Session 16 :: Minimalist and Sustainable Futures

15 mins: CLA Discussion Unit 7: Personal futures

You’ve explored alternative futures based on two critical uncertainties this week focused on career choice and other related uncertainty (e.g., research/practice, corporate/freelance, government/NGO). For one such future scenario, you conducted at Causal Layered Analysis to describe the four layers (i.e., litany, social system & structure, worldview, and myths & metaphors). CLA is a structured analysis tool. What did you learn from conducting such an exercise? On what kind of projects might you use CLA type analysis as a designer?

15 mins: OLI questions 

(1) When and why people started to respect minimalism?
(2) How do we reduce wasteful practices in the School of Design?Bottom-up student initiatives?  SAC anyone? Studio based initiatives e.g., composting in grad studio.
(3) Is this type of lifestyle really sustainable from an economic standpoint? Our economy is built on consumerism and I’m not sure what the alternative would be? Consumerism is a relatively new phenomenon:
Another perspective:: 
What are the worldviews and myths linked to consumerism? What might be the worldviews and myths linked to minimalism?Any of you read Walden by Henry David Thoreau? 
Sustainable development
(4) What is the alignment like between finding signs and identifying issues? Do the two words refer to the same idea, or is there a functional difference between them?Signals point to the actual thing in the world.
(5) The minimalists still give a lot of importance to products. They imply that having fewer things will automatically help you focus on what is important. Why can’t we have a rich life when we have more products than we necessarily need?“Paradox of choice” Barry Schwartz

45 mins: In-class assignment: future signs (make a copy; add your name)

You’ve just experienced some future signs around minimalism, post-consumerism, zero-waste lifestyles, and so forth. 


  • Bea Johnson
  • Lauren Singer


Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus

Dave Bruno :: 100 item challenge

Liz Wright :: Throw away 1000 things

(c) ZERO WASTE STARTUP: Lauren Singer


10 item wardrobe (Jennifer L. Scott)

What makes an heirloom? What was a luxury in the past? What might luxury be in a future of zero-waste, local manufacture, minimalism?

5 mins Step 5. Going deeper into future signs (group)

5 mins Step 6. Signal, Issue, and Interpretation. (individual) 

15 mins Step 7. Describe the design opportunity and design concept (individual)

5 mins Step 8. Critique your project (pairs)

10 mins 1 Minute reports back what happened in the groups.

Submit homework for grading.

Recap :: In the OLI homework you made connections between future signs, plausible futures, and STEEP forces. Today you went deeper into futures signs. You sought to engage with more future signs from a design perspective.

Homework :: Unit 8 reflection & OLI page 33 “Normative Futures”

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