Crinion was born in Liverpool, England in 1953 and moved to Canada before returning to the UK. His father was an Architect and his mother a FashiREAD MORE >
The dialectic of Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis or Why this web site is constantly unfinished. Johann Gottlieb Fichte was a German philosopher whoREAD MORE >
The work shown in this section entitled THESIS, is but a small representative selection of the many international projects that were undertaken bREAD MORE >
The Gazelle chair was designed in Toronto Canada originally for AREA a small local furniture company and is made in Udine, Italy. In 1986 there wREAD MORE >
Crinion Associates designed the systems and manufacturing concept of a commercial composter. The composters are designed to replace industrial foREAD MORE >
In 1993 flat screens were just beginning to appear. This project for Teknion was about applying that new technology to the work environment. UsinREAD MORE >
After travelling around North America to confer with architects, CEO's of major corporations, interior designers and facility managers we prepareREAD MORE >
Quote from the past: “Harnessed wind is something to be marvelled at, something beautiful in our environment that changes and moves as the weatREAD MORE >
In 1998 I worked with Norman Foster Associates in London and among other projects to refine the Nomos furniture system that evolved from a projecREAD MORE >
Designers Revolt - Fiat announces that it plans to cut 8,100 jobs. General Motors sits on the sidelines waiting to prey on Fiat’s lack of viREAD MORE >
The grand dad of all big system tables around the world for the work environment was first designed by Jonathan Crinion in 1986. 'I could only drREAD MORE >
In 2006 Friends of the Earth, a proactive environmental research organisation in London, developed a campaign called 'The Big Ask'. The premiseREAD MORE >
Humans have been actively creative for millions of years. The use of tools and the construction of buildings grew into a differentiating featureREAD MORE >
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in his later life, lived in Weimar where he died in 1832. George Eliot, the English writer called him "Germany's greaREAD MORE >
After the Second World War the idea of continuing with the frugality that had been a necessity seemed perverse in what appeared to be a world ofREAD MORE >
'Can Earth Survive Capitalism' consists of a review of number of different speakers talking about various aspects of capitalism and proposing howREAD MORE >
Climate change, peak oil and the end of economic growth are increasingly becoming seen as the key challenges the world economy is facing (World EREAD MORE >
We are a small social company born in summer 2011 in Asturias, on the rural North coast of Spain, near the beautiful Picos de Europa. We are a grREAD MORE >
Creating an ecological-Self: How the Natural Change project uses Ecopsychology in an attempt to elicit social action for an ecologically sustainaREAD MORE >
This ongoing research project attempts to make a contemporary yacht turbine from wood and without using copper or aluminium for the windings. A 5READ MORE >
The chair is designed to be made from Ash, which has been sourced locally and grown in an ecologically managed natural forest. The glue used to bREAD MORE >
In progress, coming soonREAD MORE >
For the SYNTHESIS please visit WWW.EX-NIHILO-LAB.NET As of September 2017 a new organisation called 'Ex Nihilo Lab: Situational Expeditions iREAD MORE >
Please write to:
Dr. Jonathan Crinion
14 Atlas Mews,
Crinion was born in Liverpool, England in 1953 and moved to Canada before returning to the UK. His father was an Architect and his mother a Fashion Designer, which greatly influenced his design perspectives.
He began working on environmental issues in the early 1970's and graduated as an Associate to the Ontario College of Art and Design (AOCA) in the Department of Product and Systems Design with a thesis project of solar energy. After working with Kuypers Adamson & Norton (KAN) and Foster Associates Architects London he formed Crinion Associates in 1986, which became an international Research, Planning and Design consulting firm. He holds an MSc with Distinction in Holistic Science (Earth Systems Science) at Schumacher College, Devon, UK where he explored Holistic Design Ecology. Additionally Crinion holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Human Geography from Exeter University, UK. His Doctoral thesis was about how eco-psychology could inform social change in relation to human caused environmental degradation of which climate change is but one part.
Crinion Associates grew to international fame and won many prestigious awards for outstanding design excellence. The company engaged in projects ranging from vertical axis wind turbines for domestic use, electronic equipment, to the ‘Open Table’ concept for Knoll International, NY, which has revolutionised the office work environment globally.
In 1994 Jonathan Crinion was chosen as one of the top 40 designers in the world by International Design Magazine. In 1995 Crinion Associates received two prestigious Financial Post Design Effectiveness Awards, one for Best of Product Development and one for Best of Show for the companies work with Knoll International in New York. Crinion is the Winner of the 1999 FX Design awards UK, Winner of the 1999 International Design Review - Best of Category and the Winner of the 2000 Toronto Arts Award for Design and Architecture. In 2002 he won the international D&AD Award for Outstanding Product Design in the UK. In 2004 he was the winner of the IIDEX International Show - Bronze, Silver and Gold awards for his designs and innovations in the work environment.
He is an occasional visiting lecturer at Schumacher College, The International Centre for Ecological Studies and recently has been a keynote speaker at the Victoria & Albert Museum London, The Eco Design Centre Wales, The Reform Conference in Ireland, The Institute of Technology in Carlow and at the DEEDS conference on Ecological Education at Brighton University, among other universities and public venues.
In 1997 the Queen's representative, the Governor General of Canada, Roméo Le Blanc presented Jonathan Crinion with the prestigious Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts (RCA) designation in recognition of his design achievements. He is a past member of the Chartered Society of Designers in the UK and past Director of Communications for the Association of Canadian Industrial Designers.
Crinion is also one of the three founding member/owners and is a Creative Advisor of Gaia y Sofia, a Social Cooperative Company based in Asturias, Spain. Gaia y Sofia offers transformative events and courses for individuals, organizations, institutions and communities.
Prior to 2004 Crinion was the President and principal shareholder of Crinion Associates Ltd an international Research, Planning and Design firm established in 1986, with a head office in Toronto, Canada. Crinion retired from the company in 2004 and is now an independent consultant, specialising in Ecological Design Consultant in London, UK and remains a Consultant to consultant to Crinion Associates, which continues to hold and manage numerous international design patents.
In the past, working in the capacity of Design Director and managing a team of over 20 designers at Crinion Associates Ltd, Crinion oversaw multi million pound product and systems development projects for many private and international corporations. In his capacity as a retired consultant, Jonathan Crinion now designs and patents products and systems and then licenses them to appropriate manufactures. Rather than offering design services directly to customers as Crinion Associates did, Jonathan Crinion now develops ecological products and systems for licensing.
In 2006 Crinion created a sailing project in collaboration with Owen Clark Naval Architects in Devon, UK for 'Friends of the Earth' in London, UK to promote carbon reduction for a project called The Big Ask. He sailed the Friends of the Earth yacht with friend Brian McCallum from Cape Town, South Africa to Madeira and then single handed from Madeira to Falmouth, UK.
Central to Crinion’s success is his belief that ‘less is more’ which is achieved through disciplined innovation involving a common theme of innovation and material reduction. His resolved forms reflect frugality, often combining many functions into one simple part. For Crinion, environmental consciousness is nothing new, having begun in earnest when he designed a solar hot water heating system in the 70's. After many years Jonathan’s designs are showing that they have a sense of quiet timelessness. This comes from the complex but restrained ideas he generates. He refrains from participation in the rabid consumerism that has gripped industry. His philosophy lies in complete opposition to needless proliferation of 'Designer products' with short life cycles, believing that 'the future of design lies in finding local or non material solutions'. His latest work begins to resolve the disparity between the corporate fight for limited global resources by engaging local networks of skilled services and sustainable material providers and by using clever Peer Production Licensing techniques to promote decentralised ecological bioregional production over centralised international sourcing.
His interests are in the metaphysics of the Human Geography of ‘Creativity – Made Visible’ and how a new relationship with human creativity may be translated into an ecological polity. To that end he is pursuing work on ‘Situational Expeditions’, which are designed to help existential individuals catalyze specific combinations of efficacy and agency into situations that allows them with foresight, to create social action for an ecologically connected future.
He is an experienced long distance single-handed offshore sailor, a skill he uses as a means of travel. He lives in London England and works globally.
Head Photo: Michel Caron
The dialectic of Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis
Why this web site is constantly unfinished.
Johann Gottlieb Fichte was a German philosopher who developed a principle to explain how change happens in the world, which is often referred to as the dialectical method.
Dialectical refers to a logical discussion in which opposing ideas are debated. The dialectical method involves the use of three stages to describe and structure the evolution of change, which are 'Thesis–Antithesis–Synthesis'. The process is ongoing and once a cycle is complete it starts over.
I use this dialectical method to portray my work as an on going process, a self critique and as a means to inform the current flux within the design profession. Everything you see here is constantly being re-evaluated - come back in a few weeks and the site will have evolved.
Ultimately this comes about because designers the world over are being confronted with their culpability for environmental degradation and ultimately climate change. I am seeking to redefine design as part of the solution rather than a large part of the problem.
A Thesis may be thought of as an intellectual proposition or in the case of this web site the proposition of what contemporary design scholars, Dunne and Raby, have termed 'Affirmative Design'. Affirmative design is essentially designing within the neoliberal status quo. This is the problem.
The Antithesis is a reaction to the Thesis proposition in a critical manner. In this sense it is a negation of the Thesis. In my case this was a period of time in which after 30 something years of Affirmative Design, I firstly researched how the metabolism of Earth works and secondly the eco-psychological implications and opportunities for a meaningful human response to the current environmental degradation and climate change.
The Synthesis attempts to solve the disparity between the Thesis and Antithesis by formulating a reconciling solution. This reconciled solution is at first a tentative new positionality for design. This Synthesis then becomes a nascent Thesis and the process starts over. At the moment I am working to resolve a first cycle.
It is for the above reasons that this web site remains unfinished and with constant changes. As old sections are updated from archives, new sections are evolved, new links are made and observations inform the Synthesis.
This site is less about the years of design work or the research but rather more about what it all means, how design could change and how design can move from being parasitic to having a more meaningful role as part of Earth's metabolism.
Jonathan Crinion 2016
For more information about 'Affirmative Design', see: Dunne, A., Raby, F., (2013) Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction and Social Dreaming, MIT Press
The work shown in this section entitled THESIS, is but a small representative selection of the many international projects that were undertaken by Crinion Associates over a period of 30+ years between the inception of the company and the year 2006. This work includes experience with research, planning and design spanning work with small start up companies to large multinational corporations. (Much of the research was strategic and is thus confidential and may not be shown here.)
At the height of Crinion Associates success, in 2006 I decided to take a sabbatical to pursue various issues around design ethics that I had been confronted with over the years. By 2006 I had become disillusioned with what Dunne and Raby term, Affirmative Design. Affirmative Design is a term they use to describe designing within the status quo, something that was seen as not particularly helpful as a way to move forward in combating perpetual economic growth in pursuit of profit at the expense of human welfare and the environment.
All of the companies that we worked with, especially the ones in Italy, have exemplary working conditions. Unfortunately there were many invitations for design projects, where I refused the work after witnessing horrendous human exploitation and environmental degradation. It was the exposure and witnessing of the consequences associated with the production of many international brand name products that lead me to believe that people who design things need to take moral responsibility for the consequences of the things that they conceive of from beginning to end.
I do not support the notion of sustainability, Ellen MacArthurs proposal for a Circular Design Economy or Biomimicry and other pursuits in their present form, which are simply reactive projects in service to the neoliberal doctrine with its paradigm of perpetual economic growth. The word 'sustainability' is a neoliberal word that was conceived to allow corporations to continue with Affirmative Design and to mask the human and environmental exploitation. Nothing in the universe so far as we know is sustainable, everything is in a state of entropy or negentropy. Sustainability as applied to most design is nothing more than reactive green wash.
As will be seen other sections on this web site I propose instead, intrinsicically proactive 'ecological metabolic design'.
The Gazelle chair was designed in Toronto Canada originally for AREA a small local furniture company and is made in Udine, Italy. In 1986 there were very few outdoor chairs and the Gazelle Chair proved to be a comfortable and sturdy stackable chair, which may still be seen in cafes and restaurants around the world. The chair is made from 16 gauge cold rolled steel - two computerized mandrel bendings which form the arms and back structure, and two stampings which makeup the seat pan and back insert. While the chair was envisioned to be black or white it was produced by the manufacturer in black, green and silver powder coated finish. In 1998 Canada Post choose the Gazelle chair for a new stamp honouring Canadian design Icons and in 1992 was selected by the International Design Review.
The following is an excerpt from a lecture given on behalf of the Italian Trade Commission about the state of the Italian furniture industry.
'My first encounter with Italian manufacturers was about 20 years ago when I designed the Gazelle chair. No one in North America had equipment to make symmetrical and continuous bends. Three Italian companies were asked to bid on this model - and made prototypes, astonishingly, in about a week. Galvano Tecnica in the Udine furniture district had the best approach and price. They still make the chair today for Keilhauer. With this first encounter I experienced the astonishing difference between working with North American manufacturers and working with Italians manufacturers. The most notable difference was that they cared about the design. They wanted to know where the idea came from, why I had chosen such a curve - what did it all mean. No one had asked me these types of questions before. There were good ideas about how I could improve the design and we were able to actually converse about the finer nuances of form - something that most manufacturers in North America don't engage in -preferring to focus more on how to make it. The chair continues to sell well because quality is consistently high, and the chair doesn't break. It continues to fill a gap in the market for a sturdy out door café chair at a specific price. There are still thousands of original chairs around and every now and then some high use chairs come back for repainting by the owners. I find this amazing - they weren't chucked in the garbage - they want to repaint them. This is fantastic!'
Crinion Associates designed the systems and manufacturing concept of a commercial composter. The composters are designed to replace industrial food waste skips and are leased to locations that produce large amounts of food waste such as restaurants, trade fairs or hospitals. A microprocessor regulates and maintains the natural temperatures, aeration, moisture content and churning, which is balanced to produce a rich soil over a fifteen day cycle. Soil is picked up from the various sites, cleaned and sold by the Eco Corporation in garden stores.
QUOTE FROM THE PAST: “There is a wisdom about this product that we should keep in the front of our heads in everything that we do. For the user it’s cheaper than disposal and Eco sells the soil to garden stores!”
UPDATE: The Eco Corporation went public and was listed on the Toronto Stock exchange. The Exchange seat was purchased and the product unfortunately discontinued by the new owners.
In 1993 flat screens were just beginning to appear. This project for Teknion was about applying that new technology to the work environment. Using two different sizes of Sharp LCD’s, one sized for office work and one sized for the financial industry we developed a custom circuit board and housing to create a new market for the technology. Out of this project grew other projects such as the design of the now ubiquitous support arms for flat displays.
QUOTE FROM THE PAST: “This new technology offers the possibility of using much less material in less physical space to achieve a by now common computer interface. The slightly curved face is an unnecessary, but friendly, memory of the past.”
After travelling around North America to confer with architects, CEO's of major corporations, interior designers and facility managers we prepared an analysis of the current systems furniture situation and future market needs. In the second phase of the project we prepared a comprehensive outline of products and functions necessary to increase functionality and reduce cost. The proposed products and systems were developed and became the terms of reference for the third stage of the project in which we designed, modelled, prototyped, detailed and followed through production, the new revised system. Knoll was able to introduce the final product at a price which was ten percent lower than previously possible. We modified and redesigned virtually every component of the system with the exception of the internal structure of the panel. In addition we created many new features such as the ‘Kiosk’, the ’Companion’ and the ‘Desk height storage system’.
- Fiat announces that it plans to cut 8,100 jobs. General Motors sits on the sidelines waiting to prey on Fiat’s lack of vision in a market that can’t keep up with demand for new energy efficient vehicles. In a world of opportunities, Fiat’s total lack of vision defies the imagination. The market economy leads to the age-old theme of “built in obsolescence” for which North America has become famous. Competing on price is a loser’s game. Just as affordable suburban tract housing in North America spawned a whole generation of poorly built and ill-conceived housing, the question becomes how do we stop the consumer appetite for it once the trend has taken hold? As activities in the Gulf to secure oil resources show- this is an unsustainable model not to be imitated.
Unfortunately, while it has never been a better time to be a designer, it is also becoming a moment in history where design is becoming part of the global problem, rather than the proposed solution that it started out to be. By this I’m referring to the proliferation of design junk by naive designers wanting to change the world by designing even more design junk. Rabid consumerism continues to give birth to fantasy magazines like Wallpaper and the perpetuation of plastic products, which come from oil.
Now supposing we can plant the seed of frugality, minimalism, and the notion that designers ought to have a responsibility to society, then we will have a new beginning. The form of a racing yacht is pure function. Sailors see superfluous form as ugly because additional weight carried over a long distance translates into a decrease in speed. Well-conceived form might have enabled Prada to win the Americas cup. In such an instance a seemingly insignificant amount of additional material or misplaced form can make the difference between winning or loosing a race. If only designers applied the same frugality to product design and consumers appreciated and saw the beauty in utilizing less material to generate higher value. This simple shift in ethos would utilize far less of the Earth’s resources much more efficiently.
Perhaps the designer is privy to a design process where the end result does not always require a material solution. This approach requires that designers learn how to place a value on ideas rather than on the translation into a material object. Computer renderings are the beginning of this approach. However the journey from image to realization is a long one and digital renderings remain a seductive and dangerous tool when used by the unethical designers. The internet has proven that ideas can have value and that while we are loath to face up to it, the world is truly moving, (kicking, fighting and bombing,) from the mechanical age into the information age.
Unfortunately there are many young designers being mentored by older practitioners who have lost the plot and remain in the material world. We have gone from the honest Bauhaus intentions of providing products for the masses - to creating a society in which we live to shop. A society in which we are so removed from the concept that our armies are either bombing some other county or supporting other factions who will do the work for them- all so you may have the pleasure of driving your fuel guzzling car. This disassociation of the product from the larger global economic impact is causing an alarming race by wealthier nations to stake an ownership claim to the world’s limited resources. Some consumers seek to satiate their guilt by shifting their purchasing power to ‘green products’. The problem is one of life values. You can live to shop and consume or you can begin to live life honestly. You can also cast your vote by boycotting the products of countries that seek to impose their dubious values on us.
The problem goes back to educating a new generation of designers. A design student that has studied history will not be enticed by the voluptuous form of the latest Mazeratti cloaking the dinosaur that it is. An educated designer will have the moral integrity to say no to projects that are of little value to an equitable life for all on this planet.
In 2006 Friends of the Earth, a proactive environmental research organisation in London, developed a campaign called 'The Big Ask'. The premise of this campaign was that government can influence behaviour at both the corporate and individual level. The Big Ask campaign promoted the idea that government needed to introduce a strong climate change law, which would commit the UK to making annual reductions in the UK's carbon emissions across all sectors of society (homes, business, transport, industry, etc...). This approach would create the framework necessary to allow the solutions to climate change to flourish, i.e. clean energy, well designed cars, a 21st century public transportation system and help for people to make their homes thermally efficient. A strong law would allow the UK to do its fair share of cutting global emissions and would set an example the rest of the world could follow. The Big Ask campaign was ultimately about asking the UK government to put in writing and commit to a plan to reduce CO2 emissions in the UK.
I proposed one last design project in which I developed a sailing project with Friends of the Earth to help promote The Big Ask campaign. I am a keen sailor and I proposed that I would enter the Route du Rhum, an international single handed yacht race from La Rochelle France to Guadaloupe at the other side of the Ocean.The race is televised, published on blogs and in the media globally and this was an opportunity for millions of viewers around the world to learn why the carbon reduction program was important. Working with Owen Clarke Yacht Designers we developed a state of art in 2006 Class 40 racing yacht named Friends of the Earth (FOE), which I built in Cape Town South Africa with Jazz Marine. Together with friend Brian McCallum we sailed the FOE boat towards the start of the race and during the voyage I blogged to the FOE web site the various thoughts and stories about such things as whale sightings and examples of energy savings such as the solar panels on the boat to charge the batteries used for navigation instruments and the autohelm system.
News of the boat was published widely and the blog read by many. Building the keel took longer than predicted, so the chances of making it to the start were tight at the out set. To make matters worse the race committee declared that the Friends of the Earth charity was a political organisation and that only corporate sponsorship was allowed, so I had to fight this after putting almost two years of work into the project and finally after being knocked down in two different storms I had lost or damaged virtually all my sails - It’s along way from Cape Town to the North of France and after two years of hard work I never made it to the start.
I was gutted and disappointed and on the other side it had been an amazing journey and learning experience. In searching for sponsors to help fund the project I discovered that it was easy to raise a few million pounds with big corporate sponsors but as FOE, who as part of our agreement, had first right of refusal to be associated with any corporation not meeting their standards, in the end we turned them all down. In the interest of the Big Ask campaign, Crinion Associates sponsored the boat design, development and build costs. I had in this process glimpsed a new world in that I discovered a number of socially and ecologically concerned organisations for which the notion of spending money on sponsorship rather than raising wages or building more wind turbines for example was an enigma. This experience would lead me to Schumacher College in Devon, UK, The International Centre for Ecological Studies.
We are a small social company born in summer 2011 in Asturias, on the rural North coast of Spain, near the beautiful Picos de Europa. We are a group of friends who got together to create a common economy that cares for soil, soul and society. We love to network, creating exciting new projects in the fields of Art, Ecology & Society.
You can see our web site here: (please copy paste into a new browser window)
Please write to:
Dr. Jonathan Crinion
14 Atlas Mews,