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Designing the Future – Understanding Metadesign from the students at Goldsmiths College

Author: Meaghan McClure, Connie Preston, Marie Hagen and Bruno Volpi
Published Date: 6 May 2015

After a great sharing session between the international students on the MA Design Futures and Metadesign students from Goldsmiths College in London, and So Jung and Louise from SIX, Meaghan McClure, Connie Preston, Marie Hagen and Bruno Volpi offered to write a short piece explaining their course and how the approach to metadesign and social innovation is similar.

We look forward to exploring ways to collaborate with them in the future!


Metadesign is a framework that encourages design to be re-designed. It is about facilitating a process by giving interdisciplinary teams the tools, space and support to work through an issue. A metadesigner leads the group by using methods which, after mapping ideas and discussing limitations, allow innovative solutions to emerge. Thereafter, it is up to the community group, company or organization to take the next step of implementation of their solution. Using design thinking processes, this solution can be reassessed further down the line using the same tools taught to them by the metadesigner. Metadesigning starts with taking a systemic and holistic approach to engagement with communities, environments and species. We empathize and discover on a local level, to then zoom out to see the global impact of our process and outcome. We can take that view and predict a future that reflects the values, resources and history of those involved. The process must be done in collaboration and designed as deeply self-reflective to each participant. 

Metadesign is similar to civic and social innovation in that it "can be a process that inspires institutional change, it requires a culture shift that re-frames current processes and results in meaningful structural change (Black and Burnstein, 2013)." Tools created in metadesign workshops have the aim of being creatively democratic and foster the idea of design becoming a facilitator for social innovation that will encourage us think beyond what is possible. If we cannot use our imaginations and extend beyond broken systems, then it will be impossible to create new and innovative ones.  

MA Design Futures at Goldsmiths College suggests the creative speculating of alternative futures. Do we know what kind of world we want to live in? What kind of positive change can we make now to realize it? By proposing scenarios, solutions and systems now we are adding to a store of tools, resources, structures and ideas to open up new possibilities for futures to come. Our course has a focus on sustainability and socially-responsive design. How can designers have a meaningful impact in our world? 

We are an international group of seven people from six countries with different academic and professional backgrounds attending the MA in Design Futures and Metadesign. Expertise among us includes graphic design, architecture, computer science, service design and anthropology. It has been proven essential to do this kind of design practice in groups less than ten for the in-depth, personal nature of the process. It also contrasts to each of our previous experiences in education. As we explore the principles and methods of the Metadesign approach, we gain creative confidence by discovering who we want to be and what social impact we want to have.

The common thread amung us is wanting to help people live and work more sustainably, socially, economically and ethically. We are interested in identifying situations where Metadesign can help encourage these modes of being by challenging old patterns and facilitating new change with the people who will carry it through. Our course, design futures, comes from this belief of designing possible futures that haven't been thought of yet. Before September, our group of seven aims to experiment with the tools, processes, concepts and models in a professional and collaborative way, giving us the confidence to use the methodology in our upcoming career ventures.