History & Futures – Week 10: Society & Purpose

Week 10 Lecture & Resources

My notes from the Week 10 lecture.

Design… is a practice of material and immaterial making, but its mode of being-in-the-world is generative, speculative, and transformational. A designer must project forward into a potential future to launch an artifact that will, if all goes right, transform a near present and rewrite our future.”

(Clarke 2017: 87)

The above quote from Alison Clarke’s book Design Anthropology highlights just how much impact designers can potentially have on the world we inhabit, if we approach the challenges facing us in the right way. She also goes on to say that we can use our present reality as a springboard for ideas on how the future could look. It seems the main difference with anthropologists and ethnographers (versus designers) is that they generally spend more time trying to understand the present on a more granular level, whereas designers tend to use what they already know (even if they don’t have a full picture) as a starting point for innovation.


I took a look at some existing participatory projects to see how others have approached this type of work. One example that I thought was really interesting is a project by the charity WWF Scotland who currently have a campaign called the Great Scottish Canvas, inviting people to create a piece of art that illustrates the future they would like to see: https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/great-scottish-canvas

I think this could be really effective, because by asking people to visualise an ideal future, they are much more likely to be engaged in subsequently trying to help create it. Because it’s a creative challenge with a relatively open brief, the content submitted is likely to be diverse and wide-ranging, in addition to being accessible – anyone can participate, from children to adults.

Littering in Galashiels

Reports in a regional newspaper for the Scottish Borders area covering littering issues in Galashiels (fast food packaging being discarded).
Facebook post by Gala Waterways Group on local river pollution.
Social post via Facebook by Keep Scotland Beautiful (an environmental charity) on the issue of disposable face masks being discarded irresponsibly.

Workshop Challenge

Part 1 – Initial Ideas

Here are some thoughts I had on issues that I could address in my area, the town of Galashiels in the Scottish Borders:

  1. Littering – When I go for a walk, I often notice littering around the natural environment here – for a rural location, you would hope it could be better. I like the idea of encouraging people to have more pride in their local area and being more mindful of their rubbish. There is at least one local charity, Energise Galashiels Trust, that I know does regular river clean-ups in Galashiels.
  2. Disused/abandoned buildings and multiple vacant shop units in the town’s high street – This has been a problem in the area for a number of years due to shops closing down, and a shift away from heavy industry, leaving empty former textile mill buildings.
  3. Young people leaving the Borders in search of better opportunities – it’s a rural town and young people often leave for better career prospects, leaving the area with an aging population. One local charity trying to address this is Developing the Young Workforce Borders, who work to strengthen the links between education and industry.

Part 2 – Selection

I have chosen Littering as the issue I would like to resolve and reveal through a visual outcome.

Part 3 – Project Brief

The aim of this project would be to highlight the issue of littering in Galashiels and the surrounding area in the Scottish Borders. I would like to encourage locals to actively look after the beautiful countryside around the town and help them to feel a greater sense of pride in the place. This project could explore ideas of how to engage the local community of all ages and raise awareness of the problem, as well as educating people on the consequences of littering, for example the risk of contaminating the natural waterways or endangering our native wildlife. Problematic issues include the way people discard of disposable face masks, fast food wrappers and dog waste.

The project could involve promoting a community litter clean-up event, which would focus on targeting a specific area and gathering the accumulated debris. This could be run in conjunction with local organisations such as the Gala Waterways Group and Energise Galashiels Trust. There may also be something that could potentially be done with any collected waste that would in turn benefit the community – ideas such as recycling waste plastic that is gathered and making it into something new like a park bench.

Part 4 – Visual Summary

Poster with a visual summary of the issue.

Design Development

Experimenting with placement of foliage as a visual element.
Creating a border of fern leaves to frame the poster design.
Trying different typefaces to create the desired effect.
Testing ideas for the layout design.

Reflection on the week

Updated poster design.

After seeing the short video on the Ideas Wall that Lorri Trewhella had made to highlight the issue of beach litter in her local area, it occurred to me that one simple way to encourage people to engage with the issue of littering is to create a hashtag, so that individuals can share content and to invite conversations on this topic on social media. As a result I have subsequently added a relevant one to my poster design for Galashiels, which could be used across different platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

In terms of the design, I felt it was important to keep things simple and use an eye-catching visual style to hopefully stop people in their tracks. I also wanted to create something that could work both in print as a straightforward printed poster but which could easily be adapted for use on social media to increase exposure. If I do print the poster, I would look at ways of doing this with careful consideration, so that I don’t add to the littering problem – I would investigate eco-friendly inks (possibly Risograph printing might be a viable, low-cost option) and aim to use paper that is responsibly sourced too.

This week’s Ideas Wall saw everyone cover quite a wide range of issues – but it was also interesting to observe that there were several themes that came up repeatedly, such as the environment, pollution, housing and health.


CLARKE, Alison J. 2017. Design Anthropology: Object Cultures in Transition [Second edition]. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Keep Britain Tidy. ‘Dog fouling and the Law.’ Available at https://www.keepbritaintidy.org/faqs/advice/dog-fouling-and-law [accessed 18/04/2021]

Keep Britain Tidy. ‘Litter and the Law.’ https://www.keepbritaintidy.org/faqs/advice/litter-and-law [accessed 18/04/2021]

Keep Scotland Beautiful. Available at https://www.keepscotlandbeautiful.org/ [accessed 17/04/2021]

Reworked. Available at https://www.reworked.com/ [accessed 17/04/2021]

WWF Scotland. Available at https://www.wwf.org.uk/scotland [accessed 16/04/2021]

WWF Scotland. ‘The Great Scottish Canvas.’ Available at https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/great-scottish-canvas [accessed 16/04/2021]

WYLIE, Kathryn. 2020. ‘McDonald’s reopening leads to increase in litter louts in Galashiels.’ Southern Reporter. Available at https://www.thesouthernreporter.co.uk/news/environment/mcdonalds-reopening-leads-increase-litter-louts-galashiels-2878093#gsc.tab=0 [accessed 17/04/2021]

Zero Waste Scotland. Available at https://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/ [accessed 17/04/2021]