The Life-centred Designer Issue#3


Welcome to your monthly inspiration of tools, tips, and resources to start life-centring your design practice.

Each issue is timed with the New Moon, symbolizing fresh starts and new opportunities:

🧠 A new life-centred design mindset

✏️ Tools and methods to apply the mindset

📚 A few good things to read or watch

📣 Updates about what I've been doing

Choose just one tool every New Moon and experiment with it for the following month, as an easy, no-pressure way of slowly expanding your design to be more life-centred.

This month's life-centred design mindset

Considering the goal of life-centred design to be for humanity to live in a way that nurtures a balanced thriving of all life, we might imagine all life and communities on Earth coexisting in perfect harmony, nurturing each other and the planet as a unified and interconnected whole—a utopian dream.

The problem with utopian dreams is that we all dream different versions, so how can we reach utopia when there is never one destination?

And we certainly want to avoid dystopian scenarios, which also mean different things for different people.

So what do we aim for?

Protopia

In futuring design practices, such as speculative design, foresight, and design fiction, another type of future has been articulated—protopia.

Protopia recognises the need for pluriversal perspectives and ways of being, and the 'imperfect state' this requires, but one with constant improvement embedded in it.

So let's develop design and business practices that embed constant improvements in sustainability, inclusivity, and regeneration.

  1. Adopt a Systems Thinking approach: Designers and business owners should continuously zoom in and out to analyse the impact of their design choices on product lifecycle, from sourcing raw materials to manufacturing, distribution, use, and end-of-life disposal for physical products, and across all digital journeys. This holistic view enables them to identify new or previously unseen opportunities for minimising environmental impact and maximizing inclusivity at every stage.
  2. 'Adopt' a non-human and non-user: Identify an environment, animal, or vulnerable humans impacted by your projects and champion them until you create the change you aim for. Go as far as you can with this, and then re-run the cycle by adopting new ones, and so on.
  3. Continuously learn and challenge yourself: Stay informed about the latest developments in sustainable and inclusive design practices and constantly challenge your own biases, assumptions, values, and privileges. Make some time for ongoing education, professional development opportunities, and collaboration with peers. Actively seek feedback from users and stakeholders to identify areas for improvement and iterate on designs accordingly.

Tools and methods to activate your protopian mindset

1. Map and know your system—Start thinking in systems by mapping the greater ecosystem your work belongs to, using ecosystem maps, product lifecycle maps, and life-centred user journey maps—you can find these in The Life-centred Design Guide book resources, and get a copy of my life-centred user journey maps from the Miroverse.

2. Adopt impacted lifeforms—Once you've mapped your system and identified the impacted animals, environments, and vulnerable humans, create personas for them to give them a voice in design and decision-making—you can find these in the journey backpack that comes with The Non-human Persona Guide.

3. Challenge yourself—one way to challenge yourself is to get clear on your own values, biases, assumptions, and privileges. Privileges benefit us at the expense of others, and we are often unaware of our privileges and how much they impact others. Use the Privilege Web tool as part of my Power Pixel to learn about your privileges so you can turn them into powers that help others. Complete the rest of the Pixel work, print it out, fold it, and keep it on your desk to pick up and reflect on to keep yourself centred. You can find the Pixel in The Life-centred Design Guide toolkit.

4. Envision, back-cast, and dual-stream—We can't do everything at once and systemic changes can take a loooooong time. We can't suddenly change from a system we're deeply reliant on to the life-centred one we need to exist in—at least not without the decisive and well-managed systemic changes that are taking so long to manifest, if ever!

But there are changes we can make now with the influence we have, that hopefully compound into longer-term and more systemic change.

So, one approach is to run dual streams of both small iterations and long-term change.

Create a long-term vision, back-cast the steps to get there, and break that down into small changes you can launch and test, that eventually create the long-term vision.

Life-centred design gems

Books, articles, videos and more to expand your skills, knowledge, and planetary connection.

🖥 Atlas Underground! community ran a more-than-human workshop—collaborating with cats!—to help people see there are other things in the world to design for beyond humans. Read about it on Linkedin.

🎥 I found and shared this short video about the sentient-like nature of plants and animals (I didn't capture and note the original course, so that's my bad). Check it out on the LCD Lab Instagram—it's exciting and inspiring for developing the more-than-human mindset!

What I've been up to

🏞 An addition to the non-human persona library

I added an older persona example to the library, one I created for River Systems—check it out in the library under 'Environment Non-human Personas'.

🍉 A fresh new name!
In case you didn't notice, Life-centred.design has a new name—the Life-centred Design Lab. New name, same web address (lifecentred.design). I wasn't sure about the direction of this project when I created the website, so I just used the web address as the name. But I've since done some brainstorming and planning, and the Life-centred Design Lab fits the experimental nature of my work perfectly while leaving it open for multiple and new directions.

🎁 And an exciting surprise...

I'm trying so hard not to announce this right now 🤐 ...about something super-exciting coming. But you only have to wait a day or two, so keep an eye out for a surprise announcement!

That's a wrap!

Until next month, don't forget to check out:

Keep learning and having fun :)

Damien Lutz

Founder of Life-centred Design Lab and futurecouting.com.au

1-11 Hunter St, Sydney, NSW 2017
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