Radical Design For A World In Crisis in Noema Magazine

BY: Superflux

Back in November 2022, Anab gave a keynote at Design Council’s Design for Planet Festival where she first presented the idea of ‘Ancillary Design’. What was then an sketch for a new type of design, prompted by our ongoing studio practice, and a recent Design Investigations field trip to an iron ore pit, has since been developed into an essay.

This essay seeks not to lock in a definition or patent – as that would be contrary to the very practice of Ancillary Design – but rather build an evocative picture of the practice, its histories and futures, how it has been and could be practised, as well as why we need it.

“There are no neat solutions to the intertwined climatic, economic and political crises of our time. What will move us all forward together is a radical reimagining of how to design the future.”

Ancillary Design encourages us to embrace ambiguity, open up to the unknown, and explore new possibilities to address complex crises. It is a practice that seeks to find our way collectively and knit stories of care, justice, collaboration, love, and tolerance that can endure and enact ecological relationality. Expect musings on mining, mycelium and mythology featuring Refuge for Resurgence.

“Between the void and the waste, where do regenerative and just futures fit? How can we bridge the fault lines between human and nature, right and wrong, them and us? How can we forge cooperative, plural interconnected ecologies of actions?”

Diving into mining and material histories, climate positive stories of weavers back home in Kutch, mycelial potentiality and mythic futures, our essay for Noema magazine foregrounds the idea of ‘Ancillary Design’, a practice that acknowledges the nuance, complexity and interconnectedness of our world.

Given the scale and knottiness of the challenges we face, such an entangled design approach can play a fundamental role as an intermediary, a joiner, working between the problem-solution dichotomy to uncover practices and tools and approaches that might offer entirely new possibilities.

“Myths decenter the human; they offer an opportunity to reexamine our relationship with nonhuman life and the nonliving world, to envision potential futures and reunite us with ancient customs and rites.”

Head over to Noema to read the piece by Anab Jain and Isabelle Bucklow (researcher and writer at Superflux and elsewhere). There you’ll see the concept beautifully depicted by illustrator Nino Ferrao (who you can also find steering operations at Superflux).

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