DESIGN-LED REPAIR: Expression of Interest for a special issue (Design and Culture)

Repair.Design Project News, research in process

Designers, repairers, interdisciplinary practitioners and academics are invited to submit contributions relevant to the theme Design-Led Repair


Repair is increasingly recognised as part of design but this connection needs to be underscored by conditions of urgency. The climatic disasters we are currently facing and the ones to come require repair to be at the forefront as a first responder. Product longevity and durability, despite being recognised by design as properties to establish, have not deterred the rampant pace of consumerism. By exploring the agency of repair versus other practices of a circular economy (such as recycling and remanufacturing), this special issue aims to explore the role of design in repair but also how repair is changing the practice and ethos of design. It also aspires to address the significance of aesthetics in relation to the transformation of any product type, by any particular method, into something usable again.

In this context, a design-led repair approach might be driven by the symbolism of waste and what it provokes (Muniesa 2014) in terms of economic, technological, ecological, social, and materials innovation; the responsibility of designers and users to identify in waste the ecological consequences of everyday life; existing cultures of repair involving culturally diverse social, and creative practices of reuse and repair; and mindfully designing what will become waste as well as redirecting or ‘designing out’ waste. In spite of repair’s prevalent interpretation through an Eurocentric and technocentric lens, this approach acknowledges its strong connection to resilience as experienced by First Nations, migrant and eco-communities, and situated, intergenerational knowledges.

The proposed special issue seeks to expand the existing knowledge on design-led repair beyond the manufacturing and legislative milieu to reveal the yet to be identified spaces/communities of repair as lived experience. For this reason, it invites written, practical, and visual investigations of design-led repair as a practice that encompasses the aforementioned values and responds to the pressing need for design to repair its relationship with natural and social environments. Contributions could be: a case study of transformative repair; research into a community initiative redirecting repair practices locally or repairing communities via creative means and strategies; a critical analysis of design-led repair as a practice that redesigns everyday life and vice versa; an exploration of the aesthetic importance of repair; and a theoretical exploration of repair as an intersection between specialist training and lived experience/human practice.

We are interested in contributions that address the following questions:

How do we capture and show repair value? How is repair a practice of value creation or co-creation? How do we demonstrate and share repair value?

How do we bring to the fore the significance of repair aesthetics? And how is this significance connected to the symbolic economy that drives designs and shortens product lifespans?

How can we rediscover repair as a human-scale practice? How can we unveil and amplify already existing repair and/or maintenance practices?

What would design-led repair look like?

What type of waste would we like/not like to design or design with?

How can we un-pacify waste?

What can design-led repair be acknowledged outside a Eurocentric/technocentric scope?

How could culturally diverse repair cultures lead design-led repair?

Contributions for this issue could take one of the following forms:

Design research papers, speculative design papers, visual essays, interviews/conversations,

reflections on/reviews of projects/case studies, a statement of practice.

Expression Of Interest (EOI):

Contributors are invited to express their interest by 8/10/2021 by emailing;

The EOI should include a 250-word abstract, the contributor(s)’ email address, title, affiliation and location. It should also include visual evidence (for visual essays), and a brief statement indicating the connection to the special issue questions. The EOI will be reviewed by the editorial team as the intention for a full draft submission. Guidelines for a full submission will be provided after the completion of the EOI process.

Important deadlines/dates:

  • EOI due: 8/10/2021
  • Contributors notified: 30/10/2021 
  • Full draft for peer review due (late drafts will not be accepted): 1/2/2022
  • Notification of acceptance: March-April 2022
  • Deadline for revised articles: April-May 2022
  • Final articles including permissions and images due: May 2022

Report Published

Repair.Design Project News, repairability, research in process
Photographs by Jessica Lea Dunn

We seek to invigorate the idea that repair is a design practice, and one of crucial significance in the context of impending climate breakdown. 

This document reports on the first phase of our research, carried out between July and December 2019. We join a growing network of Australian design scholars attending to repair through innovative projects.

Design’s Role in Transitioning to Cultures of Repair – Decolonising Perspectives

Repair.Design Project News

On 4 September 2019 our research team had the privilege of hosting Tristan Schultz at UTS. Tristan ran a participatory workshop for us on Design’s Role in Transitioning to Futures of Cultures of Repair. Tristan is one half of the creative firm Relative Creative, which he runs with Bec Barnett. Relative Creative design communication, strategies and  experiences that help people think, talk and mobilise sustainable futures. For this workshop we were joined by Associate Professor Ilaria Vanni Accarigi, Professor Cameron Tonkinwise, and Tim Boykett (Time’s Up).



The workshop gave us a great chance to openly discuss and distill decolonising strategies for thinking about cultures of repair. It also enabled us to share our distinct approaches to repair literature, which included everything from discussions on Aboriginal cultures of repair, to critiques of Heidegger, to Elizabeth Guffey on steam punk and discussions of gambiarra in Brazil and jugaard in India. There was a great deal of discussion about how to trace historical patterns of concealment, newness and care, and how these might be reconfigured in the present, via transculturation and connectivity. Also Tom Lee thought a lot about melted cheese, see previous blog post. And Jesse Adams Stein talked about class and its relationship to colonialism and capitalism (she’s always going on about class). Cameron Tonkinwise talked about the invisibility of things until they’re broken (and critiques of that Heideggarian position). And Kate Scardifield told us some amazing things about sails.






The Maintainers

Repair.Design Project News

We will be hanging out with The Maintainers in Washington, D.C. in October! This year’s theme is ‘Practice, Policy and Care’ and it is the third in a series of conferences that celebrates and unpacks the concepts of maintenance, infrastructure, repair, and the myriad forms of labor and expertise that sustain our human-built world.

Alexandra Crosby will be presenting on Tuesday, October 8 as part of a panel titled State of Good Repair: Does it Have a Future in the Smart City?

There are so many great panels and papers lined up including one on Impermanence and another on the Right To Repair and the Circular Economy

One we won’t be missing is No Gods, No Masters, and Instead Coalitional, Honest, Kind, Non-Abusive, Anti-Oppressive, Real-Deal, On the Ground, Radical Librarianship:

Treating our daily work as a platform for action, for creativity, for care, for radical purpose, for productive dissonance, and for resistance entrenched in history and informed by critical methodologies will allow us to reflect honestly on how we will meet the challenges of our present and future. Because ultimately, we want libraries to work: to work for the communities they are of, for the professionals that maintain them, and to work especially for those for whom they have never quite worked.  

Social Impact Workshop at UTS

Repair.Design Project News

Screen Shot 2019-08-07 at 12.16.35 pm

On Tuesday 6 August 2019, Jesse represented our Repair Design team, attending a workshop led by the UTS Centre for Social Justice & Inclusion (tied to our Social Impact Grant 2019). The workshop had a strong focus on building in ongoing evaluation into our project as it rolls out throughout 2019 and beyond, so that we can make sure we’re staying on track and can keep in mind the broader intentions of the project. In the workshop, we mapped the relationship between our project activities, our ‘outputs’ (that means our written work / but also our public events), and the intended outcomes of the project. It all sounds rather abstract using this terminology, but what was great about this workshop was that it enabled us to clearly articulate our short term, medium term and long term goals in terms of the social (and environmental!) impacts of this project. This also involves us acknowledging that our project is part of a complex patchwork of other practices, institutions, advocacy groups and DIY repairers operating in similar spheres. One of our key short-term aims is to develop a strong, interdisciplinary network of repair-interested stakeholders, and from there, work together to improve broader social awareness of repair issues in Australia. Aside from environmental gains, there is a great deal of potential for positive social change in relation to repair: repair is a job-creator, is uses skills that some have previously dismissed as ‘redundant’, and undertaking DIY repair improves social wellbeing. Longer-term goals are bigger: widespread public re-engagement with repair issues (both DIY repair and professional repair), social awareness of sustainable consumption choices (how to choose a repair-friendly new product), and advocacy contributing to legislative reform that would support independent repair, potential for repair tax incentives, and for repair to become a much more significant part of Australian waste management policies (which are currently very oriented towards recycling & landfill).

Repair Cultures Workshop

Repair.Design Project News


As part of our scoping research, the team will be participating in a Repair Cultures Workshop facilitated by Tristan Schultz and Bec Barnett.

Tristan is founder and co-director of Relative Creative, an Indigenous owned and led design practice, informed by being on Yugembah Country at Jellurgal, and by Tristan’s Gamilaroi heritage.

Since Relative Creative is driven by being critically thinking and concern with ecological and social responsibilities, it is very much aligned with the goals of this research project.

As well as practicing design facilitation, strategic design, service design, policy and planning design, social design, participatory and co-design, Tristan is also a design academic and writer. In this paper, he traces a historical and conceptual terrain of cultures of repair from a decolonial and ontological design perspective. 

Schultz, T., 2017, January. Design’s Role in Transitioning to Futures of Cultures of Repair. In International Conference on Research into Design (pp. 225-234). Springer, Singapore.