Design Practices within Contemporary Societies

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Conference Proceedings
Authors: Cláudia Lima

Abstract: This paper addresses pedagogical practices developed in the context of the Communication Design BA at Lusófona University in Porto, Portugal, aimed at highlighting the importance of social design innovation as a fundamental field of application for the area of design hence promoting a socially aware design practice towards human needs and global sustainability. These practices are based on collaborations made with local social institutions, such as Portuguese Red Cross, Alzheimer Portugal Association, and Eu Sou Eu - Association for the Social Inclusion of Children and Young People, and are anchored on three axes: (i) the need to integrate students in the professional activity, through the development of specific projects for real contexts; (ii) the inexistence of curricular units structured in the scope of Social Design in the curricular programs of Design BAs in Portugal; (iii) the difficulty of social institutions to harness the potential of Design tools and methodologies to respond to the needs of both the institution and the community it serves, due to the lack of human and financial resources. Since 2018, several projects have been developed with students including fundraising campaigns, cognitive stimulation materials for individuals with dementia, signage for day care centres and visual identities. These projects provided students with a professional context, requiring direct contact with the client, in-depth knowledge of the institution and awareness of the community it serves to achieve suitable solutions. For their development, Design Thinking methods were used as the basis of a work process divided into three essential phases: (i) problem definition which included meetings with the client, visits to the institution, interviews with its collaborators, research on issues related to the institution and the community it serves; (ii) project ideation where ideas were discussed and tested, the financial and material feasibility was assessed, as well as the suitability of the project under development regarding the defined problem; (iii) project implementation which included the production and dissemination of the project and possible future developments, envisaging the materialization of a professional relationship between student and institution beyond the academic context. These projects highlighted the importance of the designer's role as a social agent: students were confronted with real social problems found in the community (situations of poverty, domestic violence, special educational needs, dementia), and the needs of the institutions themselves. At the end of each project, the knowledge acquired was not limited to the domain of academic design exercises, but extended to social learning, humanitarian values and ways of acting through design projects aimed at citizenship. It is argued that in times of change, marked by the growing identification of social needs, the Designer can assume an essential role as a social agent. Hence the need to integrate social issues in Design curricular programs, envisaging an approach to Design that is more oriented towards human needs and in line with the global sustainability and social equality. In this paper, design methodologies adopted for these projects are described with a view to the replication of this pedagogical model in other contexts.

Keywords: Pedagogical practices, social design, citizenship, Design Thinking methodologies, Lusófona University of Porto

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1001369

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