Online Conference, 25-26 March 2021 | SDN Symposium
SDN Symposium
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16:00 - 17:30


Design Education, Civic Engagement, Design Process, Critical Approach, Social Design

At the intersection of five papers centring design as common good lies the idea of the “common designer”. We will debate it in a historical perspective and as a metaphor of future challenges to be addressed by design. Following abbreviated main-point presentations, a shared, visual canvas will facilitate active attendee participation with session facilitators in a unique roundtable exploration.
Together, we will explore connections between conference paper themes: design education, civic engagement and social design, co-design and design thinking processes; and we will try to establish how they can contribute to the common good. In a final activity, attendees and facilitators will engage in the ambitious and intellectual exercise of co-designing (or co-writing) a manifesto for the common designer.

Panel speakers

Presented papers

  • Bridging the Skills Gap of Engineering Students to Engage with 21st Century Challenges: A Designer’s Approach

    by Marius Aeberli, Pierre-Xavier Puissant, Marc Laperrouza

    In this paper, we acknowledge a need for a new type of engineer to tackle today's complex, open-ended and ill-defined socio-economic and environmental challenges. In light of the centrality of technology in today’s societies, we advocate that there is a strong value in adopting a design-centric approach to foster 21st-century skills acquisition in engineering education. We present and discuss various pedagogical experiments that we implement at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) towards that end. These initiatives bring engineering students together with students from different backgrounds to work in interdisciplinary teams toward the resolution of real-world problems. We finally highlight the numerous challenges posed by the attempt of leveraging the designer skill set to rethink the engineering curricula, such as the clash between the room necessary to implement divergent pedagogical experiences and the structural rigidity of academia.

  • Caring for the Commons. Teaching Design through the History of Environmentalism

    by Meret Ernst

    The current environmental crisis poses unprecedented challenges as systemic mega-risks for any society. Mainly caused by industrialisation, this makes design an inextricable part of it. How can design nevertheless help overcome this crisis? Design students ask similar questions, projecting their unease onto their future professional field. This paper proposes to centre design education on environmental approaches, contextualising them in system design. It assumes that educating can improve by connecting ecological issues to Commons’ social practice, thus profiting from the term’s explanatory power and reflecting caring practices within limited resources. Burckhardt’s Strollology advocates for a sensual and contextualised experience of environments transforming the abstract concept into an aesthetic experience. It belongs to a broader «environmental history of design» conscient of design’s entanglement in the current crisis. The overall aim of such history-based education extends in framing design as a critical discipline, thus enabling students to grasp the intricate relations between design and its defuturing potential.

  • The turn of design towards Common good.

    by Raffaella Fagnoni

    As Mulgan claims (2020) we are experiencing an unprecedented crisis of imagination. We are able to conceive apocalyptic scenarios or great technological developments, but we are unable to develop a better society. What can design do for this? As designers, we should promote ideas to tidy up the world we live in, cultivate and teach the fundamentals of civic awareness. The text introduces a critical thinking on these issues and then analyses some research projects and practices concerning commons. Final thoughts are developed, rough syntheses to explore what are the purposes, tools, results of design as common good: design of systems to enable changes; purposeful attitude on critical issues; bottom-up generative practices. A mapping proposes the concepts obtained by relating experiences. Design as a common good means taking the community into account. It should be an enzyme healing our way of living, educating, practicing.

  • Out of the Storm. A Design Education Multi-Methodological Approach on the Topic of Migrations

    by Silvia Gasparotto

    Migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are just some of the terms used to indicate people that leave their homes for many different, and often painful, reasons to go to foreign and sometimes hostile countries. The long journey that migrants must undertake and their stay in reception facilities are just some of the problems that they have to face. These and many other delicate aspects of a migrant’s life have been the main topic of the product design lab at the University of San Marino. Migration appears to be just one of the more significant issues in the political, economic and cultural reflections within the current historical context, but it may be taken as an example of how a design lab can approach a social topic. The paper focuses in particular on the overview of a multimethodological approach – told through the project of the students– based on Design Thinking and Lateral Thinking. The mix of these two methodologies leads students to design and learn along the consolidated path of Design Thinking but with the unknown and unexpected intervention of Lateral Thinking. Thank to this approach, students can learn how to address social issues as they forge their civic consciousness.

  • Practices of Making: Exploring Design-Based Making Within Positive Youth Development

    by William Nickley

    The question of how to best orient design practice toward the common good has been widely debated in the field of design. Scholars recognize the potential in integrating design and allied professions that share common goals in the social sphere. One such field that shows potential for a successful integration of design into its practice is Positive Youth Development (PYD). PYD practitioners contribute to the common good by fostering youth development and promoting positive youth outcomes on a broad scale through youth oriented programs. While PYD successfully mobilizes types of “making” (arts-based, sciences-based, etc.) in youth programming, it remains blind to the avenues and opportunities offered by design-based making. This paper, by closely examining the activity of making in the practices of design and PYD, begins to build a bridge between the fields of design and PYD, and sheds new light on the reorientation of design practice toward common good.