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Experiential Learning, Ecological Literacy and Sustainable Design Training

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Complimentary tea coffee and biscuits will be served


This seminar focuses on different aspects of eco- and sustainability education, exploring a spectrum reaching from a highly conceptual level to industrial applications.

The seminar starts with a talk from Michael Hohl about the importance of sensual perception for learning processes for behavioural changes. It continues with a presentation by Jody Joanna Boehnert, which highlights how communication design can support social capacities and transformative learning. Finally, Bernhard Dusch presents a sustainable design tool, which is being developed to educate and support designers in an industrial design context.

Further information on each individual talk can be found below.


  • Dr Michael Hohl Research Fellow in Design, School of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Huddersfield
  • Jody Joanna Boehnert PhD Candidate, Centre for Research & Development, University of Brighton and Founding Director, EcoLabs
  • Bernhard Dusch PhD Candidate, Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge

Speakers’ Abstracts

Dr Michael Hohl “Sensual Technologies: Embodied experience and visualisation of scientific data”

In my presentation I set out to discuss the important role that embodied experience may have in designing encounters with scientific knowledge. I will introduce four installation works which bring together natural processes, the body and sensorial perception around scientific phenomena. These works are, Ned Kahn’s ‘Seismic Sea’, Luke Jerram’s ‘Tide’, Hugo Kükelhaus ‘Vortex, Turbulence, Spiral’ (‘Strudel, Wirbel, Spirale’) and Antenna Theater’s ‘Sands of Time’. These works blur boundaries and it is difficult to categories them. They could be seen in science centres visualising scientific principles or knowledge, in art exhibitions for their aesthetic qualities or possibly function as types of scientific instruments in their own right. They have in common that they use natural processes or environments as a medium of visualisation or as an interface for action and reflection.

Within each work the human body plays an essential role in stimulating the imagination through aesthetic experience. These particular examples have been selected for their usefulness to discuss the potentially transformative role of bodily experience in works that emerge from art, design and science collaborations. Another important aspect is that evocative works may not so much depend on technology than on investigations into phenomenology and contemporary research into neuro-plasticity. Their primary goal though is not to create new knowledge but instead to make curious and to delight.

I am investigating these aspects from a design perspective. How can we as designers make scientific knowledge more engaging? How can we create deeper and more memorable learning experiences? How may we convert dry ‘information’ (e.g. about complexity, ecology or sustainability) into transformative experiences that result in changes of behaviour?

Jody Joanna Boehnert “The Visual Communication of Ecological Literacy”

The research demonstrates how communication design can generate new understanding and contribute to the development of new cognitive skills and social capacities in a time of rapid societal change. Visual communication offers powerful means of helping audiences understand context, interrelationships, dynamics and other features of the whole systems thinking. This project uses both design and action research methodologies creating new visual resources that are tested as part of a series of transformative learning processes. Learning resources and activities are designed to address the value / action gap in sustainable communications and education.

The research involves a series of initiatives. The first was a Teach-in at the V&A in 2009 which resulted in an on-going community organizing a Ning platform ( The practice-based work not only demonstrates how visual communication can facilitate learning processes for ecological literacy but how visuals can contribute towards an understanding of systemic problems by visually mapping new intellectual territory in the fast moving field of sustainability.

Jody Boehnert is founding director of EcoLabs (, a design studio based in London.

Bernhard Dusch “From Attitude to Action – the development of a sustainable design tool kit”

It is well accepted that design is one of the key aspects of new product development. Further, it is widely recognised that design also plays a central role in the development of more sustainable products. However, although the idea of sustainability seems to be widely discussed in design research, there are signs that the true meaning of this notion has not been fully assimilated in new product development to date.

This seminar presents an ongoing research project which aims to better understand how the concept of sustainable design can be more effectively integrated in design practice. A central part of this project is the development of a sustainable design tool kit, which not only provides sustainable design guidance on a practical level, but also communicates fundamental concepts of sustainable design in an accessible, intuitive and entertaining way.

The tool kit is tested in a series of workshops in design academia and industry and improved iteratively throughout this process. The project is carried out in the Design Management Group in the Institute for Manufacturing.

This talk is part of the Sustainability in the Built Environment (GreenBRIDGE) series.

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