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Mark Lilla writes, “Our ambition must be to develop a vision of America that emerges authentically out of liberal values yet speaks to every citizen, as a citizen.”

The need for a compelling, cohesive and unifying vision for the liberal-minded people of the United States is a Transition Design challenge. It describes a complicated, multi-stakeholder problem that needs a creative solution that considers the ramifications of its implementation. My energy perked up as I read Lilla’s The Once and Future Liberal as he described:

“If Liberals are serious about supplanting Reaganism in the public imagination, they must first understand why it rose and retained its power to convince for so long. What changes in American economic and social life made that ideology plausible in the first place?”
[Transition Design has tools for that]
He goes on to say,
“It wasn’t the careful study of arguments that convinced millions of Americans to vote for Ronald Reagan. It was the imaginative connection he made with the public that transformed those ideas into an epiphany.”
[Designers already have the skills for this, if given the right fodder]

My nascent view of Transition Design is that it provides a profound set of tools and a philosophical-type mindset to answer the challenge, “What can be the future of ______ ?” with a systemic approach of responsibility and inclusion, rather than economic and material inspiration.

In my time at IDEO, we used to laugh at how many, “What’s the future of____?” problems we would work on. What’s the future of popcorn? What’s the future of education? I love these projects and these questions, but with the tools of Industrial Design, we tend to limit our solutions to the needs of the business and the needs of their current customers… rather than the needs of the planet and the needs of the citizenry. Those tools make sense in a capitalistic space, but there are bigger and better problems that designers can work on, we just need bigger and better weapons. And the Irwin, Kossof, Tonkinwise team is showing them to us.

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