Slow Design means great design, not necessarily pokey, or hokey.
Thoughtfulness and consideration are required for good relationships be they with friends or business associates. This idea carries into thinking about the relationship to the planet and it’s ability to care for all life on earth, not just humans. Additionally, our relationships to this ourselves, each other, the planet is all reflected in our lifestyles and choices, all reflections of our values. The slow design method is a way to stop and systematically check in with how we are designing and what we are designing to be of utmost quality. Here's more about what it is and why it is so amazing.
Beth Meredith and Eric Storm attempt to summarize the concept, stating:
Slow Design is a democratic and holistic design approach for creating appropriately tailored solutions for the long-term well-being of people and the planet. To this end, Slow Design seeks out positive synergies between the elements in a system, celebrates diversity and regionalism, and cultivates meaningful relationships that add richness to life.
Common qualities of Slow Design include:
• Holistic – taking into account as many relevant short and long term factors as possible.
• Sustainable – considering the cradle- to-cradle impacts and reducing harm as much as possible including the precautionary principle.
• Elegant – finding the simplest and most concise solutions that provide the desired results.
• Tailored – creating specific solutions that fit a particular situation.
• Democratic – keeping the process and results accessible to those using and impacted by the design and to non-professionals.
• Adaptable – developing solutions that will continue to work over time or that can be modified as needed.
• Durable – making sure solutions can be maintained over time while minimizing the need for repairs and replacement.
• Non-toxic – eliminating substances and processes that pollute or are toxic.
• Efficient – minimizing waste of time, labor, energy, and physical resources.
• Distinctive – promoting cultural, social, and environmental uniqueness and diversity.
Slow design is still a relatively new concept of design thinking, and its implications are yet to be fully developed and defined. It could evolve in the following ways:
• Longer design processes with more time for research, contemplation, real life impact tests, and fine tuning.
• Design for manufacturing with local or regional materials and technologies or design that supports local industries, workshops, and craftspeople.
• Design that takes into account local or regional culture both as a source of inspiration and as an important consideration for the design outcome.
• Design that studies the concept of natural time cycles and incorporates them into design and manufacturing processes.
• Design that looks at longer cycles of human behavior and sustainability.
• Design that takes into account deeper well-being and the findings of positive psychology. (Thanks Wikipedia!)
This way of seeing, thinking, and creating is not a new concept, but we have lost this ethos in much of what is happening in the world today and we are seeing the multifaceted consequences of fast and cheap. Slow design and intentional redesign and relationship building could do wonders for all aspects of life if we revive it.
People get easily overwhelmed by the big picture or whole systems thinking, and the possibilities of what could be done especially in regards to new business models or the circular economy. When you draw out the system of your product or business and you see all the connection points, relationships, logistics, processes, flows, and barriers - it can give you analysis paralysis. This process allows you to see where you are and where you could go and it can overwhelm you into thinking that the problem is too big or you are powerless to make any real change. Sadly, this is where most people give up and settle or think that this theoretical exercise is a good idea, but not practical. This is also where the innovative, patient, and self-assured step back and look deeper into their spheres of influence, leverage points, and business and service models and start to think deeper.
The big picture is the map for you to see your territory and what you can really do in your situation. Having whole systems thinking done first is a tool for discovery not for discouragement to find your route. Once you have it, you have something beyond the typical to strive for that will help you and the environment in which you are a part of to thrive more.
First, you see what the current scene is and you then imagine the possibilities. This is where the design process and strategic doing comes in. Then you narrow your focus to what you can do and you do one thing every day that will build steps toward the creating the conditions to get you where you want to go. You start asking the right questions. How might we create a product that won’t be thrown away? What relationships can I build now that will help me create a business in the circular economy?
Looking at yourself in relationship to other things is about connectedness, not powerlessness. Seeing what could be rather than placating to what has been lets imagination and innovation liberate your mind from destructive stagnant suppression. Being down to earth and making your actions count to build the world you want to live in takes patient strategic doing found in practical daily steps such as that phone call where you talk about a different way of doing something.
What does closing the loop mean? Currently we take, make, waste - a linear use of material goods that is wasteful and unsustainable. To close the loop, one must design in terms of the full cycle of materials. It really means creating systems or relationships that interconnect the processes of where things come from, how will it be used, and where is it going after use. For example, if you make silk clothing and you want to close the loop and have a thriving business. You would consider every aspect of how you do business. You'd want to support the overall environment of the silk producers so that you ensure you have silk and you know where it’s coming from. You could support the silk weavers by buying from them individually or with a silk buyers club to get bulk shipping rates. Then as a part of your sales and marketing you offer a percentage of sales to go to reforestation or water sanitation for the area of where your silk comes from to support the ecology and the people that live there while ensuring their practices are environmentally and socially just. This could happen through direct relationships or through a nonprofit partnership, which is also beneficial to your marketing legitamacy. Your choice of using silk in the first place is a material that is designed for decomposition - it will decompose to dust safely. So you must think about the design of the product itself. Moreover, a buy back or credit program that allows customers to trade in their old clothes for a credit or coupon could enhance long term sales and customer loyalty. All this while the returned silk items could be shredded or refashioned into another product or material you sell to a business. The fact that your business is thoughtful, efficient, and proactive in strategic partnerships will attract customers that will support your work.
This is a quick example of how system or program design in your business or organization closes the loop through relationships, conscious business practices, and system designs that respect for where materials come from and where they will go after typical use. Join the circular economy by having programs that close the loop and make you shine from all angles.
Words are not enough, nor evolve quick enough to catch up with new concepts. Thank goodness there is visual thinking. It's nothing new but, using pictures to capture ideas, lessons learned, and record processes changes the conversation. Using visual thinking, or graphic facilitation, is effective in the planning and strategy process because it is symbolic, translatable, and more specific.
In the program innovation sphere, sharing ideas that are visually digestable are less likely to be misunderstood. Learning to simplify the conversation for your team, clients, or for yourself keeps jargon from getting in the way of making meaningful connections. Design thinking with images also shares concepts that can build collaborative rapport, are more accessible to a range of stakeholders, and access the creative right brain.
If people don’t understand your vocabulary they won’t connect with you or your concepts. In our work we use images to help people understand what is or what could be and how to get there. Graphically mapping ideas is simple, but crucial for getting out of uninspired ruts and chatter.
Work above by Stef Koehler of Letscocreate.org