Article Three

Transition Design & a Futures-Oriented Education

The global transitions needed to move from the current unsustainable systems towards more sustainable ones will require a concerted move across many disciplines and sectors. Central to this is the development of more integrated (individual and collective) ways of being in the world. The complexity of this undertaking is incredible and will require high levels of collaboration, creativity and adaptability within short timeframes. Methodologies from the field of design have emerged as capable of working with such ‘wicked’ problems. Commonly working with complex problems across disciplines, designers regularly work in a future-oriented way in iterative processes, with many unknowns and with diverse partners (Nelson & Stolterman, 2003).

Transition Design as a broad movement identifies the need for new visions of the future, diverse theories of how change occurs, personal interior development (including mindsets) and design methods that work together towards more sustainable futures(Irwin, Kossoff, & Tonkinwise, 2015). Transition design has been used in the development of transition towns, post-democracy governance systems, post-growth economics and social entrepreneurship. Transition design can be applied to education design so that changes in education contribute to the larger societal transitions needed in collaborating with disciplines outside of education. This contribution is primarily through students’ integrated ways of thinking acting and being that expand beyond the linear, mechanistic and anthropocentric.


A futures-oriented education design connects current human ways of being in the world with the emergence of future realities. The development of imagination, empathy and collaboration that include human and non-human participants is central to generating new visions of the future and more integrated lifestyles.

Change Theories

Theories that contribute to understanding and enacting change such as ontological design (see Article Ten), social constructivism and agential realism are central to taking a well-informed systems approach to education as holistic human development. These theories contribute to an understanding that diverse actors such as learning environments, ideas, tools, people, human actions, cultural norms, social traditions etc. all contribute to emerging futures.

Personal Development 

The healthy continued interior development/maturing of an individual is a part of an expanding mindset and worldview that continually transcends and includes previous stages. This progression expands to include the needs and concerns of increasingly diverse ‘others’ and is thus crucial in the contribution to more sustainable futures.

Design Methods

Innovative ways of problem framing and solving are needed, in particular, those that are future-oriented, work well with change, and thrive on complexity. These emerging design methods must have the capacity to develop solutions that increasingly include the more-than-human world.


Irwin, T., Kossoff, G., & Tonkinwise, C. (2015). Transition design provocation. Design Philosophy Papers, 13(1), 3-11. doi:10.1080/14487136.2015.1085688

Nelson, H., & Stolterman, E. (2003). The design way. . New Jersey: Educational Technology Publications.