Carnegie Mellon University
January 22, 2020

Experts: Design To Impact Climate Change, AI in 2020

By Julie Mattera

Julie Mattera
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Two Carnegie Mellon University professors anticipate 2020 will bring more opportunities for designers to address impacts from climate change and help humanize artificial intelligence.

Bruce Hanington, head of Carnegie Mellon's School of Design in the College of Fine Arts, expects rapidly advancing technologies, such as AI and machine learning, will continue to influence design solutions to complex issues. In turn, he expects there will be increased recognition of "design research methods’ value in humanizing these technologies and understanding their impacts on society."

"Design research methods that grew out of human-centered design are inherently empathic, predicated on gaining a holistic understanding of people, their problems, needs, wants, and desires, and the generation of multiple solution options, in context," Hanington said. "By working in immersive ways that couple qualitative methods with other forms of data collection and the opportunities of technology, designers will continue to ground ideas that resonate with those most affected by proposed solutions."

Dan Lockton, assistant professor in the School of Design and director of Imaginaries Lab, said 2020 will bring growing opportunities for designers to address "some of the world's most pressing social and environmental issues, including the climate crisis, migration, mental health and urban violence." Designers could play a critical role in these issues and have a responsibility to act, he said.

Lockton said transition design attempts to reduce the likelihood of climate change and helps societies adapt to the impact of its effects. CMU student projects have also attempted to address these factors. For instance, student projects in "Climate Pathways," a studio elective course in the Imaginaries Lab, proposed ways to train our senses to detect changes in air quality, financially incentivize environmentally friendly living, produce less waste by opting out of fast fashion, reconnect people with local food through an experiential quest and improve otherwise contentious intergenerational conversations about climate change.

Additionally, CMU graduate researchers have been investigating topics related to climate impacts, including the designed experience of being a migrant in Central America, the futures of food cultures and re-engaging with the meaning of "place" in a world with rapidly shifting borders.

"Design has a significant role to play in helping us imagine and engage with new ways of living for ourselves and the planet, informing both the public and policymakers," Lockton said.

Carnegie Mellon University is committed to educating, empowering and aligning its community around the world to address the Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the Global Goals, which aim to create a more peaceful, prosperous planet with just and inclusive societies. Recognizing the critical contributions that universities are making through education, research and practice, CMU publicly committed to undertaking a Voluntary University Review of the Global Goals. The 17 Global Goals cover wide-ranging issues, including reducing violence, ending extreme poverty, promoting equitable education, fighting inequality and injustice, advancing economic growth and decent work, and preventing the harmful effects of climate change by 2030.

The preceding story demonstrates CMU's work toward attaining Global Goal 13.