Book review: Uncommonly Held Beliefs in “Commons in Design”

These collected essays look at the commons in relation to setting up design practices, and sustaining a good design ecology


23 x 16,5 cm (h x w) | 352 pp. | English | ISBN 978-94-93246-30-0 |

Commons in Design, edited by Christine Schranz and supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation, explores the intersection of the traditional concept of commons with contemporary design practices. Spanning 352 pages, it features contributions from a diverse array of thinkers and practitioners including Rachel Armstrong, Zoe Romano, and Yuhe Ge.

This volume presents a rigorous analysis of the potential for commoning to revolutionize design methodologies, moving away from the entrenched, linear virgin-to-waste paradigm of production that still prevails within the Anthropocene epoch. It challenges professional designers to consider community-centric resource stewardship as a viable and necessary departure from the unsustainable trajectories of capital creation that dominate our current marketplace.

At its core, Commons in Design clarifies the evolving dynamics of design in the context of accelerating resource scarcity, climate crisis, and the digitalization of everyday life. It argues persuasively that the economy of swapping, sharing, lending, and community-construction — intrinsically linked to a culture of commoning — is an urgent and necessary shift in thinking and practice. The collected papers excel in demonstrating from a variety of perspectives how commons and commoning are not theoretical musings but rather actively being integrated into design processes and education around the globe, as evidenced by its international contributors.

What makes this book outstanding is its emphasis on the social, relational aspects of design. It moves beyond the traditional focus on objects and aesthetics, and investigates solutions which are participatory, networked, and open source. The contributors, each an expert in their field, offer insights into how commoning can lead to more democratic, inclusive, and sustainable design practices; challenging designers to reflect on their emerging roles as facilitators of community-driven solutions.

Commons in Design is an essential and timely resource for designers, students, and anyone interested in the transformative power of design in our break-neck turbo-capitalist world.

Bulent Akman is a creative language consultant and freelance design journalist based in Warsaw, Poland.