Jonathan Chapman

Jonathan Chapman

Professor, Director of Doctoral Studies

jachapman@cmu.edu

I am a Professor and Director of Doctoral Studies at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Design; an award-winning educator, author, consultant, and speaker, described by the New Scientist as "a new breed of sustainable design thinker."

I direct the PhD in Transition Design—a research program for designers committed to making a positive change in the world. Through this role, I develop future design leaders with the capacity to envision and realize sustainable change across a range of complex systems—from food, water, materials and products, to transport, healthcare, communications, and education. 

I teach a number of courses in the School of Design at undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels:

  • Design Minds (51601): Developing the designer's mental agility and expanding the capacity to reflect deeply and critically upon the world
  • Design that Lasts (51694): Exploring why we throw away things that still work, and how we can design products and services that last
  • Design for the Circular Economy (51276): Mastering design tactics to accelerate the transition to a circular economy
  • Design Writing Workshop (51913): Reframing writing as a design process and a powerful means of personal and political discovery
  • Design Thinking (51275): Introducing key design processes that unlock problems, shape solutions, and drive sustainable change
  • Framing Proposals for Change (51914): Crafting the PhD research process, and shaping proposals that effectively argue the case

I am a Visiting Professor in Design at the Politecnico di Milano and serve as a thesis advisor to Master's and PhD students at MIT, Cambridge University, Royal College of Art, and KAIST. I hold a PhD in Design (2008), MA in Design Futures (2001), and BA (Hons) in Product Design (1997). In 2013, aged just 38, I became the youngest person in England to be awarded a Full Professorship in Design.

Author

I have written four books on design, with a fifth coming out with MIT Press in August 2021:

Together, these works explore design’s immense capacity to leverage positive change and provide tools and methods for designers to enable the transition to a sustainable future.

Consultant

My research consultancy helps businesses design products that last, and accelerate their transition to a circular economy. Whether building skills and capabilities in design teams or shaping product strategy with leadership groups, my work helps move businesses toward an economy of "better," not "more.” 

I have helped over 50 businesses, non-profits, and governments drive sustainable change, whilst enhancing resource efficiency and competitive advantage. This includes working closely with global brands like The Body Shop, Puma, and Philips, and advising governmental bodies like The House of Lords, The House of Commons, and the United Nations. 

Speaker

A good talk should be both “interesting” and "relevant.” Sure, the social and environmental crises we face are overwhelming and terrible; no question. But they are also fascinating and laden with opportunities to reimagine how we design our world differently.

I’ve delivered well over 100 talks at conferences, trade events, corporate HQ’s, and policy institutions. Most recently: a keynote at H&M’s ChangeMakersLab in Stockholm; a lecture and two-day deep-dive with GSK’s Global Design Team; and, a series of talks and creative workshops with design, retail, and brand teams at COS HQ, London.

Endorsements

People really do say the nicest things; some of which I share below:

  • Jonathan takes part in the sustainable transition we are currently realizing throughout the H&M group—helping us in our quest to become climate positive by 2040. 
    Emelie Olbrink, Sustainability Lead, H&M
  • Chapman’s lectures, master classes, and workshops have helped to move our sustainability story forward by shaping the attitude and approach of our designers and management teams. 
    Reiner Hengstmann, Global Director, Puma
  • Chapman analyses patterns of consumption and waste, and successfully offers strategies and tools as an alternative to our throwaway society; creating designs people love and cherish, instead of simply making products to be thrown away. 
    Marcel Wanders, Designer and Director, Marcel Wanders Studio
  • Chapman’s research plays a key role in helping address problems of e-waste and product obsolescence; enabling us to look at the challenge of weaning people off their desire for the new. 
    Emily Nicoll, General Manager of Sustainability, SONY Europe
  • Applying Chapman’s philosophy of emotional durability helps our team rethink not only the type of products that can be developed in the future but also the role they can play in our ever-changing world. 
    Jon Mason, Experience Lead, Philips Experience Design
  • Chapman’s books provide an essential point of reference for scholars and practitioners at the intersection of design and sustainability.
    John Thackara, Founder, Doors of Perception
  • Chapman suggests a more powerful, sustainable “story of stuff”—one where design delights and is cherished once again. 
    Ed Gillespie, Co-Founder, Futerra
  • The case against mindless design has never been made more effectively. 
    Conny Bakker, Professor, TU Delft Industrial Design Engineering
  • Chapman's intriguing and extensive multi-angled journey shows how design lies at the core of the errors in our system, and how it can only be solved by rethinking it all from the start! 
    Michael Braungart, CEO EPEA Internationale Umweltforschung, Co-founder Cradle to Cradle
  • Design is at a crossroads. Chapman’s book gives the discerning reader the opportunity to make an informed decision on the most appropriate path design and designing should take. 
    Tony Fry, Professor, and Director, Studio at the Edge of the World