30.1 A new role for eco-design: envisaging future systems, revealing the hidden present

Chris Ryan , The Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
The single most important driver for eco-design is climate change which requires revolutionary restructuring of systems of production and consumption, including technology, business, infrastructure and life-styles. Continuous, incremental, improvements will not suffice; ecodesign has produce rapid systemic change in socio-technical systems.  This presents a truly challenging task. Nothing like this has confronted human society before; it demands a level of collective intelligence, foresight and purpose and a social commitment to experimentation and change that is truly unprecedented.
A design research and visioning project in Australia, the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab (VEIL) has two years of work to “change the landscape of expectations” of a sustainable future. The project enlists designers, researchers, government policy advisors and design students in four universities to generate visions of (possible) sustainable futures.   
This paper provides an opportunity to reflect on a model of future design visioning that has been evolving through the VEIL program. VEIL aims to intervene in the ‘conceptual market’, the field of future consumption possibilities in which people live out their daily lives. The process has used a literary device to focus productive engagement in future visioning – a series of documents describe a “retrospective history of the next 25 years” to elaborate the ‘drivers of change’ that have shaped the unfolding future. This deliberately leaves open the resultant physical and organisational outcomes of the forces described; visioning is then the creative task of exploring and co-producing (many) possible configurations of daily life that could have resulted from such forces. As the project has limited resources for detailed modelling a process of ‘feedback’ has been devised as a new form of ‘back-casting’ in which the critical methodological components have become:  the idea of ‘plausible testability’; the concept of ‘trajectories of development’ and ‘revealing the present’.