On October 23 and 24, 2009, the Designers Accord convened 100 individuals from some of the world’s most distinguished academic and professional institutions, for two days of highly participatory discussion, planning, and action around the topic of design education and sustainability. This group of thought-leaders, design educators, and experts discussed, challenged, and conceived of a new path for undergraduate and graduate design programs to integrate sustainability. We tackled topics ranging from creating curricula and writing grants, to communicating to trustees and motivating students. These topics were culled from pre-Summit meetings and brainstorm sessions. The format of the Summit was structured to enable this group to create a collective point of view about best practices and methods for integrating sustainability into design programs all over the world. We are currently synthesizing the outputs from the Summit. We plan to publish the output online and in printed form. The medium and format will be determined by the content.

Event Background

  • 100 educators, administrators, and thought-leaders
  • 48 hours in San Francisco
  • 8 inspirational - 20 minute speeches
  • 8 breakout worksessions of highly participatory small group brainstorming
  • An open exhibition of work, projects, programs
  • Time to talk, think, learn, problem-solve, and imagine possibilities
  • 1 game-changing toolkit to radically evolve design education


The main activity for the Summit was small group brainstorming. Over the 2 days, we tackled 8 topics. These topics emerged through multiple conversations and discussions as the critical issues around integrating sustainability into design education. The 100 attendees were distributed into 8 small groups on each day for the workshop portion of the programming. Each person had the chance to work on each Topic, from a different perspective. This relay model worked by using multiple Lenses to structure each brainstorm session. The Lenses are listed below. In addition to the small group brainstorming, we had guest speakers, time to socialize and network, and an open exhibition to share projects and perspectives.


The goal of the Summit is to create a toolkit for integrating sustainability into design education; the Topics are the 'high-priority' parts of the toolkit. The criteria of a Topic is that it is something that a group can tackle together in this format, and it can result in a discrete output that is codified, not anecdotal.
  • What is our common language? Create a shared definition of terms / best ways to communicate about sustainability Facilitator: Piper Kujac, UC Berkeley Extension
  • Connecting the theory with action Methods for better effectiveness in the classroom, and ultimately in design practice Facilitator: Barbara Sudick, California State University, Chico
  • How can we communicate best? Best practices for communicating with and aligning stakeholders (faculty, students, administrators, trustees) within your department and school Facilitator: Nathan Shedroff, California College of the Arts
  • Transitioning legacy department curricula Methods for initiating new programs, courses around sustainability Facilitator: Ricardo Gomes, San Francisco State University
  • What constitutes a meaningful design challenge? Structuring and enabling the ideal student projects and assignments; Best practices for working with local communities Facilitator: Scott Boylston, Savannah College of Art & Design
  • Measurements of success Marking progress, maintain momentum, setting up appropriate goals Facilitator: Jeremy Faludi, Worldchanging
  • Designing the core sustainability curriculum Facilitator: Heidrun Mumper-Drumm, Art Center College of Design
  • What’s next? Creating a shared point of view about the future of design education, in the context of how design is used to solve broader challenges, in different kinds of collaborations Facilitator: Cindy Gilbert, The Biomimicry Institute


The function of the Lens was to articulate the specific goal of each brainstorm session, and create a boundary around it so that the session would be more productive. Each breakout session used one Lens (i.e., Breakout session 1 used Lens 1, Breakout session 2 used Lens 2, etc.). Each breakout session built on the output of the previous one. This framework was designed to iteratively develop a tangible and actionable output of methodologies and best practices. The Lenses were used in this order:
  1. Reframe the Topic to make it an answerable question, or series of questions
  2. Record everything that is known about the Topic currently, and organize it
  3. Freely ideate new approaches
  4. Organize the current information and the new ideas. Strengthen by fleshing them out. Select out weak ideas. Combine similar ones.
  5. Negate: what are all the reasons this solution/s might not work
  6. Strengthen the solution/s -- consider how these solution not only address the educational process, but are directly relevant and connected to future design practice
  7. Prototype / create a scenario of the ideal application of the solution
  8. Clearly articulate the solution


This two-day meeting was held at the Autodesk Gallery at One Market in San Francisco: http://usa.autodesk.com/company/autodesk-gallery


Attendees represented:
  • Academy of Art University
  • AIGA Center for Sustainable Design
  • AIGA Design Educators Community
  • Antioch University Seattle
  • Art Center College of Design
  • Art Institute of Pittsburgh
  • Art Institute of Sacramento
  • The Biomimicry Institute
  • California College of the Arts
  • CalArts - California Institute of the Arts
  • California State University, Chico
  • Central Michigan University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Designmatters at Art Center College of Design
  • Designers Without Borders
  • Dominican University
  • The Ecology Center
  • econocept
  • Emily Carr University of Art + Design + Media
  • Ex'pression College for Digital Arts
  • Fashion Institute of Technology
  • Forum for the Future
  • Indiana University
  • Iowa State University
  • London College of Fashion
  • Maryland Institute College of Art
  • MassArt
  • Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design
  • Minneapolis College of Art and Design
  • Mott Community College
  • Natural Logic
  • Otis College of Art and Design
  • Parsons The New School for Design
  • Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali, Colombia
  • Pratt Institute
  • Project H Design
  • R3 (Rethink/Reimagine/Redesign)
  • Ringling College of Art and Design
  • Sacramento City College
  • San Francisco State University
  • San Jose State University
  • Savannah College of Art and Design
  • School of Visual Arts
  • Seneca College
  • Swinburne University
  • UC Berkeley, Professional Program in Sustainable Design
  • UC Davis, Design Department
  • Umea Institute of Design, Sweden
  • Unified Field Corporation
  • University of Calgary
  • University of Iowa
  • Washington University, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
  • Whirlwind Wheelchair International
  • Worldchanging
  • Worldstudio


    Friday, October 23, 2009 8:30 – 9:00 Registration / light breakfast 9:00 – 9:45 Opening remarks / program overview - Valerie Casey, Designers Accord 9:45 – 10:45 Breakout session 1 10:45 – 11:15 Speaker - Adam Werbach, SaatchiS 11:15 – 11:30 Break 11:30 – 12:00 Speaker - Deb Johnson, Pratt Institute 12:00 – 12:45 Breakout session 2 12:45 – 1:45 Lunch 1:45 – 2:15 Speaker - Gil Friend, NaturalLogic 2:15 – 3:00 Breakout session 3 3:00 – 3:15 Break 3:15 – 3:45 Speaker - Andréa Pellegrino and Mark Randall, Worldstudio 3:45 – 4:30 Breakout session 4 4:30 – 5:30 Break / exhibition set-up 5:30 – 8:00 Exhibition / Reception Saturday, October 24, 2009 9:00 – 9:30 Light breakfast 9:30 – 10:00 Reflections on Day 1 - Valerie Casey 10:00 – 10:45 Breakout session 5 10:45 – 11:15 Speaker - Allan Chochinov, Core77 11:15 - 11:30 Break 11:30 – 12:15 Breakout session 6 12:15 – 12:45 Speaker - Peter Madden, Forum for the Future 12:45 – 1:45 Lunch 1:45 – 2:15 Speaker - Mariana Amatullo and Elisa Ruffino, Designmatters at Art Center College of Design 2:15 – 3:00 Breakout session 7 3:00 – 3:15 Break 3:15 – 3:45 Speaker - Cameron Tonkinwise, Parsons The New School for Design 3:45 – 4:30 Breakout session 8 4:30 – 5:30 Open discussion 5:30 – 6:00 Closing remarks - Valerie Casey