Escaping the Design Dystopia


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  • Title: Escaping the Design Dystopia: Propositional Bio-informed Theories to Evolve from Anthropocentric Design
  • Author(s): Carlos Fiorentino
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: On Sustainability
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Sustainability Education
  • Keywords: User-centered Design, Design for Sustainability, Biomimicry, Biophilia
  • Volume: 12
  • Issue: 3
  • Year: 2016
  • ISSN: 2325-1212 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2325-1220 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Fiorentino, Carlos. 2016. "Escaping the Design Dystopia: Propositional Bio-informed Theories to Evolve from Anthropocentric Design." The International Journal of Sustainability Education 12 (3): 15-27. doi:10.18848/2325-1212/CGP/v12i03.


Design disciplines have been serving the interest of dominant models—economic, social, and political—for at least two centuries, coincidentally with the industrial revolution, and increasingly shaping our world since the mid-twentieth century. The new geological era known in the twenty-first century as “the anthropocene” is the dawn of the traditional design disciplines, as we know them today. However, far from the design utopia dreamed by “modernism” in twentieth century design schools, the design disciplines of this century are the “design dystopia” of any designer that considers the environment and the social factors equally—if not more importantly—than the economic factors. Design theories born in the past century fade away and collapse when confronting the new knowledge, the new realities, and the new challenges of the current century affecting this and future generations of designers. Anthropocentric and user-centered principles find trouble addressing the challenges that a sustainable future entails, since they are in conflict with the basic principles of nature. This paper discusses this paradigmatic situation, in an effort to better understand the present of design theoretical frameworks, and at the same time it studies alternative design theories that offer a broader approach to solve human problems by including models and measures that mimic natural systems such as “biophilia” and “biomimicry” in the design equation.