Cameron Tonkinwise Joins School as Director of Design Studies


The School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University is pleased to announce the appointment of Cameron Tonkinwise, effective August 2012. Tonkinwise will join the full-time faculty as Associate Professor, Director of Design Studies and Chair of the School’s Doctoral Studies Committee.

Formerly the Chair of Design Thinking and Sustainability for the School of Design Strategies at Parsons The New School for Design, Tonkinwise was responsible for developing offerings in the areas of strategy, sustainability, and service design. He was also the Co-Chair of the Tishman Environment Design Center, managing the New School's university-wide degree programs in Environmental Studies, and was a founding member of the Parsons DESIS Lab (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability).

Originally from Australia, with a background in continental philosophy, Tonkinwise completed his PhD at the University of Sydney. His thesis examined the educational strategies employed by the German philosopher, Martin Heidegger, and he continues to explore how ontological perspectives can enhance the social responsibility of design practice. Tonkinwise was formerly the Director of Design Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney, and throughout the 90's, worked with Tony Fry at the EcoDesign Foundation, one of the world's first sustainable design-focused thinktanks.

Tonkinwise has been active in discussions about the nature of practice and artifact-based design research and has been developing theoretical frameworks based on his work as a regular examiner of design doctorates, especially at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, where he is an Adjunct Professor.

Tonkinwise's primary area of research is “dematerialization design”, which attempts to improve societal sustainability by lowering its materials intensity. The most significant dematerialization strategies involve decoupling use and ownership; in other words, increasing resource sharing, whether through businesses selling the use of goods rather than the goods themselves, or households engaging in peer-to-peer lending and leasing.

Tonkinwise has published and taught for over a decade on “product service systems” design and “collaborative consumption,” and been a prominent advocate of emerging “sharing economies” while in New York. He has also been a board member of, a platform for crowd-resourcing local environmental initiatives. He is currently completing a Sustainable Design Reader with Abby Mellick-Lopes, University of Western Sydney, to be published by Berg in Spring 2013.

Terry Irwin, Head of the School of Design at CMU, says, “Cameron’s research and experience will make him a vital contributor to the School’s mission of providing a world-class design education that prepares students to become catalysts for innovation and social change. We look forward to him leading conversations in designing the next iteration of our PhD program as well as helping to develop a new design studies curriculum that reflects our new mission and vision.”

Tonkinwise remarked: “CMU's School of Design has been at the forefront of the extension of professional designing, from products to services, and from expert craftsmanship to research-based innovation. So I am very excited to have the opportunity to join the School in leading a next wave of transformations toward more socially responsive forms of designing.”