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Tuesday, 1 November 2022
Design United's TRANSITIONS @ Dutch Design Week

During the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, Design United's EXPO: Transitions highlighted projects that represent 5 contemporary themes in design research in the Klokgebouw. Next to that, 5 consecutive days of design research programmes were organized in Microlab about these themes. Take a look at the aftermovie!

There certainly is a need for academic debate on design research at Dutch Design Week as was proven by the full occupation of Design United's Design Research Programme at Microlab, during the Dutch Design Week in EIndhoven. The research themes: More than Human Design, Futuring, Politics of Design, Etanglements of Design and Neo Craftsmanships were addressed via inspiring 4TU projects in debates, workshops, and outside experiences. The organising team of dedicated design researchers managed to immerse a large design community into a deepening and interactive journey, exploring the consequences for design research.

Read more about Transitions:

The Dutch design research community has to continually deal with the ever-changing relationships between technology, society, and our planet. Given these changes, design research is in a continuous state of transition. 

These transitions impact the things we create and investigate, the questions we ask, and the tools and methods we develop and use. Technological developments in Artificial Intelligence and Bio-engineering trigger us to make and study things where the natural ends and the artificial starts. It also evokes questions such as: ‘What makes us human?’ or, ‘How to live our lives in times of planetary and economic crisis?’.

The 5 themes address different transitions in design research, from the natural to the artificial, from the past to the future, and from traditional to novel methods of creation:

1 More than Human Design

We entered an eco-age, which spans and traverses the social, natural, and artificial. How can we create value for future habitats that are natural for the ‘life’ and growth of humans and nonhumans? Can design be at the heart of such ecosystems? How can we manipulate leverage points that affect all within the system? Which collaborations and ways of thinking are needed to shift towards decentralizing the human? In this theme, we move from human-centered design to more than human design. 

2 Futuring  

Design is a future-oriented practice. Ways to envision the future, speculate and reflect on it, and even to rehearse what it may feel like to inhabit alternative futures, are all critical components of the designer's toolkit. As the fate of our planet lies in the balance, the ways design shapes our futures – the kind of relations, experiences, meanings, and behaviors it forms – need to be explored, problematized, and reoriented. We need to figure out, collectively, where opportunities for responsible innovation lie, and help society move forward in respectful, responsible, and exciting new ways.

3 Politics of Design

What is the relationship between design, power, and social justice? How do designers navigate the complex intersections of social structures, cultural differences, biases, stereotypes, and domination? Is design equipped for collective liberation and ecological sustainability? Can design really aim at social good and if so, how does it change the way we practice design? This theme welcomes epistemological and methodological discussions as well as focuses on projects on social justice, power, agency, and politics of design. 

4 Entanglements with AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be fundamentally shaping our future societies. It is therefore of great importance to understand AI as a design material. Not only as computation but also as a technology that can transform everyday activities and experiences and transform design practice itself. Questions we would like to ask are, how designers can productively engage and work with AI? How can this be done collaboratively with relevant stakeholders who engender multiple perspectives and levels of understanding? And lastly, how to do so in responsible and ethical ways. 

5 Neo Craftsmanships

While critical debates on the future directions of design are in full swing, crafters of advanced enabling technologies have already started to make the new everyday a reality; the crafts of tomorrow are taking shape today. Deepfake digitalisations are out in the wild, shape-changing food designs are served in top restaurants, and smart materials for weaving sustainable fabrics. Many more emergent key technologies are ready to become the design materials of the future. In this theme, we focus on the question of how new craftsmanships emerge in current design practice.