“Is human-centred design still fit for purpose, or is it time for a new, more sustainable approach to how we design everything—from cereal boxes to political policies?” Andy Marsden and Geetika Kejriwal, Nesta

Earth scientists now argue that we are leaving the Holocene epoch and entering a new geological epoch called the Anthropocene.1 Design is part of the problem in the Anthropocene—from coal fired power stations, to fossil fuel powered motor cars, and the proliferation of plastic products.2 Arguably, an anthropocentric mindset in the design professions—as illustrated by the concept of “human-centred design”—is no longer fit for purpose.3 Given the Triple Planetary Crisis (climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution), we need to rapidly transition to design approaches that foster the wellbeing of people and the planet.2 At Western Sydney University, we are developing a novel design approach called Social and Ecological Engagement in Design (SEED) that integrates social and ecological considerations in design thinking. SEED provides a structured approach to enable students to think more holistically about contemporary societal challenges and to identify sustainable solutions. We envisage SEED as a design methodology to enable just transitions from the Anthropocene to the Symbiocene.4


  1. Steffen W, Crutzen PJ, McNeill JR (2007). The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature? Ambio 36: 614-621.
  2. Boyden S (2004). The Biology of Civilisation: Understanding Human Culture as a Force in Nature. Sydney: UNSW Press.
  3. Marsden A, Kejriwal G (2022). For people and planet: moving beyond human-centred design. https://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/for-people-and-planet-moving-beyond-human-centred-design/
  4. Albrecht GA (2020). Negating Solastalgia: An Emotional Revolution from the Anthropocene to the Symbiocene. American Imago 77: 9-30.

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Stream B: Panel Three