliferation of many 'micro-utopias' rather than one 'Utopia'. This requires a less negative, critical and rational approach. Referencing a wide range of philosophical thinking from Aristotle to the present day, western and eastern spiritual ideals, and scientific, biological and systems theory, John Wood offers remedies for our excessively individualistic, mechanistic and disconnected thinking, and asks whether a metadesign approach might bring about a new mode of governance. This is a daring idea. Ultimately, he reminds us that if we believe that we will never be able to design miracles we make it more likely that this is so. The first step is to turn the 'impossible' into the 'thinkable'.


'Wood's timely intervention into the politics of sustainability is a breath of fresh air in the current rhetoric of fundamentalist clichés. His personal vision for long-term solutions to the pressing need for action, that centuries of opportunism and expediency now present us with, are original and insightful. This book's great virtue is that it is driven by an idealist passion that remains grounded in Wood's reflections on his experience of the 'every day'…Its final call for new categories and ideas, rather than reactive prohibitions, offers one of the few books on sustainability that does not leave the reader in a slough of dispair.' Michael Punt, Editor-In-Chief, Leonardo Reviews.

'That rare and invaluable commodity, a book that spells out the reality of our current global predicaments but gives room for optimism and a design plan for delivery. As a natural polymath, Professor Wood is one of the only people who could write such a visionary yet practical book.' Professor Martin Woolly, Director of Research, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Our dysfunctional world; The rise of solipsism; Bureaucracy; Academic rigour; Writing the design; Clocks beyond number; Thinking beyond the possible; Synergy; Metadesign; Towards an ethics of flow; Index.

About the Author

John Wood is Professor of Design and Coordinator of the MA Design Futures programme at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He has published many papers and articles on ethics and design and edited 'The Virtual Embodied' (Routledge, 1998). He is also co-founder of the Attainable Utopias network.

About the Series

Design for Social Responsibility

Social responsibility, in various disguises, has been a recurring theme in design for many years. Since the 1960s several more or less commercial approaches have evolved. In the 1970s designers were encouraged to abandon 'design for profit' in favour of a more compassionate approach inspired by Papanek. In the 1980s and 1990s profit and ethical issues were no longer considered mutually exclusive and more market-oriented concepts emerged, such as the 'green consumer' and ethical investment. The purchase of socially responsible, 'ethical' products and services has been stimulated by the dissemination of research into sustainability issues in consumer publications. Accessibility and inclusivity have also attracted a great deal of design interest and recently designers have turned to solving social and crime-related problems. Organisations supporting and funding such projects have recently included the NHS (research into design for patient safety); the Home Office has (design against crime); Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (design decision-making for urban sustainability). Businesses are encouraged (and increasingly forced by legislation) to set their own socially responsible agendas that depend on design to be realised. Design decisions all have environmental, social and ethical impacts, so there is a pressing need to provide guidelines for designers and design students within an overarching framework that takes a holistic approach to socially responsible design. This edited series of guides is aimed at students of design, product development, architecture and marketing, and design and management professionals working in the sectors covered by each title. Each volume includes: ¢ The background and history of the topic, its significance in social and commercial contexts and trends in the field. ¢ Exemplar design case studies. ¢ Guidelines for the designer and advice on tools, techniques and resources available.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
DESIGN / Decorative Arts