A Practice-Based Approach to Sustainable Design Research

The research addresses the challenges of sustainability, including localisation of design and production, as well as substantive values and deeper, enduring understandings of human meaning.

The approach iteratively combines scholarly inquiry, reasoned argument and the development of theory with speculative explorations to create tangible design propositions that both inform and exemplify the theoretical concepts.

These propositional objects, together with the theoretical and philosophical ideas that informed their development, represent an example of creative ‘academic-practice’.

The direction taken recognises that the proliferation of product functionality via microprocessor-based technologies effectively frees ‘form’ to address other areas of significance – taking form beyond function to express deeper human meanings.

Selected publications and presentations in this area include:

Walker, S. “IMAGINATION’S PROMISE: practice-based design research for sustainability”, chapter in The Handbook of Sustainable Design, Berg, Oxford, edited by Walker S. and Giard, J. forthcoming (2012/13).

Walker, S., Design for Sustainability: Practiced-based research in objects, environment and meaning, Keynote Address, International Symposium on Sustainable Design (ISSD) September 29th-30th 2011, UFPE, Recife, Brazil.

Walker, S., Experiments in Design for Social Sustainability, Keynote Address: Sustainability Workshop, Cumulus 2010 Conference, Tonji University, Shanghai, China, September 6-10 2010


Design PhD Studies in this area: Prof. Walker is one of several faculty members involved in the Design PhD conference – an annual event offered in conjunction with Northumbria University. He is particularly interested in hearing from potential Design PhD candidates with interests that would fall within the broad themes of design for sustainability and/or design and human meaning (values, spirituality etc.), or who have interests in practice-based design research.