Design for Planet 2023 sets sights on repairability, mobility and decarbonisation

Design Council chief design officer Cat Drew explains the themes and topics in this year’s Design for Planet festival.

The Design Council has revealed the Design for Planet Festival 2023 programme, featuring topics such as repairability, carbon reduction and mobility, with an overarching theme of collaboration.

“Collaborate” was chosen as the core theme because tackling the climate crisis “is too great for any one designer to address alone”, says Design Council chief design officer Cat Drew. Beyond the industry, Drew believes that designers must also collaborate with consumers, supply chains, “with nature as a co-designer”, and with professions in other sectors such as ecologists and scientists.

In response to the theme, speakers at the festival will discuss “how they have collaborated as part of their work”, with collaborative workshops taking place in the digital space, Drew adds.

More specific topics, like reducing carbon emissions, increasing biodiversity and repairability, come up in the festival programme. Drew explains how important repairability is, as well as reducing use of “natural resources”, as waste is “one of the top three greenhouse gas emitters”. Redesigning mobility is another key focus in the programme as “17% of emissions come from land transport” in the UK.

“In both cases collaboration is needed, between consumers and brands, and between engineering and design sectors”, Drew reinforces.

What to expect

Over 60 cross-industry experts will speak at the festival, each from diverse disciplines of sustainability and design, including mobility, policy, energy, education and built environment. Events have been split into three categories: main stage, the how-to series and a collaborative discussion/workshop series.

After a welcome talk from Minnie Moll, the first day will kick off with two keynotes. Will Drury, the interim executive director of government agency Innovate UK – which has funded multiple design-led projects and organisations over the years – will take the first slot, followed by Architects Climate Action Network diversity and solidarity coordinator Rosie Murphy.

Day One main stage highlights include panels on designing our way out of the energy crisis, future use of materials, collaborative workshops on consumer opinions on sustainability and working towards adaptation and resilience together. In the how-to series, attendees can expect advice on how to decarbonise your local council, use carbon accounting tools, develop climate conscious branding and make businesses more carbon literate.

Design anthropologist, researcher, and OCAD University Toronto’s dean of the faculty of design Dr Dori Tunstall will wrap up the fist day with a keynote talk. Tunstall was the first ever black dean of any design school in the world.

On the second day, Fairphone founder Bas van Abel will deliver the first keynote followed by panels on designing for future mobility and our food systems, as well as a roundtable on repairability on the mainstage. Other highlights are a talk on green set design, a repair workshop and a look at the next steps in design education.

Drew hopes that festival goers will be inspired by “the power of design” and that the festival content will facilitate a “shift to a regenerative future”.

“We hope people see that collaboration is an essential part of this work, and move from seeing themselves as individuals doing amazing things in isolation, to being part of a collective movement sharing knowledge and working together on a bigger mission”, she adds.

Where will it take place?

The free-to-attend festival coincides with COP 28, taking place on Tuesday 17 October and Wednesday 18 October 2023 at the Enterprise Centre, University of East Anglia in Norwich. The Enterprise Centre was showcased as one of the world’s most sustainable buildings at COP 26, as it was constructed with low-carbon local materials, including pine and a recycled sand and aggregate concrete mix.

The building is clad in Norfolk thatch and reed and also features 100% recycled paper insulation, hemp fabric, reprocessed glass, clay plaster and nettle boards as well as biodiversity elements like insect hotels, bat and bird boxes and display bed terraces.

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