According to Lara Penin, the future of design is not necessarily about making things. “In the same way that the industrial revolution gave birth to mass products, we’re now entering a new period when designers are called on to design services,” says Penin, associate professor of transdisciplinary design. Penin specializes in service design for social innovation and sustainable consumption and production. So what does all that mean in the real world? “Service design is about looking at people’s experience of a service and the social implications of that,” she says.
She and colleagues from The New School recently founded a U.S. branch of DESIS Lab (www.desis.parsons.edu), which is an international network of practitioners developing projects on design, sustainability, and social innovation. One DESIS project, Amplifying Creative Communities, recently received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation (New York City Cultural Innovation Funds 2009). Penin is the principal investigator of the project, which focuses on new ideas about how to transition to more sustainable societies. The project studies New York City's “creative communities” — people who are already taking small but significant steps toward more sustainable ways of living and working. The project will map and document the sustainability initiatives of the city’s creative communities and amplify those efforts by turning the ideas into designs that can be shared around New York and worldwide.