How to design for the Planet, an interview with Nicole A. A. Calistri, collaborator of our Planet-Centric deck

Nicole is a process facilitator and designer, bridging creative methods with environmental sustainability while advocating environment-centered design. It’s the design and management framework signature of her starting collective Envision. She is also the co-creater of our Planet-Centric Deck!


We talked to Nicole about her experience co-creating our Planet-Centric deck with Alejandro (Triggers' founder), and the importance of taking our Planet into account when generating new ideas.

1. What's your background? How did you end up working in your field?

I built up my interest in sustainability and the environment by achieving a bachelor’s of Design Management and Cultures, a multidisciplinary course that gave me the opportunity to focus my career path in research and dialectic design. Specifically, I gained a deeper understanding of systems and operations and became fascinated by the intersection of these with culture, especially the behaviours that people engage with on a daily basis. Or rather, the systems and processes in place that indulge and nudge us to consume. Equal interest began to arise around the processes that make the things we like to purchase. Therefore, I studied the responsibilities of design encircling environmental issues and learned the potential that we, as designers and design managers, have in reversing these towards sustainable practices. From a project that investigated the processes of production and disposability of paper cups, including human behaviours around the subject, I produced a design and management framework that places the environmental well-being at the centre of the design process. Environment-centred design is now the fundaments of the creative agency I co-founded.

2. How was the process of making the Triggers deck? What did you get from it?

The process of making the Planet-centric Deck was methodical. Alejandro is an expert in curating processes and he guided me through every step. First, we would meet via Skype for a 1-2 hour session per week. I would talk about different case studies of sustainability, design innovations and behavioural concepts and Ale would take notes and ask me questions. Then, we would have a shared document to co-create aspects of the deck, such as name, categories, and rules. Finally, in my own time, I would write short descriptions of environmentally viable projects while Ale would sketch the ‘what if’ questions. We ended up having a 20-page document! I got three things from the process: co-creating is easy and effective, international collaborations are fun and rewarding, and creativity needs to be trained as any other skill.

Nicole workshopping our Planet-Centric deck.

Nicole workshopping our Planet-Centric deck.

Brainstorming environmentally-friendly projects using our Planet-Centric deck.

Brainstorming environmentally-friendly projects using our Planet-Centric deck.


3. Did the result meet your expectations?

The Planet-centric Deck features a complex subject, that of lessening environmental issues as creators, brands, and organisations. I was surprised by the outcome given the long document we created in the process and the short deadline that we had. Seeing the ambitious goal, the result exceeded my expectations for two reasons:

First, each card successfully captures a step needed to design and produce more sustainably. Thanks to Alejandro’s tactic, we analysed successes and failures of sustainability projects and defined the patterns to reproduce positive outcome. Alejandro then produced each ‘what if’ question informed by these.

Secondly, by applying principles of circularity, nature/biomimicry and behavioural nudge in the making of the cards, I believe that the whole deck forms a complete strategy for sustainable processes, product, and service development that can be used not solely during a brainstorming session, but also to advise management practice.

4. How was the effect of the deck when testing it with teams?

Making products and services that help decrease the impact of society in the environment is not an easy exercise. Rethinking systems that preserve the earth is even a greater challenge. Nonetheless, I saw that the very adversity of the subject bonds people when it comes to generating ideas around planetary issues. It is easy to empathize with the theme and I believe that people sense this alignment when working in groups. Because of this, I think that the Planet-centric Desk activates organic collaboration, where everyone is motivated to contribute. When using the deck, I also feel as people realise that solving environmental problems can be fun and inspire creativity. After trying the cards, people said that they made them think about things they would have not thought about normally and that using them also increased their awareness on the subject.

The use of the cards made teams come up with some particularly innovative ideas. The ones that pop up in my mind now are bulk transactions for household bills to decrease the co2 emitted by banks; new schemes to import the production of big brands such as Coca-Cola to local communities, decreasing environmental impact and increasing jobs; laboratory mimic of natural processes to create natural materials for packaging and collaborations across sectors and industries to accelerate change, such as the council’s lead initiative to cultivate vegetables on sustainable fishing tanks in cities such as London to supply communities with food and create jobs.

Solving environmental problems can be fun and inspire creativity.

5. Any tips on using this particular deck on a creative session?

1. Think big, and dream bigger during your brainstorming session, don’t make the size of the problem overwhelm you and your team.

2. Let crazy ideas flow. Environmental issues are the fruit of traditional and sedimentary systems. To tackle such problems, truly original ideas are essential.

3. Ideas can be twigged and refined after to fit requirements. Don’t think about feasibility and viability, let creativity flaw.

4. A planetary mindset will help you collaborate with your peers. Think that your ideas have the potential to decrease the environmental impact on a global scale. Keep in mind that your work can positively affect people who are all around the world. Not only people but also ecosystems of flora and fauna. When your team is aligned to such mindset, everyone is motivated to work harmoniously for the cause.

Click here to learn more about our Planet-Centric deck and discover new ways to ideate greener projects, brands, and products.