Design Rules for Sustainability
Curt McNamara is an experienced engineer, biomimicry educator and Buckminster Fuller scholar. We recently caught up with him to discuss his career as well as his fully online course devoted to the subject of Bucky Fuller’s work called, Geometry of Thinking. The course begins May 29 and registration is open. This is a 10-week course that is a core part of MCAD’s Sustainable Design Online Program.
SDO: What spurred you to become a sustainable designer?
In high school I read a lot of science fiction so was familiar with possible futures. I was really struck by a confluence of forces: Bucky Fuller’s Success For All Humanity; the 1st Earth Day, and the vision of the Whole Earth Catalog and Review.
SDO: Describe one of your favorite moments/projects as a sustainable designer.
Working with a team to update a classic design which contained a toxic chemical. Everyone pulled together and we created a long lasting product with minimal impact.
SDO: What is your class about and who is it for?
It is about the shape of space and thought. There are generalized principles that describe how nature connects, and these underlie all designs. As our knowledge of the principles increases, our designs and actions come into alignment with nature. It is for designers and also for those who want to increase their skill in navigation and action.
SDO: What are the most important things you want students of your class to leave with?
Seeing designs and actions in 3D. How systems are constructed and how they couple to one another.
This knowledge can be used to reduce impact and increase effectiveness in design and in decision.
SDO: In what ways do you apply the Geometry of Thinking to your work?
Ensure that all systems have the minimum number of components, and that they are coupled together correctly. Looking for the ways that one system affects and attracts other systems.
SDO: What is one piece of advice that you’d give to a designer interested in sustainability?
There has never been a better nor a more important time to be a sustainable designer! The word will soon disappear as it becomes integrated into everyone’s normal practice.
SDO: Anything else you’d like to add?
Bring your work into the class, and use every week to deepen your understanding of it.
Learn more about this Geometry of Thinking class or sign up today!
Curt McNamara, P. Eng., (MEng/Portland State University, BS/University of Minnesota) is an educator and practicing designer with 20 years experience. He is a scholar of R. Buckminster Fuller and authored the entry on Fuller in the UNESCO Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems. Curt received the IEEE Millennium Medal in 2000 for his ongoing work in education, is a Biomimicry Education Fellow with The Biomimicry Institute, and wrote the Systems Chapters in “Sustainable Graphic Design” (Wiley) and “Packaging Sustainability” (Wiley).
Geodesic dome image courtesy of @CurtMcNamara. Student work by @Vinit Jain and @Stefanie Koehler, respectively.