We’ve all been in that place where we feel we want to level up our design practice but need to dive into research to find our way forward. The team at What Design Can Do is always on the lookout for fresh resources, from books to podcasts, that can help guide, inspire and inform designers who are working to fight for social and climate justice.

This resource roundup is in two sections: the first to remind us of the power of design to do good in the world, and the second focussing on recycle and repair, two circular strategies that also happen to be the theme of our next Redesign Everything Challenge digital zine, coming soon). If you’re feeling extra inspired, you can join the competition to #RedesignEverything by submitting a project online via the Challenge platform. Your submission stands to win a €5,000 grant, mentorship, an accelerator programme in Amsterdam and global publicity!

On design’s potential to do good in the world

You’re not alone in believing that design holds lots of potential for good. Here are three things to watch, listen and read that investigate what this looks like in practice.

The Circular Economy Show

By Ellen MacArthur Foundation

For a primer on all things circular, check out online event series The Circular Economy Show. Each episode takes a deep dive into a part of the circular economy through a conversation with an expert in a specific field. The conversations shed light on how pioneers in every sector are already rethinking the design, manufacture, usage, and waste of things — from food and to electronics.  Learn more

The Circular Economy Show by Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Design Emergency Podcast

With Paola Antonelli & Alice Rawsthorn

This design podcast is run by two visionaries: design curator Paola Antonelli and design critic Alice Rawsthorn. Together they shine a light on how designers and other creatives are facing the wicked problems of our day and creating positive impact. Our team recommends their episode on design and human rights Learn more

The Design Emergency Podcast

Ruined by Design 

By Mike Monteiro 

This one is a bit of a wild-card! Though the title sounds a little doom-and-gloom, author Mike Monteiro is just very passionate about calling his fellow designers to work with an ethical backbone, centring responsibility and care in all design work, ensuring that our work doesn’t go to help make a small minority of people very rich and the rest suffer. Read this if you want a kick of urgency. You can read a sample chapter here. Learn more

Ruined by Design

On recycle and repair

Tackling the climate crisis requires creative solutions to reduce waste as well as consumption, and recycling and repair are two useful first rungs on this ladder. As circular strategies go, these two are perhaps the most common and widely-adopted. That also means they are often misunderstood — and the following resources are here to help you navigate this space with care.

Waste-Led Design Class 

By The Slow Factory

This free online class will take you through the challenges and opportunities of waste-led design: ‘an approach that considers the end of life of materials at the beginning of the design process’. Céline Semaan, co-founder of Slow Factory, talks about implementing circular design principles and integrating sustainability thinking methods in order to responsibly reduce waste, and redistribute it when it occurs.  Learn more

Waste-Led Design Class

Broken: Mending and Repair in a Throwaway World 

By Katie Treggiden

Featuring over 200 images and in-depth essays, this new book by Katie Treggiden explores the societal shift towards mending in our throwaway society, showcasing 25 global artisans rejecting disposability in favour of the patina of longevity and care. Dive into her exploration of mending’s societal, cultural, and environmental significance. Learn more

Broken: Mending and Repair in a Throwaway World

Radical Repair 

By The World Around

IN FOCUS: RADICAL REPAIR was a gathering of eight interdisciplinary designers to explore architecture’s role in combating the climate crisis. Held during the Triennale Milano, the event questioned design’s potential to repair social and ecological fabrics worldwide. All the talks from the programme, which included renowned figures like Yasmeen Lari and Jeanne Gang, are available to watch now. Learn more

Yasmeen Lari speaking at In Focus: Radical Repair event

Vintage or Violence Podcast

by Bobby Kolade

Vintage or Violence is a podcast all about the world of secondhand clothing. Hosted by Nikissi Serumaga and fashion designer Bobby Kolade, this limited series specifically explores the impact of waste colonialism on countries like Uganda. From interviews with the likes of Aja Barber, author of the book Consumed, to a deep-dive into the history of cotton production, listen to learn about how changes in one sector of an economy can have far-reaching influences.  Learn more

Secondhand clothing in Uganda