TERRY IRWIN: Transition Design: An approach for addressing complex "wicked" problems 
and catalzying societal transitions toward more sustainable, long-term futures


In this talk, Terry Irwin will introduce Transition Design, a transdisciplinary approach for addressing the complex, wicked problems facing us in the 21st century. Wicked problems are systems problems and include things like climate change, terrorism, forced migration, poverty, racism, police brutality AND pandemics like COVID-19. These problems are interconnected, interdependent, exist at multiple levels of scale, and ALWAYS manifest in place and culture-specific ways. Transition Design also argues that entire organizations, communities and societies need to transition toward more equitable, sustainable and desirable long-term futures and that wicked problems are barriers to these transitions.
The emerging Transition Design approach frames wicked problems in radically large systems contexts that include the past (how the problem evolved), the present (how the problem is manifesting at different levels of scale) and the future (in which the problem has been resolved). To demonstrate the approach, Terry will discuss a recent hypothetical research project to map the spread of and response to COVID-19 in the U.S. through the lens of Transition Design. The project includes a “systems” map of COVID-19 in 5 key areas (political/governance issues; business/economic issues; infrastructure/technology/science issues; social issues; environmental issues) and a second map showing the historic evolution of the problem. These two maps, when combined with a third phase of long-term visioning, create a radically large problem context that reveals new insights and opportunities for developing “ecologies of systems interventions” that solve for multiple issues and problems simultaneously.

Terry Irwin is Director of the Transition Design Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and from 2009 until 2019 she was the Head of School. Terry has been teaching at the University level since 1986. Her research is in Transition Design, a new area of design study, practice and research that argues for societal transition toward more sustainable futures. Terry, along with Gideon Kossoff and Cameron Tonkinwise developed Transition Design and integrated into programs and curricula at the School of Design in 2014.

Terry has been a practicing designer for more than 40 years and was one of the founding partners of MetaDesign, an international design firm with offices in Berlin, London, San Francisco and Zurich. She served as the Creative Director of the San Francisco office from 1992 to 2002 and worked with Fortune 500 clients such as Nike, Apple Computer, Hewlett-Packard, Barclay's Bank, Ernst and Young (EY), Nissan, Sony, and Berlin's Transport company, BVG. MetaDesign worked on projects in the areas of computer software and interface design, brand identity systems, exhibition and way finding and information design.


Learn more about World Interaction Design Day at: https://interactiondesignday.org/