Beirut Design Week 2017 Feature

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Is Design َ َّ ْ ‫ميم‬ ‫ص‬ ‫الت‬ ‫ل‬ ‫ه‬ ِa Need? َ َ ‫حاجة؟‬


Beirut Design Week 2017 Feature


MENA Design Research Center MENA Design Research Center Team BDW2017 Theme Speculative Needs XOXO Criteria

As every year, the MENA Design Research Center develops themed projects and curated exhibitions for Beirut Design Week. This year’s theme ‘Is Design a Need?’ was a general critical question, which touches on the year’s focus, namely critical and speculative design. In this feature, you will find more details about our process in defining and interacting with these relatively new topics in the field. The first Criteria Conference was established this year, bringing together critical designers, academics and professionals to understand how this field has developed and found its way into the design world, and where it could be heading in the next years. With the help of partner organizations such as Goethe Institut and British Council, we were able to invite key figures in this field, who can share their knowledge with the Lebanese audience at Sursock Museum. The speculative design hackathons, in collaboration with all major universities in Lebanon, resulted in the Speculative Needs XOXO exhibition, taking place in KED on opening night of BDW2017. The 11 hackathons brought together over 150 Lebanese design and architecture students to explore an alternative reality while speculating about the effects of technology on human needs of the future. As a non-profit organization focusing on design education, entrepreneurship and social impact, we believe that injecting the country’s largest design event with new perceptions on the role and value of design are inherent to the evolution of the design culture in the country, especially when developed in collaboration with educational, social and cultural institutions. We hope to see the impact of these injections in the coming years. Doreen Toutikian, Co-founder & Director, Beirut Design Week President of the Board, MENA Design Research Center

MENA Design Research Center The MENA Design Research Center is a Lebanese nonprofit organization that focuses on the role of design in education, entrepreneurship and social impact.

MENA Design Research Center Modern Offices Bldg, Block A, 9th Flr Armenia Street, Beirut, Lebanon +961 1 24 90 82

All members of the center are academics and industry professionals from various fields of design (graphic, digital, fashion, product, service, industrial, interior, and architecture). The center initiates and organizes Beirut Design Week, which brings together more than 25,000 visitors to experience local and international design through workshops, conferences, tours, exhibitions, films, and networking events. The main goal of MENA DRC is to pinpoint challenges that the design industry and institutions face, and to develop strategies to improve the current situation. Design, in this sense, is more than an end product but a process of strategizing and problem finding/solving. Throughout the last three years, entrepreneurship and emphasis on the digital start-up culture has been one of the main focuses of the Lebanese government, and therefore an ecosystem of companies and organizations have been set up to develop the scene through a variety of events such as competitions, start-up weekends, conferences, and workshops. As a member of that ecosystem, MENA DRC has been highly involved in supplying mentorship in the design and Design Thinking aspect of these initiatives. Moreover, with ongoing research projects, the center has developed an archive with the most recent and important data that will be used to develop the design industry in Lebanon, and serve as a blueprint for other design industries in the MENA region. Since 2015, MENA DRC has developed an extensive internship program, taking on more than 20 interns per year, and training them in a variety of design related disciplines. MENA Design Research Center offers ongoing internships designed to expose qualified applicants to communication skills, coordination skills, organizational structure, design research methods, communication design, and strategic planning. Working at the MENA DRC offers an opportunity for students and recent graduates to begin to integrate themselves into a work environment that is both professional and small enough to receive proper attention and guidance. We believe that all those who have joined our program have benefited highly from working with us. We are always looking for passionate, young, and enthusiastic students and fresh graduates to join our team for our upcoming projects, including our main event: Beirut Design Week.

MENA Design Research Center Team

Doreen Toutikian Co-Founder & Director

Vrouyr Joubanian Co-Founder & Program Manager

Doreen Toutikian is an interdisciplinary designer and a social entrepreneur. She holds a bachelor’s in Communication Design from Notre Dame University and a master’s degree from Köln International School of Design in European Design Studies, where she was awarded the Cologne Design Prize in 2010. She then returned to Beirut, where she established MENA Design Research Center to enhance the understanding of design and research in the region. Her professional experience involves a range of projects that deal with strategic planning, service design, branding, and user experience. She has initiated various projects in order to encourage multidisciplinary teamwork for social innovation, including Public Design Intervention: Beirut, Desmeem: Rethinking Design though Cross-Cultural Collaboration, and Beirut Design Week. Her work in design research and education has brought her around the globe, and she is a board member of the International Gender Design Network, a member of the International Advisory Board of “Board of International Research in Design (BIRD),” the Young Cultural Innovators of the British Council, and a fellow at the Salzburg Global Seminar. Doreen is an avid traveler, speaks five languages fluently, and loves throwing dinner parties at her home in Beirut.

Vrouyr Joubanian is a multidisciplinary designer and the co-founder of Beirut Design Week. He is also the program manager at MENA Design Research Center and the coordinator of the graduate program in Global Design at the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts, Lebanon. Vrouyr’s diverse work portfolio includes social systems consulting, product design, and design education. He is a former Fulbright scholar, and a member of the board of directors for Les Ateliers de la Recherche en Design, an international association of francophone design research academics. Fluent in four languages, Vrouyr has lectured extensively and given workshops on topics such as design education and social innovation in the United States, Hong Kong, Armenia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Lebanon. He holds a Master of Industrial Design from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in the United States and a Master of Product Design from Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts in Beirut, Lebanon.

Robert Wittkuhn

Tatiana Toutikian

Robert Wittkuhn is a researcher and analyst from a political studies and engineering background. He holds a Master’s Degree in Engineering from the Technical University of Dresden, Germany, and a Master’s Degree in Political Studies from the American University of Beirut. His political research and thesis focus mainly on Western foreign policy towards the Middle East. Before joining the MENA Design Research Center he had been working as a research assistant for the American University of Beirut in the department of Political Studies and Public Administration as well as for the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs. With his experience in engineering and political studies, Robert is devoted to creating awareness of the meaning and importance of sustainability. Moreover, Robert’s experience in project management and meticulous systematic approaches have been the grounds for his second position as the Operations Manager of the MENA Design Research Center. Robert is a passionate cyclist and spends his weekends exploring the Lebanon Mountain Trail with friends.

Tatiana Toutikian is a multidisciplinary human-centered designer who focuses on interactions between humans and technology. She is the Collaboration Manager at the MENA DRC, and Design Strategy and Communications Manager at Beirut Design Week. She is also the Local Leader of the IxDA (Interaction Design Association) in Lebanon. She holds a Masters degree in Collaborative and Industrial Design (COid) from Aalto University, a minor from the Helsinki Media Lab, Finland and a Bachelor of Interior Architecture and Product Design from ALBA (Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts) Beirut, Lebanon. Tatiana’s previous work experience includes positions in Finland, Shanghai and Tokyo working for companies like Frog Design and Hello Ruby. Lately, Tatiana is interested in the critical nature of design, and how to think about it beyond the role of design for business, technology and social impact. She is carving the way for Speculative/Critical design to infiltrate the MENA region through design teaching and exhibitions. In her spare time Tatiana collects synths to make music and soundscapes; she is also unusually good at making up rap rhymes about almost anything.

Lea Kirdikian

Khajag Apelian

Lea Kirdikian is a product designer with an affinity for eco-concious design and craft-work. She acquired her MA from the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts (ALBA), and has since launched a humble little collaboration with her partner Xavier Baghdadi called Junk Munkez; creating colorfully fun up-cycled pieces whilst hosting workshops for both kids and adults on the side. Her work as an individual designer as well as co-founder of Junk Munkez has been featured in both local and international publications/fairs dedicated to sustainable design.

Khajag Apelian is a lettering artist, type and graphic designer. Having grown up between Dubai and Beirut, and being raised in an Armenian family, Khajag has an affinity for different languages and writing systems, which he has applied to the development of typefaces in many scripts, including Arabic, Armenian, and Latin. He designed Arek, a typeface that was awarded the Grand Prize at Granshan 2010 Type Design Competition, and was among the winners of Letter.2, the 2nd international type design competition organized by the Association Typographique Internationale. He currently operates under the name “debakir” Armenian for “printed type”, and teaches design courses at the American University of Beirut.

Financial & IT Manager

Communications & Office Manager

Collaboration Manager

Design Director

Rola Ayoubi

Rami Rikka

Rola holds a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design from Notre Dame University-Louaize. She has a strong passion for animation and storytelling. She hopes one day to go into film production and work on cartoons that will make kids smile. Rola is an outgoing and a creative person who likes to meet new people from different backgrounds which has brought her to BDW. She is constantly seeking for more knowledge and new opportunities.

Rami holds a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design and a Minor in Advertising from the Lebanese American University where he was awarded the Graphic Design Excellency Award for his senior project ‘Breakup Recovery’ which is a kit that helps people move on after a breakup. He was also part of the team that won the 10,000$ Grand Prize at the BDL Accelerate Hackathon. He has completed an intensive summer course in Graphic Design at Parsons School of Design in New York and has interned at Impact BBDO and J. Walter Thompson. Rami aspires to create design that speaks to the masses and leaves a lasting positive impact on tomorrow’s society.

Hind Chammas

Leila Osseiran

Hind is a media designer, illustrator and storyteller that specialises in design thinking and human-centered design. Her interests lie primarily at the interaction of innovation and social design. During her studies in Switzerland, she was awarded first prize at the Prix à l’Innovation in Lausanne for her Masters project (an interactive card game that guides players through a museum). Parallel to working with MENA DRC, she mentors at hackathons, gives serious games workshops and collaborates on social projects when not involved in illustration projects. In her free time, you will probably find her outside climbing a tree.

Leila is currently pursuing her degree in Architecture at the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts (ALBA). She is curious and passionate about many things: visual arts, literature, design and music. But above all she has a passion for cities, travelling and discovering other cultures and ways of living, thinking and doing. She has done workshops, volunteer programs and internships both in Lebanon and abroad and is always looking for more opportunities to develop and grow.

Graphic Designer

Design Researcher

Graphic Designer

Exhibition Architect

Hady El Hajj

Jennyfer Harb

Hady is a Communications Officer at Beirut Design Week 2017. He holds an M.Arch in Architecture from the Lebanese University. He is an environmentalist and curious eco-entrepreneur where his collaborative initiative has been short-listed and has received several awards. His design work has been exhibited and published in Lebanon and abroad. Hady is a volunteer at INJAZ Lebanon where he mentors high school students. Also, he loves to travel, explore and discover. Hady believes that the interaction between individuals and their environment is most interesting, intriguing and complex. So he is aiming for Master’s degree in Urban Design and Sustainable Development. After BDW2017, Hady is going to work as a cultural mediator and architect at La Biennale di Venezia in Venice, Italy.

Jennyfer is a communications officer here at Beirut Design Week. She will soon be graduating with a Masters in Architecture from the Lebanese University after which she plans to continue her studies in Germany by integrating her visual art skills and her innovative nature to better describe the poetics of space. Her ambition and motivation breeds the sense that design is more than a discipline but rather a crisp piece of paper that can be reshaped in any way. Her interest in start-up culture lead her to winning the first runner up position at the BDL Accelerate’s Innovation Weekend. Apart from design, Jennyfer has been writing poetry under her alias ‘ The Benchwarmer’ and curates the content on her own website. She is a creative mind and a free spirit seeking the unattainable perfection while remembering to brush her teeth in the morning.

Communication Officer

Aline Tashjian Communication Officer

Aline is currently pursuing her Bachelor degree in Architecture at the Notre Dame University. Her interest and curiosity in technology and the sustainable systems in architecture makes her eager to learn and develop her knowledge in this field. She has been enriching her experience in architecture by attending workshops and being part of various internships of different architectural disciplines. She also is a member of Architects for change. On a less serious note, Aline is a scout and an adventurous individual. She loves discovering nature and has recently been active in exploring the hidden gems of nature of Lebanon. A constant pursue of new adventures and opportunities are what she aims to reach.

Communication Officer

BDW 2017 Theme The theme of Beirut Design week is a carefully chosen topic that represents the values of the MENA Design Research Center and identifies with current events. It also symbolizes the voice of the community of designers that come together once a year to showcase their work and interact with one another. Unlike other design related events, MENA DRC as a non-profit organization, selects themes that are unique in their thoughtfulness and focus on important issues that matter to everyone in the community. While keeping the context local, it is crucial that after five years since its inception, Beirut Design Week contributes to the discourse that is relevant to the global design scene and its developments. This is often reflected in the conference, talks and workshops, and sometimes in curated exhibitions. The theme also encourages press and media partners to pursue interesting and novel ideas designed by emerging and established Lebanese designers in order to develop creative content for their international audiences.

The main goal of the BDW2017 theme is to motivate community engagement and trigger dialogue among its various members. MENA Design Research Center encourages critical reflection and discussions about the value of design and the challenges that the design community faces in Lebanon. And in order to initiate this dialogue, the theme comes in the form of a question: Is Design a Need? As designers, we have the power to change mindsets and behaviors. How can we use design to challenge the status quo and defeat assumptions? How can design be critical and provocative with a cause? The mission for this year is self-criticism and self-appreciation as designers. The message is not only set out towards the designer community but the general audience at large, in order for us to understand the different opinions that come from architects, product, graphic, or fashion designers as well as non-designers. What do designers understand when we use the word “design�? Do all designers have the same definition in mind? How does the general public perceive design? How important is it in our daily lives? Do we need design? The theme offers participants and audience of BDW to question design and their role in the field of design. To assess more critically what a need is. To debate and create discussions that are not being heard in the public sphere. The theme also offers participants the choice, which they have to make by deciding where they stand and why. The theme also pushes people to remember that Beirut Design Week is not just about commercialization and marketing of luxury goods, but an opportunity for everyone to think more creatively about their designer paths, to explore new options, to look for new collaborations, and to dare to do things that are outside their comfort zone.

How to engage with the theme? All participants of BDW2017 are invited to use the theme as a concept for their event but this is not obligatory. However, all participants are required to give an answer to the question. All participants will be asked to contribute to the discussion by the organizers of BDW, and the audience will be interacting with the theme on social media. All answers will be gathered and presented during BDW2017. In order to categorize the topic of design being a need or not, we have developed three tracks with tags which would help identify the types of needs; however, other categories are also welcome.

Is design a need for‌ The Designer

Self-expression, skills development, craftsmanship, technique, expertise, self-fulfilment, ego, creativity, pleasure, beauty, aesthetics, therapy, intuition, interactive experiences, material exploration, quality, form-giving...

The Economy

Marketing, entrepreneurship, economic sustainability, networking, efficiency, functionality, communication, financial independence, local economy, circular economy, industry, professions...

The Community

Social cohesion, civilization, ergonomics, shelter, tolerance, refugees, comfort, education, health, dialogue, exchange, politics, culture, awareness building, communication, extremism, food...

The Future

Climate change, biodiversity, artificial intelligence, automated systems, digital privacy, collapsing political systems, extinction, lack of resources, survival...

“ Speculative Design/Radical Design...insists upon the need for designers to acknowledge their potency in the shaping of the future, rather than passively relying on repackaging past creations. More significantly, they call for us all to live as engaged citizens instead of receptive consumers. It’s this campaign for an ongoing dialogue that lies at the centre of the collective’s ambitions. We must be selective about the futures we bring upon the masses.” James Haldane in the Architectural Review

11 Workshops 5 universities 9 Campuses 100+ students 40+ projects Lebanese international University (Saida, Sour, Nabatiyeh) Lebanese University (Hadath, Fern el Chebbek) Lebanese American University (Jbeil, Beirut) AcadĂŠmie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts American University of Science and Technology Architects 4 change Disciplines: Graphic Design, Global Design, Interior Design, Architecture and Fine Arts.

About Research Project Initiated by the Mena DRC, this project takes on an educational role. Through a series of lectures and workshops, we are introducing Critical and Speculative Design to 9 universities across Lebanon, the results of which will be showcased at the Speculative XOXO. The workshops’ outline and design process are detailed in the Workshop section below.

Introduction to Speculative & Critical Design Practices Drawing from the 60’s Italian radical design and the 90’s conceptual design, critical design is more of a position or an attitude that frames a design practice. By moving away from consumerist practices and commercial end goals, design is used as a medium to challenge the status quo and provoke questions about our habits. It encourages designing for humans rather than consumers and thinking about the implications of our creations. Viewers are invited to imagine an alternative way of living through objects that could be. The realization that everyday life could be different has the power to make us reconsider our ways. Speculative design is a discursive practice comprised in the critical design scope. It uses fiction to explore future scenarios and alternative realities away from commercial constraints. While traditional design practices affirm the status-quo and answer to consumer needs, speculative design explores the interrelation between technological advancements and society to help us understand the world today. It is meant to examine and re-think the impacts and implications of technology on everyday life in order to spark debates and dialogues about the type of future we want to see unfold. It invites us to actively participate in shaping the future by anticipating future problems based on current tendencies. Drawing on scientific research and working with multi-disciplinary experts is very common to define the design space and build a prototype. Storytelling mediums such as video, storyboards, literature, etc., are often used to communicate the context to the audience in a comprehensible and tangible way.

A/B, A Manifesto, Dunne & Raby 2009

Motivation In our effort to promote design education and the value of design in the MENA region, this year’s edition focuses on introducing the Lebanese designer community and public to the field of Speculative and Critical design. Unlike the traditional design disciplines which are more oriented towards ‘solving’ problems through design thinking methods, this field of design looks into ‘finding’ problems based on the current overlooked tendencies in all aspects of technology, environment, society, gender, capitalism, etc. It is about designing for people and not users, and looking into the dark and complex needs that commercial design ignores. Since design is not autonomous by nature, and heavily relies on capital, there is no room for criticism. However, criticism can be nurtured in an academic setting such as universities, schools or guerilla public interventions and manifestations. By exploring the alternatives and future possibilities through fiction, and opening them up for discussion, our goal is to enable people to think critically and reexamine their indoctrinated assumptions and behaviors. We also aim to democratize talks of the future and include everyone in the conversation, experts or non-experts, encouraging young designers to be more critical in their practice and think long-term in order to contribute to the problem-solving force. This research will provide a holistic design approach from process to the creation of artifacts that can be used to further and inform the design discipline in the Middle East. We thus underline the role of design and reposition the Lebanese designer as one of the key mediators and catalysts of social impact. It also builds on the responsibility of the designer towards his discipline and as well as shaping the future to his own set of values and ethics separating from capitalistic tendencies.

Methodology Phase 1: Literature review

The first step consisted in looking for past design projects or designers that have produced work that fits in the speculative or critical design scope in the MENA region. Aside from a student exhibition in Milan called ‘Design in Times of Crisis’ nothing considerable came up. The lack of data and documentation was also problematic and resulted in abandoning this first step. It was clear that these concepts were still foreign to Lebanon. Another indicator of that was the fact that not a single Lebanese university offered any classes or lectures on the subject. With that in mind, we have made it our mission to invite the community and design practitioners to expand their knowledge and discover new design practices.

Phase 2: Workshops

Targeting Lebanese universities and academic circles was our starting point. Over the course of 3 weeks, 11 speculative design workshops were given at several universities to students from diverse backgrounds including Graphic Design, Product Design, Interior Design, Architecture and Fine Arts. The student works produced during these workshops are showcased at the Speculative XOXO exhibition in KED during BDW and open to the public. These workshops also serve as case studies in laying down the groundwork for a new design methodology, feeding into this report.

Phase 3: Exhibitions

Based on the mission to spread these new concepts to the MENA region, the exhibition is meant to present the results of our work and is the perfect opportunity to reach a wider audience. The critical works will be displayed in the hopes of sparking debates among the audience and exposing them to the Speculative and Critical design practices. The displayed objects are divided into 3 main themes relating to current events: Body Mutations, Human Glitches, and Digital Omnipresence.

Phase 4: Interviews with experts

The interviews featuring this year’s participating designers and experts will provide valuable insight on the potential impact of design in the MENA region. The discussions will also be addressing the designer’s responsibility towards their community. Videos will be published online and open to the public to contribute to the discussion.

Phase 5: Conference

The 2017 conference taking place on the 20th of May at the BDW will host some of the influential and established European designers such as Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Bernd Hopfengärtner, Friedrich Von Borries, Björn Franke etc., whose works have significantly contributed to many topics from political activism to the environment, technology and death. These talks will reinforce our work here at MENA DRC of promoting design education. By encouraging cultural dialogues between the West and the MENA region, we hope to inspire local designers to make it in the international scene and adding Lebanon on the map of international design.

Introduction Speculative design is more of an approach or attitude rather than a defined methodology. It is defined by specific characteristics (discussed above) and employs narrative and visual tools and media such as films, storyboards, text, etc. Much like science-fiction, it draws on existing scientific knowledge, methods and techniques. For these reasons, designing a framework to direct the students in their design process was necessary.

Lecture The workshops began with a 45 minute lecture showing and discussing projects by established international designers. Showing existing works is the best way to explain the nature of speculative and critical design. Following the presentation, the topics were listed and explained in detail. The choice of topics was meant to encompass a range of current environmental, political and social crises, in order to make them resonate with the students and public. The topics were left purposely broad to allow students to explore the possibilities and define their own design space. These themes were: Hiding from your house Digital Social Rituals TechnoSpiritualism CyberPrisons and CyberCrime Recreating Nostalgia Digital Shrines CyberKratia Transmutations and strange Biospheres Cyborgs

Process The design process mixes design thinking methods with the speculative design approach based on the Extrapolation Factory method.

Identifying current tendencies

Speculative design tackles issues relating to the interrelation of the evolution of technology and society. We set specific main areas that are considered problematic today, as a starting point to generate discussions and observations about the current tendencies. These areas range from social behaviors, to data privacy to environmental issues, to energy resources and religion. After choosing their preferred topic and splitting into small groups, open group discussions and research were strongly encouraged at this initial phase in order to define a certain problematic to build upon.

Forecasting futures

The students were projected into fictional futures by receiving ‘letters from the future’ that we had written ourselves. These letters, diary snippets, newspaper articles etc., are specific to each theme and written in the first person. They depict extreme and humoristic future scenarios resulting from the evolution of present tendencies. Just like science fiction novels, this was the first gateway into thinking of futures. The students then mapped the different possibilities found in the letters, in order to explore possible or probable future implications and define a problematic.

Creating plausible scenarios

The teams began converging into specific ‘What if’ scenarios, situations and contexts in which they can anchor their problematic. They were asked to imagine specific and relatable scenarios and contexts where those implications would manifest in the future, taking them to the extreme and giving them a humoristic twist. From there, they were able to conceive objects through design thinking and human-centric approaches that adapt and embody the problem without solving the root cause. The objects had to be provocative but not too weird as to seem unreal.

Embodying the problem in an object

In order to facilitate the building phase, we provided a range of weird and colorful objects collected at 1$ shops. The objects were chosen in a way that their shape didn’t reveal the object’s intended function, but suggested new uses, gestures and interactions. The constraints of having to work with existing shapes rather than having the option of molding their own resulted in the creation of curious and aesthetically appealing objects. It was also a way of dealing with that fact that the majority of participants were not formed to build objects.

Our contribution Value of design and designers role

Through these workshops the students discovered emerging design disciplines and practices that are shifting towards producing responsible designers. These practices move away from traditional design values and reposition designers as catalysts of change. The workshops helped students understand the value of design and the potency of the designer’s impact on society and technology and their interrelated evolution. The main purpose of the workshops, aside from introducing the fields of speculative and critical design, is to instill a critical way of thinking into a designer’s practice or even everyday life. Students are taught to think less as consumers, and to question the underlying practices and actively shape the future.

Design as a tool for criticism

The students discovered that design can be used as a medium to point out societal problems and communicate them effectively to a larger audience. They recognized the power of narratives and storytelling in engaging the public by rendering abstract concepts, ideas and problems in a tangible form.

Defining Opportunities

Defining areas of need, opportunities and new design spaces is a difficult but great exercise to unleash creative thinking. It is also a drive for innovation and creating new markets. As speculative design focuses on problem finding, a general observation was that the students found it counter-intuitive in the sense that looking for solutions was always the first reflex. As they were encouraged to go through the whole process step by step, the students felt positively surprised of the outcomes at the end of the workshops. They learned to tackle issues through the use of fiction as a way to explore alternative possibilities and open up new spaces. Drawing from design thinking, students picked-up the efficient use of post-its in the ideation process in order to map out design possibilities.

Learning ideation methods, clustering and grouping as well as turning insights into opportunities

Designing for human needs

The building phase allowed students to gain an understanding of interaction design by reflecting on the way the objects are meant to be used. Human-centric design is also induced at the base of the projects by drawing from human needs while considering the implications and consequences of their objects. The students are also made aware of the importance of scientific and ethnographic research and observation as a base for design.

Designing for the future

‘Futuring’ is defined by Edward Cornish as ‘a generative approach of constructing visions of the future based on current evidence’. Forecasting the future is an important activity that allows us to a) reflect and question on current practices, b) actively build towards a future we want and c) define new opportunities. This workshop gave young designers the confidence to participate in such projects for the future by highlighting relevant designer skillset and abilities. It also encourages them to collaborate with other disciplines to create efficient and functional objects.

Keeping up with the Jetsons

Finally, the lecture and workshops sparked curiosity towards the latest technological trends and breakthroughs. The student discovered a whole new world that could inspire future projects and new applications for design outside the traditional circle.

Being introduced to the different topics the teams can choose to work on

Building objects that embody their ideas, and the inverse where the object breeds to an idea

Introduction The showcased student projects aim to transport us into the future through a series of objects designed for alternative or parallel universes, that embody critical reflections on the present. The students explored through fiction the interrelation of technology and society by examining present tendencies and forecasting them into possible futures. Serving as cautionary tales, these objects invite us to reflect our current indoctrinated assumptions and behaviors. The goal is to incite critical thinking and invite viewers to actively participate in building towards a future we want. Split into 3 main topics, these works Tackle the following problematic current events: Body Mutations, Human Glitches and Digital Omnipresence.

Body enhancements have existed since the beginning of mankind, affected by societal and social norms amongst other things. Meanwhile, the advancement of science and medicine combined with the technological breakthroughs are allowing us to transform our bodies in unimaginable ways. How will the forthcoming environmental threats dictate the way we enhance our bodies to withstand and adapt to natural disasters? What happens when our technological devices become embedded in our bodies?

Excerpts from the Cyborg foundation mission:

Living with cyborgs

[...] It is 2038 and in some parts of the world, there is still discrimination against cyborgs. These regions of the world tend to be less developed regions, where the population is still somewhat conservative and religious. Our foundation’s mission is to act to help these people who feel the need to design and improve themselves, defend their rights and promote transhumanism. Everyone should have the right to transform their own bodies and feel free. After all, people have been doing that since the birth of humankind : tattoos, piercings, dying your hair to more medical practices such as prosthetics etc. Your body itself is a tool that you should be able to customize freely so that you can live your life the way you want to. [...]

Testimony of the 3rd generation:

“Fruits are a luxury in the world of today that only the rich can afford. I grew up in a lower middle-class family where my grandparents always blabbed about the golden days where fruit was abundant and bla. Global warming has destroyed our ecosystems. We now have to feed on fungus that grows on our bodies and between our toes and the insects it attracts. It was harder on my parents who had to suffer though the repulsiveness. As for my generation, our taste buds atrophied, so it’s not all bad. We also developed some to enhance our appetite and grow diverse foods. Funny how humans can adapt to anything.”

Mutating Biosphere

Eye Kit After the democratisation of plastic surgery, genetic modifications will become the new norm. This home kit for non-medical people simplifies the procedures of altering or engineering the genetic materials of human eyes. It is comprised of several stations: one for DNA extraction form the nucleus, and another in which the altered genes are attached to a virus and then can be diffused into your eyeball.

SuperRoach Overpopulation is on the rise, natural resources are dwindling, and the earth’s atmosphere is being tampered with. If man continues in this path, there will come a time where no conventional food sources are available. The cockroach however is resilient to extreme changes in weather, pollution, and toxicity. Equipped with an incubator, training and food cloning facilities, this mini home lab genetically modifies and trains cockroaches to scavenge food for humans.

Human Waterbugs Due to global warming, desertification and water scarcity are omnipresent in the future. Inspired from water bugs and bio-mimicry, human enhancements will enable water harvesting from thin air by condensing humidity and tunnelling it straight into the body. This DIY project also reveals the difference between bottom-up and top-down approaches to dealing with national scale disasters.

FleshCoin In a world where robotic enhancements and cyborgs are becoming the new and almost only norm, human parts and organs become more valuable and sought. Machines like this one will be available in public spaces to scan and assess your remaining human parts and put a price on them.

Rejuvenation Gun This apparatus serves as a portable fetus incubator that harvests stem cells. These stem cells are then directly infused into your body to regenerate damaged cells and offer you a better, healthier life in harsh and polluted environments. The fetuses are grown from your own DNA, making it a sustainable practice.

Human USB As more people get diagnosed with depression and other psychological and mental illnesses, the levels of addiction to prescription drugs is rising. People have created a device that allows you to socially exchange and plug in small doses of drugs or vitamins to each other intravenously. The DIY device is meant to hack the healthcare system or abuse it. The new age needle sharing.

DNA Weddings In the future, Wedding gifts will be in the form of DNA offerings. Guests will gift the bride with their best DNA assets to offer to the future offspring. This allows the happy couple to engineer their babies and give them a better life and stronger chances of survival and success in an ever competing world.

Eat Yourself Due to global warming, desertification and water scarcity are omnipresent in the future. Inspired from water bugs and bio-mimicry, human enhancements will enable water harvesting from thin air by condensing humidity and tunnelling it straight into the body. This DIY project also reveals the difference between bottom-up and top-down approaches to dealing with national scale disasters.

Omnipresent networks are constantly and increasingly interconnecting with every aspect of our lives. Their invisible nature makes them easily concealable and unnoticeable, therefore go unscrutinized. This topic draws attention on the potential dangers and implications of those networks, signals and waves. How can you shield yourself from an overly connected world? Where is this overshare of information heading? How can you hide from security cameras in public spaces and protect your personal information from commercial-driven companies?

Dear RebelBeyz,

Nowhere to Hide

I’m writing this from my bathroom. It is the only place where the signals are weakened, the water tap is running to create noise , the bath is full and the electromagnetic waves somehow sink between the molecules of water. My house won’t stop tracking my every movement and bodily functions. At first, it was convenient not having to think about stuff. Just let the program and sensors monitor your body and make choices for you based on your habits and preferences. I figured it had the data, it had the knowledge, I succumbed to having my taste buds monitored through the “ Taste App”, my bowel movements monitored, and even the TV channels monitored. I even got to the phase where I started to be ashamed of the late night talk shows I would binge watch or the celebrity gossip on E! I was afraid to share my guilty pleasures with my TV and it got worse! I find myself in hiding, I feel so oppressed and somehow I feel that the house knows I need to hide but I also have nowhere else to sleep, my bed is waiting for me literally it’s counting the many minutes- until I remove these covers and my temperature is recorded 38 degrees, on a hot summer night, and it drops down, to a 36.434 as I sleep, not peacefully. Please help me, Tatiana.

Forgive me Lord, for I have sinned. My last confession from my e-confession pod was 4.5 hours ago and these are my sins: I did not attend mass on youtube today. The connection was very slow and I lost patience. I was about to curse twice at the internet, but the smart rosary I wear sensed my anger and released soothing waves into my brain. I was also tempted to click on an adult ad then the rosary intervened again by sending endorphins into my brain. I feel your presence so close to me, your guidance is all I could hope for to follow in your footsteps. My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. I firmly intend, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.


Dear Diary,


This is my 342nd log in this journal, I have lost all traces of time since I was convicted for a cybercrime. I am not confined in a space, but might as well. At least old physical prisons had some sort of human interaction between prisoners. My digital privileges have been stripped away from me as punishment. I was stripped of my user identity and connection to the modern world. I live like a savage from the 20th century stripped of his digital tools. I have no idea what’s going on in the connected world. I feel so alienated, so isolated. I wish I could tweet about my feelings and share my pain with someone.

Confused Predictions Prediction models are built based on your behaviours and data collected from your online day to day activities. They have become so accurate today that minutes before going to the supermarket you get milk ads out on your Facebook page. You get suggestions of songs to play on Youtube similar to your taste which prevents you from discovering random new music. This device allows you to collect data from other living things to enrich and diversify your built up virtual model and spice up the recommendations you get online.

Put a Virus in it This device is found on the black market and is difficult to acquire because of its rebel nature. In a future where smart houses become very controlling, this device absorbs and weakens wifi waves that power the smart system. The crystals inside it are engineered to detect wireless connections and come together in a bundle when the connection is strong, or fall apart when it is weak, alerting you of any blind spots for you to hide from your house. The more crystals you have, the more effective the shield.

Cyberprison Similar to the Midas touch, this wearable device is destined for cyber-criminals as punishment. Its function is to isolate the criminals from electronic devices and wireless connections by emitting a magnetic field that disables all devices and connections within their reach.

E-confessions This full service allows you to measure your religious performance, improve it and compare it to other believers. It’s comprised of a necklace that predicts your intentions and keeps track of your spiritual state. This artifact notifies you when you are about to commit a sin by changing color or vibrating by tracking your biological data and your whereabouts. The necklace acts as a key that gives access to different services depending on your religious performance.

Tolerance Compass Data is becoming so accessible that you are able to know everything about people. Judging them becomes much greater as the data provided is far more detailed than just observing. This Tolerance compass helps you block types of information about the other person that you want to stop judging. For instance, by turning the dial over ‘politics’ and it blocks all the information associated to it.


Tools of Greeting As privacy becomes rare in the future, people refrain from giving out too much information in the form of business cards or facebook profiles. They’d rather take an extreme measure of giving out DNA samples to find the corresponding social profile linked to that person. Without it, you cannot access the encrypted web.

As people are becoming more and more reclusive leading to atrophied social interactions and anxieties, how will we design spaces or objects around those emerging social behaviours? Should they be encouraged and embraced or should we try to overcome and rehabilitate them? Are those behaviours our true hidden natures or are they the result of unforeseen impacts of technology? This section tackles the interrelatedness of society and technology through a series of rehabilitating tools for scenarios pushed to the extreme.

Dear Diary, As I was heading off to work today on my self driving bike, I accidentally brushed a pedestrian’s shoulder. It was the most magical moment of my existence. I miss that physical contact, it’s like this irrepressible need that I keep buried deep inside. Almost animalistic. But of course in today’s society it’s just completely avoided. It’s not just strangers, I feel weird touching Dominic because, I mean I know he is my boyfriend but still it’s “too early” for hugs. Everyone is in their own private space. Anyway I can just go to a hug club or something maybe those HUMAN CAFES. It’s kind of like that old “cat cafe” craze but here you can shake people’s hands and stuff. I mean it is quite expensive to have a coffee there but you need it sometimes. I like the crowded subway, although everyone hates it. It’s my Temple Grandin moment I guess.

Hey Karen, cnt make it to your party tonight. Dad is forcing me to stay for his stupid dead great-great grandmother’s birthday. I’m so sick of dead relative’s birthdays! You can only have so many relatives! I think I should hide the auntie Rosa data drive, then we can’t bring her back and I would come to the party! JK, dad would be furious! Talking to her stupid fake holograms is so annoying and boring. Good thing we can’t afford cloning her body and uploading her memories in it or guess who would have to babysit! XX

Social Anxiety

Digital Shrines

Leila invited me over tonight, like to her actual house! Who does that anymore? We normally meet at bars with loud music, drinks, and people. That’s to say it was the height of distraction. Do I have to look into her eyes when I speak to her? What do we talk about? I can’t use my interesting conversation generator app! When we were 8 I felt like I could tell her anything; I felt like I could cry. I felt like I could just not smile for a few days. And then something got polished. It was somehow as if me trying to look my best made me feel my worst. I wish I could text her from across the table, I wish I didn’t have to look into her eyes, I lost control all of my facial expressions because I always relied on emoticons to relay feelings. What if she finds out I’m not as funny in real life as on my profile? Or not interesting enough? Or not as pretty without my digital enhancements! I am not as refined as my profile.

Face Brace Social media and our communication devices physically shield us from common social interactions. Since then, we have developed feelings of awkwardness and anxieties towards these social encounters. This wearable brace trains you to look into your date’s eyes, rehabilitating you from the antisocial effect of technology.

Hormone Martini In a time where extracting your exact brain chemical balance or ‘feelings’ becomes possible, these feeling containers allow you share your emotions and hormones with someone else. Mixing feelings and creating new emotions is the new recreation in the bars of the future. Experiencing other people’s feelings teaches empathy and improves communications between people.

Sensual Robots As technology progresses, sex toys become highly sophisticated, accurate and intricate with the human body. They deliver ongoing pleasure that is precise, that never gets tired, and that is calculating body signals constantly for optimum satisfaction. Sexuality is also evolving towards extreme customization. People are giving up human interactions at the expense of having customizable sexual experiences without compromise. The nostalgia for the lost human touch is prominent. These archaic sex toys are meant to restore what is lost during robotic sexual intercourse : Breath, whispers and sensual touch.

To Speak Again We have reached a time where technology is a part of us. People text each other, use emojis, and send funny videos to express their feelings, relying less and less on audible verbal speech for communication. This ‘The SpeechWave Transmitter’ device is designed to translate and emit the sound waves of speech into a language that ‘emojified’ people can understand.

Human Knockoff Detector This detection device is a must-have for passionate anthropologists who are looking for genuine past human traces. It detects real traces and trails of life such as marks, stains, fingerprints, hair etc and analyzes it. This projects tackles the immateriality of data.

FOMO Breather FOMO or Fear of Missing Out is a real psychological syndrome that is increasingly manifesting because of our constant exposure to the internet and social media. This gadget answers to that issue by immediately informing you by blinking about any events in your network that are being planned on every social media platform. In case of hyperventilation, use the breather as a therapeutic device.

Beauty Currency Social media is reinforcing the way we value looks and appearances, so much so that physical beauty has become the currency of the future. This beauty detector is equipped with a facial recognition software that measures your beauty index compared to a perfect specimen. Ranking you as a first, second or third class citizen, this index will define your quality of life starting from the quality of the services you purchase, to the seat you get at a concert, to the area where you live, etc.

Criteria. a conference on critical design

May 20, 2017 Sursock Museum

Friedrich von Borries World Design: A Political Theory of Design Biography

Prof. Dr. Friedrich von Borries, born 1974, is an architect and since 2009 Professor for Design Theory at the Hamburg University of Fine Art. He studied architecture at the Berlin University of the Arts, the ISA St. Luc Bruxelles and the Technical University Karlsruhe, where he received a Ph.D. in 2004. He also worked as a research assistant and lecturer at the Berlin Technical University (2001-2003) and the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation (2002-2005) and was research fellow at the ETH Zurich (2007-2008) and the MIT, Massachusetts. In 2007, he became a visiting professor for Urban Research at the Nuremberg Academy of Fine Arts. From 2003 to 2009 he run the office raumtaktik in Berlin together with Matthias Böttger. He also was the general commissioner and curator of the German Contribution to the XI. Venice Architectural Biennal (2008). His Berlin-based office “Projektbüro Friedrich von Borries” operates between the blurring boundaries of urban planning, architecture, design and art. The focus of his work is the relation of design practice and socio-political development. “As scientists we try to comprehend the world. As designers we try to change this world. That is why we deal with such questions that determine our contemporary situation by designing and researching the matters on hand: global economic inequality, environmental destruction and climate change, technologies of surveillance and security policies.”

Björn Franke Between Abstract Worlds and Concrete Theories Abstract

For many, design is the production of useful artefacts. Designing can however also provide a basis for exploration, speculation or critique. This lecture develops this conception further by providing a theoretical framework for conceiving designing and design objects as a mode of and media for philosophical inquiry. Thereby, design is regarded as a material philosophy that explores and reflects philosophical issues by situating them in the concrete and particular reality of human life rather than in a generalised and abstract realm.


Björn Franke is a design practitioner and theorist. He is Senior Lecturer in Design History and Theory at the University of Applied Arts Vienna and the Zurich University of the Arts, having previously studied design at the Muthesius Academy of Fine Arts and the Royal College of Art. Franke has been awarded fellowships at the Akademie Schloss Solitude as well as the Artist Residency Schloss Balmoral. His work has been published and featured in exhibitions internationally, most recently at the MUDAC Lausanne in Switzerland and the Triennale di Milano Design Museum in Italy.

Oliver Baron What a Beautiful ParaSITE! Looking at Critical Design Through Philosophical Spectacles Abstract

When it comes to criticism, design, unlike fine art, can’t move towards total negativity. By losing any connection to function, design would not be design anymore. But if so, what shall those of us who believe in the unique strength of our profession but do not want to contribute to the driving forces of our society, consumerism and control, do? In this situation, “Critical Design” might be the most intelligent method to take action we have developed so far. As I will examine in my talk, this assumption seems to be true also from the perspective of a philosophical school of thought that had its heyday 50 years ago, but still might provide interesting insights for our purpose: that of “Critical Theory.” By analysing an object by Michael Rakowitz named “paraSite” with concepts of T. W. Adorno, I would like to honour the approach of a “provocative technology” which has an immediate function for a specific user group, but also triggers a self-reflection for an audience. Thereby I will develop terms and criteria to judge design concepts in general. My talk will end with a brief application of these criteria on the participatory design approach as well as on selected social design projects.


After a doctoral dissertation in cultural sciences and 10 years experience as an executive designer and board member in leading design agencies, serving clients like Audi, Siemens or Infineon, Oliver started to work as a professor for “Design and Economy” at Köln International School of Design (KISD) in 2010. He is regularly conducting international projects (e.g. Cape Town, Hong Kong, Hanoi) and is giving talks in the field of design theory worldwide (e.g. in Tokyo, Mumbai, Glasgow). Oliver is responsible for the “Master of European Design” program (MEDES) at KISD, as well as for the publisher of the institute, the KISDedition. His research focus lies in the field of Management Studies, Aesthetics and Critical Theory. Recent book publication: Design und Okonomie, Paderborn: UTB 2015. Upcoming: Die Kunst der Unternehmensfuhrung im Zeitalter der Algorithmen (The Art of Executive Management in the Age of Algorythms).

Toke Riis Ebbesen Useless Critical Design Abstract According to Raby, critical design creates artefacts in order to “challenge narrow assumptions, preconceptions, and givens about the role products play in everyday life” (Raby, 2008, 94). Conceived basically as “useless,” the value of critical design “ultimately lies in its ability to evaluate: articulate, refuse, critique, spark, turn, transgress, formulate, transform, etc.” (Rosenbak, 5.15). However, circulating mainly in “art galleries, conference halls and academic publications” (Blythe, Yauner & Rodgers, 2015), useless critical design artefacts have been criticized for never entering everyday life (Bardzell & Bardzell, 2013). Despise attempts to broaden its reach, it has been argued that most critical design instead “reflects the fears, anxieties, desires, imaginaries, and ultimately, politics of an intellectual, liberal progressive white middle class” (Ansari & Hunt, 2015, 4). Removed from practical use, critical design may then become another echo chamber for designers, where they can safely repeat the slogans of design modernism without changing the world. The aim of this presentation will be to return to critical design in the light of the concept of use, and thus to critically examine what the use of critical design can be. Biography Toke Riis Ebbesen is an assistant professor in Design Studies at the cross-disciplinary research unit SDU Design at University of Southern Denmark. Trained as a design historian, a former editor, project manager and publisher in the IT and publishing businesses, his research interests span from digital design, design on social media and book design, to semiotics and design hybrids.

Amelie Goldfuss Fantastic Devices: Design Fiction as Stimulant for Thought Abstract

Design fiction has made it into museums and galleries. It’s supposed to act as a stimulant for thought instead of satisfying practical needs and has done its job considerably well. But how can we bring fiction back from the gallery into everyday life? And how are we getting from fiction to action? I’m going to present fictional devices that are meant to be planted in real homes. Do we perceive such devices differently in different settings and over different periods of time? How close do we need (or want) to get to both, objects and people? Can these devices act as tools for design research as well as objects for thought? In short: What can design do and where can it go from here?


After studying industrial design, communication design and book art in Halle and Florence, Amelie worked for Studio Marije Vogelzang in the Netherlands. During her studies she developed a strong interest in design fiction and critical design. She has co-organized several events concerning internet culture and surveillance and is planning to continue work in this field. She is interested in the potential of the unfinished and in how fiction shapes reality. By creating objects that clearly belong in the realm of the imaginary but are then put in a real everyday environment she aims to learn about people’s needs, wishes, opinions and feelings about existing or future technologies and their impact on everybody’s life.

Daniel Jasper Critical Design: As a Matter of Course Abstract

Former head of the Design program at Cranbrook Academy, Kathryn McCoy said ‘Design is not a neutral, value-free process; however, we have trained a profession that feels political or social concerns are either extraneous to our work or inappropriate.’ McCoy described a sort of tacit knowledge (and knowledge production) that became codified within the Western academy after World War II in which formal design production typically results in concrete statements couched in positive terms, which celebrate consumerism, consumer products and the munificent culture that produced them. Theorist Guy Debord characterized the psycho-philosophical underpinnings of this mediated environment in the following terms, ‘Everything that appears is good; whatever is good will appear.’ In this regard design (graphic, product, apparel) acts as the process by which this self-congratulatory monologue is made flesh, expressed physically in the form of what seem to be ideologically inert objects. As design educators, practitioners and scholars in a historically incurious profession one might be forgiven for asking is this all there is? Is client-based practice the only prescribed outcome for our intellectual and creative endeavors and those of our students? In addition to critical thinking and critical writing, is there room for critical design in design research, pedagogy and practice?


Daniel Jasper is an Associate Professor of Graphic Design in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. His research combines a critical analysis of consumer society as it relates to design with political activism and an emphasis on the “everyday” experience. Jasper’s designs have been featured in numerous books on critical practices in contemporary Graphic Design. His work has been widely exhibited nationally and internationally most recently in an exhibition entitled Got the Message? 50 Years of Political Posters at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, Australia. He received an MFA in Graphic Design from Yale University in 1999.

Daisy Alexandra Ginsberg Better Abstract

Designers often advocate that design makes things better. In promising a better future, they are not alone: engineers, marketers, politicians and scientists also invoke the imaginary of better, creating dreams that have very material effects. In some of these visions, “better” will be delivered by science and technology; in others, the consumption of designed things will better us or the world. “Better” itself has become a contemporary version of progress, shed of some of its philosophical baggage. But it is not a universal good or a verified measure: better is imbued with politics and values. And better will not be delivered equally, if at all. “What is better?” and “Who gets to decide?” are questions with great implications for the way we live and hope to live. This talk explores how critical design can be used to address these questions, while considering critical design’s complicated relationship to bettering, as a critical yet optimistic practice. Drawing on my experiences working with the visionaries of synthetic biology — a new approach to genetic engineering — I consider how critical design and its position of critical optimism can usefully question better, and open up the possibility for alternatives.


Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg develops experimental approaches to imagine alternative values around design, science and technology. Daisy explores aesthetics and ethics with collaborators around the world, including scientists, engineers, artists, designers, social scientists, museums and industry. Lead author of Synthetic Aesthetics: Investigating Synthetic Biology’s Designs on Nature (MIT Press, 2014), her PhD research, Better, in Design Interactions at London’s Royal College of Art (expected 2017), looks into the powerful social imaginary of “better” and its influence on our lives. Daisy received the London Design Medal for Emerging Talent 2012, and her work has been twice nominated for Designs of The Year (2011, 2015).

Jana Traboulsi A Design Manifesto: A Critique of Graphic Design Education Abstract

This paper proposes a critical look at the state of graphic design and visual communication in Lebanon today. These fields have witnessed a boom in the last twenty years in the country, with the opening of numerous schools and university programs, but also the flourishing of advertising agencies and design studios. The time has come to stop and think critically of how this field has and can affect the society it grows in and is a product of. As a practitioner in the fields of design and illustration mainly, but also as an academic, I will base myself on my professional experience to propose a series of concerns about design thinking as a social, cultural and political act.


Jana Traboulsi is an illustrator and graphic designer. For the past twelve years, she has been teaching while maintaining an active practice, collaborating with social and cultural institutions, combining both her practices in publications mainly. She is the co-founder of Sigil art collective, and art director of Snoubar Bayrout publishing house, Bidayat magazine and Dawawine cultural center. As an illustrator, her work includes editorial illustrations and comics for magazines and newspapers in Lebanon and abroad. She has published over 10 illustrated books including 3 in children literature. Her work has been exhibited locally and internationally.

Karma Dabaghi The Agency of Discursive Design Exists in the Industrial Abstract

It is my position that product designers need to deepen their understanding of Discursive Design, an approach focused on articulating criticism of the status quo and help it step out of the gallery. By extending the agency of this approach beyond the intellectual realm of the elite and into the much larger world of the industrial institutions that create and control economies, designers will show new possibilities to the producers of products, reshape their mentalities, and help them act more responsibly. As opposed to the commercial product, I advocate for the twenty-first-century Activist Discursive Object. This object acts as a catalyzer for change that rejects the old-fashioned model of an individual designer aspiring to create the perfect aesthetic, in favor of a collaborative team-based multidisciplinary practice where comprehensive solutions are offered for the global commons.


Product designer and architect Karma Dabaghi earned her Master of Design in Designed Objects from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago after completing a B.Arch from McGill University in Montreal. Karma taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she developed and ran a number of studio-based and lecture classes between 2009 and 2016. She also led multiple Design Thinking workshops and helped build the Executive Design Thinking Program for Professionals for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Outside of academia, she worked with a start-up company imagining design solutions for various projects and in architectural firms of different scales. Her design work has included collaborations with international commercial design companies such as Bruce Mau Design, where she contributed to a research project dedicated to imagining the future of Chicago’s Burnham Plan for the next century. Her collaborative work with DuPont and Danese Milano was featured in Intramuros and Core77, resulting in exhibitions at Neocon, Chicago and at FuoriSalone, Milan.

Davin Browner Conaty Filippo Sanzeni Minwoo Kim Artificial Intelligence and Future Agency Abstract

Can transparent systems, applied to pervasive artificial intelligence, make for safer future social environments? Design is a need in emerging contexts regarding new technologies, such as artificial intelligence. We think there needs to be a further shift in emphasis focused towards designing in relation to the distinct relationship between language, interactions, systems and agency embodied in these new technologies. Design shouldn’t just show people how to use technology but also show how it is using them. As designers, we should be creating new hybrid affordances and visual cues to make this dynamic relationship explicit. We have explored scenarios in which personal autonomy and agency are overridden by an artificial intelligence system. So how should we respond to this new limiting factor over free will? Should we cede some of autonomous control in favour of heteronomous control? What are the ethical implications of this? We think that in order to start public debate and discussion we need to define objects and systems not as static products but as open, evolving, and dynamic sets of relations between different technologies. Alexa or Google Home feel physically singular but these products are part of an ecosystem of relations, which works as real world computational control over human behaviour. Further, we want to emphasise that these are mostly silent and intangible computations, which need to be explicitly designed and controlled with these considerations in mind.


Davin holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy with minors in English Literature as well as Sociology. His final thesis was in the philosophy of language, linguistics and ethics. His other areas of research were artificial intelligence and neurophilosophy, metaphysics, experimental methods in philosophy and ethnography. He is from Dublin and is a working sound/experience designer and is working on a number of ongoing research topics. Filippo took a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication Design from Politecnico di Milano. Two of his designs were featured during 2015’s Expo in Milano, showcased in the Design District in via Durando 8. He completed a dissertation on phenomenology and emotion in Interaction Design in his final year. He holds a black belt in karate and was twice Italian champion. Some of his most innovative work is in DIY and he is currently working on various sound-systems, including a modular synthesizer. Minwoo holds a Master of Engineering in Interior Design and two Bachelor Degrees in Architecture, specialising in Interior Architecture and Design and Computer Science. He graduated with a final theses about Hybrid Adaptive Interfaces, Prefabrication Design and Augmented Reality Technology. He was a visiting lecturer in Soongsil University, Korea between 2013 and 2014, having classes in Basic Architectural Design: Fractals in Nature, Media Production and Practice and Digital Fabrication. He has extensive experiences as a researcher in the Department of Media.

Bernd Hopfengärtner Life is Good for Now: Fictional Scenes in Future Constellation Abstract

Let’s say, in the coming years, Switzerland has managed to fully realize the right of informational self determination devising a functional infrastructure to protect it. Every citizen would have total control of their personal data, granting or denying access to anyone else. Huge data collections would be accumulated but with people’s knowledge and consent. The power of data analysis to improve medical treatment, uncover hidden relationships or design more efficient systems could be fully harnessed, without having to worry about its dark sides. This hypothetical future allows to refocus from the dangers of data abuse to the logic of data analysis. How would it condition the way we think about ourselves, our relationships, how we tell stories? In my work, I’m interested in the wayward little scenes that emerge when the big scenarios come alive. Little scenes, partial and open that do not aim to solve problems or design solutions but explore and rig out small spaces in the realm of the thinkable.


Bernd Hopfengärtner is a designer who observes scientific concepts and ideas, current technical developments and cultural phenomena. His interest lies in the interdependencies of these fields and the spaces of possibility spanning between them. His work is about designing these spaces by creating tangible and more or less concrete artifacts: stories, videos and objects. By imagining the possible, the speculative, the non-existent, Art and Design can contribute to a broader discourse in a way that is not accessible by purely analytical means. Bernd is interested in Design as an interdisciplinary intermediary, placed in-between natural science, engineering, cultural and media theory and everyday-life. He holds a BFA from the Bauhaus-University in Weimar and an MA(RCA) from the Royal College of Art in London. His work was exhibited, among others, at the Wellcome Trust in London, the MoMA in New York and the National Museum of China in Beijing. Parallel to his own artistic and design practice he worked as lecturer at several art schools and universities, most recently at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne. He lives in Berlin.

Paco Mejias Tanzil Shafique Welcome to Bordertown: A Prefab Solution of Border Walls for Social Encounters Abstract

Rather than a line that divides, the border must be reconceptualized as a place of social enrichment with the other, an osmotic frontier for a cultural and emotional exchange. What is the role of critical design in this? We will present the theoretical idea behind the design and illustrate it by means of sample-prefabricated modules for border walls, which can be mass produced and exported all over the world wherever there is border conflict. The pieces will have the required condition for a border—it will separate people from both sides (only physically)—but it will encourage all kind of non-material exchange (services, information and emotions) through curious juxtapositions of the programs. This idea has been explored by projecting artifacts (drawings of the prefab wall solutions) coalesced into a catalogue of the different pieces. Ordering from this catalogue, a border could be assembled as the context demands and yet perversely negate its role to separate people. We welcome you to Bordertown, the seed of a new city where mutual curiosity and understanding will be able to overcome political, social or economic barriers. The actual value and meaning of work within a knowledge economy.


Tanzil Shafique is a Design Research Specialist working at the Dean’s office at the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design. Paco Mejias is an Associate Professor of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Arkansas Community Design Center, an outreach Center of the same school. Both are founders and co-directors of Estudio Abierto/Open Studio, a collaborative think-and-do tank, operating at the intersection of architecture and urbanism.

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