Date of Award

Spring 5-2015

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Design (MDes)




Cameron Tonkinwise


Our material, social and natural worlds are at odds with each other, and their collision is leading to problems of a global scale. This current paradigm presents a dichotomy between the way we live and the notion of sustainment, posing a critical challenge for the disciplines of design. The matter of concern here is that if we have created this unsustainable state of affairs, how can we redress the situation? Design needs to discover new ways of thinking and acting, develop new approaches, and practice new methods to address these concerns.

I argue that we need to move beyond a human-centric lens and engage a deeper, systemic knowledge of things (nonhumans) so as to think more holistically and understand what is happening in our society. In order to do so, I focused my attention on the philosophy of care and theories of things. This thesis lays the foundation for developing a means of thinking with things and care as a mode of inquiry for designing interactions that may guide us towards a more sustainable future.

This document includes a preliminary set of heuristics derived from theory that designers can utilize as a means of applying such theoretical concepts as agency, reciprocity, temporality, and mediation to design practice. This is followed by an exploratory research through design project, in which the heuristics have been applied through the reflective practice of sketching. This helped generate insights and conclusions about the process, improvements to the methodology, and potential directions for future research.