learning & institutions

What kinds of seeds?

Global design education in a nasty bind. There are hints of the dot com boom a decade ago. New products [courses] have been launched at a frantic rate in recent years. New buildings are springing up. Global aggregators have even started buying design schools; an obscure American multinational, Laureate Universities, purchased Domus Academy and Naba, recently. But […]

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What Kind of Design Institutes for India?

A decision by the Indian government set up four new National Institutes of Design [NIDs] in the country has sparked a lively debate about the kinds of design they should teach. An influential group of design thought-leaders has launched a campaign called VisionFirst that calls for a “rigorous co-creation process to bring clarity to the […]

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Africa, Where Events Are King. John Thackara talks to Mugendi M’Rithaa

First published in Design Observer. [Introduction] As the global crisis unfolds, interest in alternative economic and social models is growing – and with it, attention to what we might learn from Africa. Most of us in the North are badly informed about a continent that is home to over 900 million people, living in 53 […]

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Next-generation biennials

I just got back from Oslo where their Architecture Triennial has opened. I participated in its main conference, Man Made Tomorrow and will report on that event soon. But ahead of the conference, Bjarne Ringstad, curator of the Triennial, asked me to reflect on how the role of such set-piece events might evolve to match […]

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From philanthrocapitalism to an eco-social economy

(Summer re-run: first published July 2009) This scary hand smashing through the wall to get you is the logo of last month’s Insead conference on social entrepreneurship. Its slogan was “Reaching For Impact”. I’ve written critically here before about the assumptions that underly “design for development” – so I won’t repeat the whole argument. And […]

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Unplugged – or unhinged?

(Summer re-run) I’m reading reading a moving and important book by Sharon Astyk called “Depletion and Abundance: Life On The New Home Front”. Uniquely among recent books on life after the Peaks – energy, protein, biodiversity etc – Astyk does not write to scare us all witless. She does not write about elaborate ways to […]

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Traditional knowledge: the dilemmas of sharing

I learn from Kris de Decker’s excellent Low Tech Magazine that an International Traditional Knowledge World Bank (ITKI)has been launched. It’s an ambitious effort to preserve, restore and promote the re-use of traditional skills and inventions from all over the world. Someone has done a lot of work to set this project up. There are […]

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True Cost Design – In Three Steps


The text of my talk at the ‘Lens’ conference in Bangalore in 2010.

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Bonfire of the Literacies: Service Design for Higher Education


Service design for higher education (sort of)

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