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INDEX: award 2011 exhibition teachers guide high school



Design to Improve Life A guide for high school teachers

From May 10th - June 10th 2012, design from all over the world will be exhibited at Keskuskatu 1 in central Helsinki in compliance with the theme Design to Improve Life. Free guided tours can be booked within the hours of 10am-8pm.

This teacher’s guide is created as a helpful tool for teachers. Combined with our educational material, the guide is meant to act as inspiration for how to use Design to Improve Life for educational purposes. The guide includes a short introduction to the exhibition and its theme; suggestions for relevant teaching of Design to Improve Life; practical information and a feedback form. Our wish is to optimize the conditions for a great and educational collaboration with the help of a guide to improve and to enable further work, based on your visit to the exhibition. It is possible to find additional inspiration, background knowledge and examples of Design to Improve Life on our website The information found on the website includes the exhibition’s various historical and thematic outlines. The aim of our educational material is to make your visit to the exhibition an exciting and educational experience, while reinforcing the teaching potentials surrounding design. We hope it will awaken your curiosity and understanding of design as an alternative solution to problem solving that can improve the lives of people all over the world.


What is Design to Improve Life?

... Design to Improve Life is a way of understanding design that views the art of designing in a new and broader perspective...

Design is typically linked to functional forms and objects such as design furniture and designer clothing that signal personal and economic welfare. Yet, design is so much more than that. More often today, designers are using their abilities to create objects that extend beyond simple shaping of exclusive objects: Things that traditionally were not regarded as having been designed. Designers recognize that their choices have consequences for the future. Because of this acknowledgement, opportunities for positive, prospective and change-oriented approaches for the future emerge. Design to Improve Life is a way of understanding design that views the art of designing in a new and broader perspective where form, impact and the context, within which the specific design is utilized and produced, affect the design. These parameters constitute an interdisciplinary field where designers combine social, environmental, economic, aesthetic and technical reflections into one unique design expression. In other words, they are creating great, sustainable designs that make a difference.


Why make an exhibition about Design to Improve Life?

Since 2005, INDEX: has awarded products, services and systems that are designed to improve life. In September 2011, INDEX: awarded first place and â‚Ź500,000 to five designs that stood out as great sustainable designs. They were chosen out of 60 finalists from 27 countries across the world. The 60 finalists including the five winning designs were then displayed in a large exhibition at KvĂŚsthusmolen in Copenhagen, Denmark for 3 months. In our educational material we also present examples of other participating projects in the competition. The 60 designs presented in the exhibition are distinguished by not only being aesthetically pleasing, but also by making great efforts to improve the lives of people all over the world through design. The result is an exhibition, which points in every direction, challenges traditional design concepts, examines chains of causes and shows the complexity of designing, by introducing diverse solutions to broader problems such as the scarcity of drinking water and reduction of our CO2 footprint. At the core of the exhibition is design that focuses on improving lives across geographic and disciplinary borders. By focusing on Design to Improve Life, we are creating a joint discussion and reflection framework for how designers can address global issues in new ways.


Teaching Design to Improve Life

With the exhibition and our educational materials we wish to emphasize the potential of learning how to use design as a tool for problem solving, and to establish a deeper understanding of the many interdisciplinary ways contemporary designers address global issues through sustainable designs.

We wish to prepare both teachers and students for visiting the exhibition; establish a joint experience, propose activities and free guided tours of the exhibition along with summing up the overall experience. It is important to us that the pupils use their own experiences and perceptions in the dialog about design. That is why our educational material and guided tours aim towards an active, participatory and informal teaching method with focus on observations, descriptions, explorations and perspectives on the potential within the field of sustainable design. Design to Improve Life is an interdisciplinary field, which is concerned with the interchange of various technical, social, economic and aesthetic aspects. In this sense, the exhibition proposes the joining of design and many educational subjects such as science, social science, geography, language study, product development, etc. The themes of Design to Improve Life vary from revolving around everyday problem solutions to dealing with larger societal, ethical, social or environmental problems. On the following pages you will find suggestions for relevant “before-during-after� teaching courses directed at the interdisciplinary courses taught in high schools. The questions in the assignments are open ended and are designed to help the students express their experiences of the exhibition - both vocally and in writing. The assignments can be done in pairs, in groups or together with the whole class. Please use them as inspiration along with our educational materials and explore the many nuances and thematic outlines of Design to Improve Life.



photo by jørgen ebbesen

Subject: Design as an alternative tool for problem solving

Design is typically associated with exclusive, functional objects and luxury products. However, design is so much more than that. Designers increasingly apply a broader perspective to their skills, where shape, form, utility and context influence the design.

Question: What is design and how do designers incorporate global issues into their work? In class (before visiting the exhibition) ∙∙ What do you associate with design? (Keywords) ∙∙ What does a designer do? (Keywords) ∙∙ What is good design? (Keywords) ∙∙ Look at the design SHE28 and describe it with your own words: What is it? What does it do? Who is it made for? ∙∙ Which problem does SHE28 solve? And for who? ∙∙ Is it good design? (Compare it to your above written keywords) ∙∙ Why do you think the designer chose to create this specific design? ∙∙ SHE28 can help women in developing countries on various levels. Which? ∙∙ How does design help us in our everyday life? For example, are there things in the classroom that make the teaching better? Describe them: What can they do? Which problems do they solve? ∙∙ Which design would improve your everyday life? Why? At the exhibition ∙∙ Spend some time exploring the exhibition to develop an overview of the different themes represented. An example can be clean drinking water. ∙∙ Choose one design you really like and describe it: What is it? How does it look? What is it made of? What does it do? Who is it made for? Which problem does it solve? Why do you like it? ∙∙ Why do you think your preferred design is part of an exhibition that focuses on design to improve the lives of people around the world? ∙∙ How does your preferred design help people? >>




∙∙ Can you find other designs at the exhibition that focus on the same issue? ∙∙ How is your preferred design different from them? ∙∙ Would you use it? ∙∙ If you could, how would you improve the design? In class (after the exhibition) ∙∙ What do you associate with design after having visited the exhibition? Compare with your keywords from before you went to the exhibition. Which new words have been added? ∙∙ How can design and designers help improve people’s lives? ∙∙ Present your preferred design from the exhibition to you classmates (in groups or in pairs) and focus on who your preferred design can help (how it helps improve people’s lives). ∙∙ Make a list in class with the overall themes and specific issues the designs in the exhibition focus on. ∙∙ Which theme and specific issue do you think is most interesting right now? ∙∙ Which other themes or issues could be added to the list? ∙∙ The exhibition shows how designers do many different things that improve the lives of a lot of people. What can you do in your everyday life to improve your and others’ lives in the future?



photo by martin bubandt

Subject: Environment and climate

At the moment we are experiencing the permanent and devastating effects of our current production and consumption patterns. A result of our use-andthrow-away mentality and lack of knowledge about and respect for our environment and resources, which have led to global warming and climate changes.

Question: How can design and designers do something positive for the environment? In class (before visiting the exhibition) ∙∙ Discuss in class the reasons for the accumulation of waste and its consequences for the environment. ∙∙ What do you think happens to the trash we put in our trash cans every day? ∙∙ Are there satisfactory opportunities for waste separation and recycling where you live? Are there any other ways to improve recycling of waste where you live? ∙∙ Are there any products that cannot be recycled today? ∙∙ Are there any products that you would like to be recycled in the future? ∙∙ What does it mean that something is environment friendly? For example, think of things like packaging, transportation, use of chemicals, etc. ∙∙ Can you think of an object or an invention that does something good for the environment? ∙∙ Please look at the design, The Secret Life Series. Do you think this design is good for the environment? If so, how? ∙∙ Why do you think the designers created this design? ∙∙ Who will benefit from this design, and who will not? Think industries. ∙∙ Do you think the design will be used in the future? If yes, which benefits will it provide in the long run? At the exhibition ∙∙ Spend some time exploring the exhibition. Choose two designs that have a positive effect on the environment and describe them: What are they? How do they look? What are they made of? What do they do? Who are they made for? Where can they be used? Which problems do they solve? Why do you like them?


∙∙ If you were going to create a design for the environment, which design would you want it to resemble? Why? ∙∙ What would you do differently? ∙∙ Find one or more designs that (like The Secret Life Series) focus on human, industrial, and consumption consequences for the environment. Which designs are they? How do they resemble or distinguish themselves from The Secret Life Series?

PHOTO by jørgen ebbesen

In class (after the exhibition) ∙∙ Present in class, in groups or in pairs your chosen designs with focus on the environmental issues they are trying to tackle. How do they make a positive difference in the world? ∙∙ Which other environmental issues did the exhibition focus on? ∙∙ Were there any environmental issues that were not represented? Compare with your keywords from before you went to the exhibition. ∙∙ What can we all do for the environment in our daily lives?


Subject: Geography and culture

Different people in different countries have different needs. For example, families in Africa have completely different needs than families in Denmark or China.


Question: How do designers accommodate for geographically determined consumer needs, issues and challenges? In class (before visiting the exhibition) ∙∙ What is Danish design known for? Find examples of Danish design. ∙∙ What are African or Chinese designs known for? ∙∙ How does the idea for a design develop? Do you think it is based on needs, shortage or desire? Discuss the differences between the three. ∙∙ When a designer has an idea, how do you think it is executed? ∙∙ Compare the two designs Hövding and SHE28 from the educational material. How are they different? ∙∙ Who would use them, and where in the world would they be used? Would the same people use both the designs? ∙∙ Why do you think the manufacturers have chosen to develop these specific designs?

At the exhibition ∙∙ Find two designs created by people from different continents. What are the similarities and differences? ∙∙ How do they look? What are they made of? What do they do? Who are they made for? Where can they be used? ∙∙ Would you use them? Why or why not? ∙∙ How many different countries are represented at the exhibition? Make a list. ∙∙ Which countries have the most designs presented at the exhibition? Why do you think these countries are this heavily represented at a design exhibition about improving people’s lives? In class (after the exhibition) ∙∙ How can design improve the lives of people in both developing countries and in richer countries? ∙∙ Which people in particular have needs for designs that can improve their lives? ∙∙ How can designers and designs help them? ∙∙ Choose one country where you would like to help people improve their lives. ∙∙ If you could invent one thing for people in that particular country, what would it be? What do people in that country need? ∙∙ How would your design look? What would it be called? Describe it by writing five sentences about it, and present it to your classmates.



photo by rasmus rønne

Activities and guided tours

The INDEX: Award 2011 Exhibition explores 4 trends; education, health, large cities and online communities. It is a good idea to consider which trends you would like to work with, if you wish to book a free guided tour of the exhibition. This way, we can adapt the guided tour to fit your desired outcome of visiting the exhibition. If you wish to focus on other themes during the tour, you are welcome to mention this when booking the tour. Our guided tours are informal, based on dialogue and welcomes active participation and the exchanging of ideas. You can also visit the INDEX: Design to Improve Life速 website at where you can find additional information about INDEX: Design to Improve Life速, the exhibited designs and much more. We hope you will find your experience at our exhibition exciting and educational. Suggestions for other sources:


INDEX: Design to Improve Life® Patron INDEX: is under the patronage of HRH the Crown Prince of Denmark. INDEX: Partner Cities Copenhagen, Risør & Helsinki. INDEX: Award 2011 Exhibition Main Sponsors Keppel Corporation Limited and Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond. INDEX: is supported by The Danish Ministry of Business and Growth The Danish Business Authority The European Regional Development Fund – Interreg IV A (EU).




INDEX: Teachers' guide High School  

INDEX: award 2011 exhibition 1 2 This teacher’s guide is created as a helpful tool for teachers. Combined with our educational material, the...

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