Posthumanist design enables a world in which humans share centre stage with nonhumans, entangled with whom we are.
Over the past forty years, designers have privileged human values such that human-centred design is seen as progressive. Yet because all that is not human has been depleted, made extinct, or put to human use, today’s design contributes to the existential threat of climate change and the ongoing extinction of other species. In Things We Could Design, Ron Wakkary argues that human-centred design is not the answer to our problems but is itself part of the problem. Drawing on philosophy, design theory, and numerous design works, he shows the way to a relational and expansive design based on humility and cohabitation.
Wakkary says that design can no longer ignore its exploitation of nonhuman species and the materials we mine for and reduce to human use. Posthumanism, he argues, enables a rethinking of design that displaces the human at the centre of thought and action. Weaving together posthumanist philosophies with design, he describes what he calls things–nonhumans made by designers–and calls for a commitment to design with more than human participation. Wakkary also focuses on design as “nomadic practices”–a multiplicity of intentionalities and situated knowledge that shows a structure to be expansive and pluralistic. He calls his overall approach “designing-with”: the practice of design in a world in which humans share centre stage with nonhumans and in which we are bound together materially, ethically, and existentially.