Can Design Be Used as a Diplomatic Tool?


As part of our Shaping Design Through Education series, Impact Design Hub is trying something a little different. One of our readers named Valia Mouheich reached out to us to answer a few questions for her thesis at ESADSE (École supérieure d’Art de Design de Saint-Étienne, France). We were very intrigued by her questionnaire and wanted to pose these questions to our audience as well. Valia’s research is focused on the power of design as a social, economic and political ladder on both national and international levels. She is particularly interested in questioning design’s status as a diplomatic tool to help solve problems between societies and reduce tension between countries.

We would greatly appreciate if you took a few minutes to read through Valia’s six questions and provide your answers and insights.

1- Do you believe in the idea that design has an impact on the way people react? How, in what way, and in which conditions?

2- Can design make a change on the international level? How?

3- Do you consider design as a tool to strengthen cultural relations between countries, and lead to social development both on national and international levels?


Eleven Announces Winner of Inaugural Architecture Competition


Eleven, a company focused on cultivating the highest level design and architecture competitions, just announced the winners of Cambodia 2015, their inaugural architecture competition.

The challenge centered around “Cambodia´s Tonle Sap Lake: a unique UNESCO wildlife biosphere home to over 1.2 million people living in floating villages [that are] under severe threat from growing pollution and disease epidemics.”

600 people from 51 countries joined the competition. The winning project, HYBRID[GE], was submitted by Natthapol Pongplanchai, Pratchaya Lertruck Sadee, Porncharoen Oranratmanee, and Phanin Chantalert from Thailand.

To read about their proposal and see runners up, visit Eleven Magazine, recently launched by Eleven, which features the best of people, places, ideas and design from around the world.

Autodesk Foundation Celebrates #GivingTuesday Dec. 1


To celebrate #GivingTuesday on December 1, Autodesk University is enabling program attendees to donate to two nonprofits supported by the Autodesk Foundation as part of their online registration process. The University is also facilitating on-site donations. Autodesk will be matching all funds raised on-site and through registration. The chosen organizations are:

  • Proximity Designs: This enterprise applies user-centered design principles to create affordable products and services for farmers in rural Myanmar. Their products help families living in extreme poverty boost their income and improve their quality of life.
  • Build Change: This organization designs disaster-resistant homes and schools in emerging nations, then trains builders, homeowners, engineers, and government officials to build them. In the process, they help local residents develop marketable skills that give them greater control over their long-term safety and economic security.”

In addition to providing financial support, Autodesk also hosts volunteer opportunities for the Foundation’s grantees. This year’s organization is e-Nable, a global community of digital humanitarians who design, fabricate, mass-customize, and distribute 3D-printed hands and arms for children born without limbs or those who’ve lost a hand or arm due to illness or trauma.

Learn more about Autodesk’s #GivingTuesday initiative and volunteer opportunities.

New Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship Opportunity Announced!


The Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship has added an additional Fellowship opportunity that begins in February, 2016. The Boston Rose Fellow will work with A Better City, an organization which supports the region through an efficient, effective, and equitable transportation system. Selection criteria includes: architectural, academic, and community experience, design portfolio, and professional references. Applications are due December 13, 2015.

“The Rose Fellow will support A Better City’s work in the transportation and public realm arenas by working on conceptual design of a case study site that will exemplify best practices in these interrelated issues. The fellow will also be central to helping establish and build strong relationships with allies, and will integrate placemaking approaches into ABC’s work more broadly.”

The Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship works with emerging leaders, partnering early-career architectural designers with local community development organizations to facilitate an inclusive approach to development in order to create green, sustainable, and affordable communities.

Read more about the Boston fellowship and apply.

Legos Make Urban Planning Accessible


The MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning, the Changing Places group at the MIT Media Lab, and the Barr Foundation, are working together to test how bus-rapid transit systems could affect the city. Their work includes three components: a Lego model of Dudley Square, another 3-D model (also made of Legos) of a Boston street, and a touchscreen interface to illustrate the potential effects of different plans on a regional scale—such as how changes to public transit might affect people’s access to jobs.

“The aim is to make the urban planning process more transparent by getting everyone involved—not just experts like [professor of transportation and urban planning at MIT Chris] Zegras. ‘Part of our idea with introducing these types of tools is to break away from the technocratic model of planning,’ he says. ‘So we’ve try to make a very initial foray into opening up those processes a bit more.’”

Not only has the team made the platform familiar and accessible, they have also opened their lab to the public, encouraging residents and local policymakers alike to participate in the project.

Read more about the initiative at CityLab.

SEED Co-Founders Share Strategies for Evaluation


Lisa Abendroth and Bryan Bell, co-founders of SEED (Social Economic Environmental Design) have shared as essay on SEED evaluation and certification as part of their larger Public Interest Design Guidebook: SEED Methodology, Case Studies, and Critical Issues.

“Evaluation involves a detailed assessment of project results based on benchmarks and performance measures embedded in the design process. Evaluation is the translation of project plan or program successes, failures, and challenges. Designers, communities, stakeholders, funders, and clients all have a need to assess the outcome of design work, just as clients and communities have a need to assess how goals were achieved for purposes of defining community benchmarks and working together toward common goals.”

The SEED Evaluator provides a road map, a directional pointer that can indicate vital strengths and weaknesses.

To read the full essay check out chapter 9 of Public Interest Design Guidebook

To Be Successful, Community Development Must Include the Arts


Community development professionals will tell you there is no such thing as a silver bullet when building an equitable community and that many different strategies must be pursued at once – a jobs strategy, safety strategy, land use strategy, transportation strategy, education strategy, housing strategy, etc. – to be successful. In 2010, the Knight Soul of the Community investigated just why people move somewhere; asking about schools, public transit, affordability and safety. After interviewing 40,000 residents over the course of three years, the most common answers came as a surprise.

“The top three answers for why someone loves living in a place shocked almost everyone – they are “social offerings, openness, and aesthetics.” To those of us working in the arts, this fact said something huge – that if you are trying to build an equitable community, you need the arts at the community development table.”

The arts must be touted for the authentic local assets they are. The arts can engage and augment what is unique about a place, and at the same time create jobs and opportunities for all residents of a community.

Read more about the arts and community development here.

“The Architecture School Survival Guide”


Responding to the idea that “every year new architecture students make the same mistakes,” award-winning architect and educator Iain Jackson wrote The Architecture School Survival Guide to offer tips, tricks and advice to help make the transition from novice to capable student just that little bit less painful.

“Covering everything from how to properly approach contextual design to how often to back up your work, the book is full of ideas that new students will find enlightening, and older students – and even professionals – are likely to find useful as reference points.”

Because there are so many different ways to approach design, the book addresses the most basic principles that are often left for the student to learn the hard way.

Read an excerpt of The Architecture School Survival Guide at ArchDaily.

Center for Social Design Highlighted in New MICA Publication


The Center for Social Design at MICA was featured in the inaugural issue of Commotion, a magazine produced twice each year to share ideas, news, and art from the 19 graduate programs at MICA.

In 2007, “[Mike] Weikert was newly appointed as co-chair of MICA’s undergraduate graphic design program, and he began thinking about the process of design and the process of educating young designers. He knew design was evolving, that real-world practices were becoming more interdisciplinary. At the same time, he was keenly interested in a growing awareness within the design community of social design—a creative process and practice dedicated to understanding social problems and supporting positive social change.”

Read more about the history of social design at MICA and how they’ve used design to increase access to fresh food in Baltimore City food deserts, help HIV-Positive men move beyond stigmatization in order to stay healthy, and provide children in underprivileged communities with safer areas to play.

OpenIDEO Initiates Local Conversations on Climate Sustainability


In the wake of the tragic acts of terror that took place in Paris, President Hollande announced that COP21—the United Nations Climate Change Conference—will move forward. These negotiations in Paris are an opportunity for us all to take action toward a more sustainable future.

“To build on this global momentum, we’re inviting OpenIDEO community members around the world to host local events during COP21 (November 30th — December 11th). Events can take any form—from a conversation with friends to a Meetup with your community. If you’re interested in attending or organizing a #COPisHere event, complete this short form. We’ll share the full list of events and resources for organizers here.”

#COPisHere events are one way OpenIDEO continues to grow Accelerate, the global effort to support innovators, spark action and use design thinking to tackle the biggest environmental challenges.

Read more about the initiative and join supporters as they unite for climate change.