WORKSHOP 6: Deep diving with design students: Using immersive, participatory design as a tool for generating design solutions

Using participatory and immersive methods, this workshop will provide design educators the chance to exchange methods and educational techniques which have allowed design students the opportunity not only to learn from but also to reflect and innovate on specific design situations. This workshop will also generate a collection of case studies to validate this type of participatory design education.

For the past two years, the Social Spaces research group has offered a Master’s module which works from a context of dementia. In this confrontational and hands-on class, students spend the night in a care facility and play games, eat and interact with people with advanced stages of dementia. Over the course of the module, students share their own experiences of family members with dementia, and they make contact specifically with people in the early stages of dementia, meeting with the latter in the latters’ homes. Ultimately, the students develop projects based on direct observations, experiences, reflections and research. This ‘non-design’, real-life case turns students from aesthetic creators into contributors. It is not just an exercise in empathy; it is also an exercise in participation. Designing with others provides students with an opportunity to see their role as designer expand to become innovative social problem solvers.

Over the next decade, design education will continue to be skills-based, but it will also become more socially active and responsible. Although primarily a research group, Social Spaces believes that education and research mutually inform each other and that working within this social space fosters creativity, awareness and reflection in students, provides crossover links with new disciplines and yet still provides students an opportunity to build on their skillsets.

By reflecting on the design process and the success of this case (and others), we can determine why working with such cases should be mandatory in design curricula, especially if we see design (in all iterations) developing into a discipline which contributes to society instead of merely creating content (media) for it. In design education, most research methods are used in the context of the client/end-user duality, and students often work towards a desired end-result. However, as in the Social Spaces module, many participatory research methods can be used as a way to gather information about potential users and, at the same time, to generate new, unexpected ‘solutions’ or ideas.

Timeframe: 1h 30m

Andrea Wilkinson, Selina Schepers, Niels Hendriks -MAD-Faculty (Media, Arts and Design Faculty) Campus C-Mine, Belgium;

Open for registration: 25