Design for tomorrow is not about mere problem solving but cultivating a better co-living ecosystem

Design has always been considered as a showcase of a plausible tomorrow that is aesthetically beautiful and meaningful to human lives. With the exponential growth of wicked problems in the world like climate change, design has to now move away from mere problem solving and re-design to something more inclusive – cultivating a tomorrow that is holistically more meaningful to everyone living in this ecosystem.

With countries trying to upgrade their GDP as usual and create more businesses and avenues for employment for its ever growing population, there is a heavy growth of required infrastructure as well as unaccounted consumption. With a growth in average purchasing affordability, one owns multiple cellphones, laptops, TVs, cars and what not, all in the name of getting upgraded to the latest technology; though the need and actual usage could speak a completely different story than the one the owner will in order to rationalize his/her purchase.

Another example of consumerism, if you look at the city of Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat, for the purpose of drinking water, people are habituated and prefer water pouches of INR 2.00 (as in 2017) than getting water bottles from home, just because it’s readily available at every nook and corner of the city, plus you get it chilled too. Since only a smaller percentage of the used plastic pouches reach the recycling facility, the rest (mostly unaccounted and unrealized) goes to the only hills the city has – the hills of waste, landfills in southern Ahmedabad. The roots of the problem, if observed carefully, is not easily traceable but is entwined among human behavior, cultivated habit, available products, evolved desires, awareness and induced ignorance. Merely solving one of the inherent problems may not give a sustainable solution for it might require a more systemic intervention directed towards creating a newer ecosystem – a potential ecosystem that takes care of the need and the environment and yet cultivate a new behavior of usage with responsibility.

Recent major industry inclination towards circular economy, social sustainability and environmental preservation has fueled many design projects in recent times that cater to a holistic ecosystem creation rather than just mere problem solving. Jack Barrie’s Hakysak ( aims to build an environment of collaborative consumption and peer-to-peer sharing by bringing rent-and-lease more readily available and experiential – creating an ecosystem of re-use where one knows what to do with the unused stuff in their lockers. The fabric of Social Seva ( is one of our previous projects that aimed to build collaborations, share resources, and facilitate design thinking among social service organizations to co-learn and co-create. Malav Sanghvi’s Life Cradle aims to cater to the infant mortality cases for low-income groups and and facilitate an environment of innovation of affordable medical solutions. Hasit Ganatra’s ReMaterials ( aims to recycle agricultural and packaging wastes to cater to building materials for the developing nations, exponentially decreasing the dependence on virgin construction materials. Sahil Thappa’s blog and graduation project Ek Prayog ( explores facilitation of an ecosystem of makers and making-culture, building co-creation and co-innovation an inherent part of product innovation.

Building an understanding on how design-for-tomorrow can work, I created a basic design framework that one can use to build an understanding and compiling thoughts for design intervention in order to build a world of well-being. The design process (as illustrated in the image below) can either begin with (A) a projected ecosystem change (backed by references in terms of case studies, ethnographic researches, and experiments), (B) a problem statement (a perceived wicked problem, locally or globally or both), or (C) an ideology (the ideology needs to become a theory first, validated and backed by facts and figures for universal understanding).


Looking at the newer innovations and the global mega-trends (as compiled by Sustainia100, the following trends are predicted as change makers in the world – (1) Cities as health promoters, (2) Making profits from unlikely materials, (3) Disrupting the electrical grid and (4) People-powered data for better infrastructure. This calls for collaboration among individuals and group of individuals from both the same and also diverse backgrounds and expertise, to achieve the goal of designing products and services that are both biophilic, humane and circular economic at the same time.

The time has come when the design pedagogy at design institutes should start looking beyond desire satisfaction and mere re-designing towards fostering innovations for a better tomorrow. Design pedagogy should be directed towards helping budding design students to challenge themselves, build sustainable ideologies and experiment on processes to tangibilize them into designs that can build a more meaningful and acceptable tomorrow.




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