Designing with Nature for Sustainability - Towards a critical approach for including natural nonhuman stakeholders in collaborative and participatory design when designing for sustainability

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Doctoral thesis (article-based)
Degree programme
88 + app. 100
Aalto University publication series DOCTORAL THESES, 92/2023
Collaborative and participatory design (C&PD) is an area of design theory and practice in which designers involve project stakeholders as active participants to jointly explore and frame problems and to co-create solutions. In response to increasingly more pressing sustainability challenges, C&PD scholarship has been engaged in rethinking the premises, constructs, and practices of the field. One of the ways in which C&PD is striving to address the sustainability challenges is by including natural nonhuman stakeholders. Such an approach warrants a careful and evaluative investigation. Therefore, this doctoral dissertation critically explores in what ways including natural nonhuman stakeholders in C&PD can contribute to sustainability. It seeks to answer four research questions. (1) Why should designers include natural nonhuman stakeholders in C&PD when aiming to contribute to sustainability? (2) How to approach the identification of natural nonhuman stakeholders in C&PD when aiming to contribute to sustainability? (3) In what ways can natural nonhuman stakeholders be included in C&PD? (4) How to approach the identification of natural nonhuman needs? This dissertation includes two parts: five peer-reviewed research publications form one part, and a six-chapter introductory essay forms the other part. The essay answers the research questions by integrating and discussing the findings, summarizes the results, and outlines limitations and avenues for further research. The doctoral research findings indicate that including natural nonhuman stakeholders in C&PD when aiming to contribute to sustainability has merit; however, it requires being critical and careful when identifying the stakeholders, including them in C&PD processes and sourcing their needs. Including natural nonhuman stakeholders can contribute to sustainability in three interrelated ways: by shifting individual and collective worldviews towards being more aligned with sustainability; by challenging the dominant systems and structures that support unsustainability; and by creating practical design solutions that are more aligned with and support sustainability. The dissertation discusses these three reasons and proposes an integrative framework showcasing the interdependencies and interconnections between them. Further, the dissertation proposes a systemic approach and the usefulness of non-anthropocentric environmental ethics to identify natural nonhuman stakeholders. Then the dissertation presents three ways designers can use to include natural nonhuman stakeholders in design time and discusses natural nonhuman stakeholder participation in the use time. Finally, because natural entities are rarely discussed in relation to their needs and research disciplines do not necessarily identify needs of natural nonhuman stakeholders, the dissertation suggests that designers should attentively approach the identification of needs of the natural nonhuman stakeholders in their projects.
Supervising professor
Gaziulusoy, İdil, Assoc. Prof., Aalto University, Department of Design, Finland
Thesis advisor
Gaziulusoy, İdil, Assoc. Prof., Aalto University, Department of Design, Finland
collaborative and participatory design, natural nonhuman stakeholders, design for sustainability
Other note
  • [Publication 1]: Veselova, E., & Gaziulusoy, İ. (2022). Bioinclusive collaborative and participatory design: A conceptual framework and a research agenda. Design and Culture. 14(2), 149-183.
    Full text in Acris/Aaltodoc:
    DOI: 10.1080/17547075.2021.2019455 View at publisher
  • [Publication 2]: Veselova, E. (2019). Designing for sustainable entangled human–nature systems. In T. Mattelmäki, R. Mazé, S. Miettinen, & N. Chun (Eds.). Proceedings of the 8th Bi-Annual Nordic Design Research Society Conference – Who Cares? 2–4 June 2019, Espoo, Finland. Available at: https://archive.
    Full text in Acris/Aaltodoc:
  • [Publication 3]: Gaziulusoy, İ., Veselova, E., Hodson, E., Berglund, E., Öztekin, E. E., Houtbeckers, E., Hernber, H., Jalas, M., & Litowtschenko, M. F. (2021). Design for sustainability transformations: A deep leverage points research agenda for the (post-) pandemic context. Strategic Design Research Journal, 14(1), 19–31.
    Full text in Acris/Aaltodoc:
    DOI: 10.4013/sdrj.2021.141.02 View at publisher
  • [Publication 4]: Veselova, E., & Gaziulusoy, İ. (2021). When a tree is also a multispecies collective, a photosynthesis process and a carbon cycle: A systemic typology of natural nonhuman stakeholders when designing for sustainability. In J.C. Dielh, N. Tromp & M. van der Bijl-Brouwen (Eds.), Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD10) Symposium. 2–6 November 2021, Delft, the Netherlands.
  • [Publication 5]: Veselova, E., Gaziulusoy, İ., Lohmann, J. (2022). Mediating the needs of human and natural nonhuman stakeholders: Towards a design methodological framework. In D. Lockton, S.L. Lenzi, P.P.M. Hekkert, A. Oak, J. Sadaba, P.A. Lloyd (Eds.), Proceedings of DRS2022 International Conference of the Design Research Society, 25 June to 3 July 2022, Bilbao, Spain.
    Full text in Acris/Aaltodoc:
    DOI: 10.21606/drs.2022.524 View at publisher