The Purpose of the 21 Metadesign Tools:

The following tools were chosen from over 90 concepts that we developed between January 2005 and September 2008 as part of an AHRC-funded research project based at Goldsmiths, University of London. They are intended to operate as an integrated set of methods and techniques that could help society to become more ecological in its ways. This is not a simple task. The discourse of ‘sustainability’ emerged from an industrial mindset that is more mechanistic than ecological. This is unfortunate, because it is what has characterised the specialist roles given to designers. The separation between specialist design practices is convenient for those who market specific goods and services within a consumption-driven economy. Sadly, it renders it virtually impossible for individual designers to change the fundamental tenets of how we live. In our view, rather than improve efficiencies, or reduce waste, at specific points within the whole system, designers must now find ways to harmonise many apparently incommensurate processes at the same time. In order to do so, they need to upgrade design to work at a higher level – i.e. as ‘metadesign’. Here, by ‘metadesign’ we refer to processes that are still under development. In comparison with traditional specialist design practices – or even with a more ‘strategic design’ - metadesign is intended to be more flexible, self-reflexive and comprehensive. This is not just a quantitative difference. Where design characteristically prefigures a desired future state, its consensual (therefore non-hierarchical) nature means it must operate as an adaptive ‘seeding process’ that establishes the conditions for unforeseen opportunities to emerge. Its main task is therefore to orchestrate many levels of synergy, so that human society causes less damage, whilst proliferating increasing levels of wisdom and fun.

Again, this is not a trivial task. Although many synergies are already recognizable at different scales, or orders of existence they may transcend familiar disciplinary boundaries. Where some work at the physical, microscopic level – such as in metallurgy, or in biochemistry – others may operate at the macroscopic level – say, at the social, or cultural level. There are probably countless numbers of other synergies that need to be mapped and understood. However, unless they are joined together appropriately and effectively they may clash, or even cancel one another out. What this means is that the designer’s task is far too complex to be undertaken by individual designers. On the other hand it will require new team skills that reconcile intellectual, emotional, intuitive and procedural faculties. This is a key aspect of synergy because it influences many other modes of synergy. All of the following 21 tools are designed to support synergistic, collaborative processes. However, optimizing teamwork is an art, not a science. Our 21 team-tools should not, therefore, be seen as autonomous recipes that guarantee instant success. While they have all been tested with design teams, some may require more special expertise, training, sensitivity, and creative insight than others.