Authors: Tuukka Toivonen (Reader and Course Director, MA Innovation Management), Molly Simpson (researcher, MA Innovation Management) and the Creativity for a New World group
Student-driven research project led by Tuukka Toivonen
Initiated in Autumn 2021, expected to run for 5+ years
Two parallel research streams: social science research stream and design-driven stream
Seeks to generate insights for real-world designers, entrepreneurs, organisations, and policies.
The Physarum Experiments Study No 22: Starvation Fireworks © Heather Barnett
Exploring the Frontiers of Designing with/for Nature
Overcoming the ecological crises of the early 21st century urges us to develop a profoundly different orientation to innovation and design – one that transcends human-centered sustainability and is founded on ‘creating with and for nature’. Rooted in a deep sense of empathy for and direct collaboration with non-human life forms, the call for a regenerative culture invites us to participate as nature, as co-participants in the interconnected living system of which we are a part. This emerging orientation is already beginning to transform diverse industries ranging from fashion and architecture to food, cosmetics, and technology.
However, how well do we really understand how such regenerative or ‘hybrid’ forms of creative activity unfold in practice? Have we grasped in detail how dynamic collaborations between human and non-human co-creators take shape, and have we considered how new design-led interventions could help such collaborations reach their full potential? Further, do our organisations know what steps to take to progress from ‘business as usual’ sustainability strategies with a human-centered lens, to designing and innovating in a way that genuinely enhances the life of human and non-human beings and ecological systems?
Clearly, with only a fraction of today’s innovators, designers and organisations having direct experience of engaging in regenerative creativity, we are barely out of the starting blocks. Our hope is that Creativity for a New World: Exploring the Frontiers of Designing with/for Nature will accelerate this much-needed transition to a regenerative culture of creativity and innovation that is genuinely life-enhancing for the planet and for people.
We anticipate the research group to be a hive of activity in the first quarter of 2022. Research interviews will be carried out with leading-edge biodesigners to provide the foundation to our inquiry; shaping new design-driven interventions with Empathy Artist and Creativity for a New World collaborator Enni-Kukka Tuomala will further embed a philosophy of empathy into the project. We will also be seeking external funding to support our creative investigation, initiating partnerships in the UK and internationally with like-minded organisations, meanwhile continuing to share our work through online articles and video updates.
What student-researchers (MA Innovation Management) are saying about this project and their motivations for joining it
‘The opportunity to support the research project at this point in time and in the creative and forward-thinking environment of Central Saint Martins is an exciting prospect. I am keen to explore the possibilities that startups and enterprises have to align with nature and to thus create a more sustainable and social future.’ – Lena Rissmann, 2023 cohort
‘I believe it is crucial to move regenerative design from an academic to an intersectional and economic context when it comes to finding longer-term alternatives for the biggest polluters. Therefore, with this project, I hope to reshape our relationship with nature, pass on the knowledge and turn it into action steps.’ – Melenie Hecker, 2023 cohort
‘An early career in brand marketing and communications has exposed me to the systemic structures and underlying narratives of human separation that dominate consumer culture. This has inspired my transition towards facilitating narrative change and transformation which is the focus of my MA dissertation and will hopefully contribute to the infrastructure of this emerging research project.’ – Molly Simpson, 2022 cohort
‘I am interested in exploring food innovation and biomimicry and how creating with nature can help elevate the quality of mass food consumption that is proven to be damaging to long-term health. Creating with nature should become part of the user needs identification process as well as product or service innovation. I would like to also strengthen my research skills and form tangible findings through being the research lead for this project.’ – Danah Karam, 2023 cohort
‘I want to focus on the relationship between the fashion industry and our planet, which currently is more of a taking than a giving affair. I am very excited to discover different approaches and capture tangible results with this research group.’ – Lilian Weiermann, 2023