Flora Bowden, Dan Lockton, Rama Gheerawo, Clare Brass
Design by Hannah Montague
Royal College of Art, London, 2015, 96pp. ISBN 978-1-910642-10-8. Book website with download
Drawing Energy describes a drawing-based research project undertaken by the Royal College of Art as part of SusLabNWE (2012-15). The project explored people’s perceptions of energy, by asking them to write, draw or illustrate their thoughts and reactions to the question ‘What does energy look like?’ Over 180 members of the public took part in the process.
The larger SuslabNWE study saw 11 partners from Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK come together to understand and investigate energy use in the home. At the Royal College of Art, we looked at bringing together two ideals and practices around inclusive design and sustainability. Both often have different starting points and deal with different scales. Inclusive design usually focuses on people’s needs and capabilities at the domestic scale, while sustainability embraces complexity and systems thinking, addressing systemic change. Drawing Energy negotiates a space between the two, bringing together people’s aspirations and perspectives with the context of socio-political mandates and changing infrastructure or technologies. The study also moves beyond the idea of purely functional research (such as numerically measuring energy use) to depict the less tangible area of how people relate to energy in a visual, literal or metaphorical way—it takes us from data ‘performance’ through to human ‘perception’. The work represented in this collection builds on a history of using drawing as a tool for research and as a way to enable people to express their ideas and imagination fully.