From Design Economies to Design Ecologies

Jennifer Leonard

Jennifer is a member of IDEO’s Design Community in California. She is a graduate of the design think-tank the Institute without Boundaries, the University of Western Ontario and Queen’s University. She studied at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of Western Ontario, where she won the Top Researcher award and Norman Jewison prize for creative writing.

Three years ago, Jennifer Leonard co-authored Massive Change with Bruce Mau, a book about “the future of global design.” It was not about the world of design; it was about the design of the world. In that sense, rather than looking at conventional design disciplines (architecture, graphic design, interior design, product design), the authors looked at eleven key global systems, or realms of exchange, which were named “design economies” – from urban design to materials science to politics. The value in the research for this exercise, for Jennifer, was the information gathering by way of dialogue: she started a radio show for which every week for a year she went live-to-air with thought leaders, across disciplines. These interviews were edited by her for the book, and the insights became her compass while writing the bulk of the rest of the book. Since then, Jennifer has worked at IDEO in California, where she’s had the experience of transitioning from a tech-centric to a human-centric approach to design. As a result, she reflected back on the ideas rooted in Massive Change and felt that “design economies” might better be regarded as “design ecologies.” In the spirit of iteration and Luminous Green she shared her thoughts on this in more detail.

Massive Change is a representation of the collective intentions and effects of those working towards the greater global good. Containing expert interviews on transport, ecology, urbanism, architecture, economy, mobility, and grid computing, to name just but a few, the website is an indispensable resource of interdisciplinary information on change dynamics.