Designing for sustainability - mobility systems based on electrical vehicles

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In parallel with transition studies design scholars have discussed how design and designers could develop design practices capable of transcendence established unsustainable socio-technical practices. It concerns both how we may understand the agency of designers, structural conditions of design practices, and the very object of design.
This study departs from the understanding that ‘designing for sustainability’ demands reflexivity on the contextual framework of design practices: the technological regimes and design spaces, where ‘design spaces’ are the specific situated configurations of networks of actors, specific interpretations and discourses and structural conditions in terms of institutional and material interdependencies, all structuring design practices. The object of ‘designing for sustainability’ is socio-technical practices embedded in socio-technical systems and specific socio-political frameworks – and design includes interventions at a structural level of socio-technical systems and practices. The challenge of sustainable design, from this perspective, becomes a question of how to change socio-technical regimes, and ‘designing for sustainability’ becomes a project of meta-design, concerned with design as meta-level processes of regime transformation and the constructive configuration of design spaces.
The case study examines an attempt to integrate electric vehicles in the Danish mobility systems. It maps the framework conditions and contemporary (competing) strategies/projects, but focuses on a specific car-sharing project (‘Cleardrive’), with the objective to examine the early and constitutive stages of the design-process. It is conducted as an intensive study tracing elements of interpretation, interaction and intervention, which have been part of the project formation process.
The ‘Cleardrive project’ is based on the understanding that the diffusion of electrical vehicles should be related to change in mobility behavior/practices and integration with the public transportation system. Main efforts of the design process have been to reframe the problem (a metadesign of design places in interaction with public authorities and transportation companies), configuring the electric car sharing system as an element in an alternative mobility service system, and designing the technical and organizational system
The concluding discussion falls into two parts: an assessment of the design process in the ‘Cleardrive project’ from a transition perspective, and a discussion of how we may integrate design and transition studies.
Translated title of the contributionDesigne bæredygtighed - mobilitetssystemer baseret på elbiler
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2013
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Event4th International Conference on Sustainability Transitions - ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
Duration: 19 Jun 201321 Jun 2013


Conference4th International Conference on Sustainability Transitions
LocationETH Zürich


  • Transition
  • Sustainable design
  • design space
  • metadesign
  • mobility service system

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