I recently had the unique opportunity to visit Oslo Norway for the 2nd International Conference for Design Education Researchers (jointly held by DRS and Cumulus) at the Akershus University College of Applied Sciences. The conference revolved around the theme of “Design Learning for Tomorrow – Design Education from Kindergarten to PhD” and looked at approaches to design curriculum, education, assessment, and challenges in educational methods.
As an organization, the Design Research Society has three main aims that include recognizing design as a creative act (common to many disciplines), understanding research and its relationship with education and practice, and advancing the theory and practice of design. The conference was consequently built around an agenda focused on sustainable design solutions that not only include ‘professional’ designers, but also a general public that has an understanding of their responsibility towards quality long-term consumption. In this view, the education of professional designers is seen in relation to the general education of people who are conscious decision-makers.
The general themes I found most interesting looked at cross-disciplinary approaches to design and the value of collaboration across fields to address the global challenges of today. Discussions within the sessions surrounding pedagogy, practice, and the development of methodologies using design thinking for social innovation were particularly useful for my own work. It seems that design research is beginning to nurture a different kind of knowledge, and several universities have incorporated a cross-cultural and global perspective into their agendas. It’s an exciting time!
During the conference, I presented a paper titled “City Reflections: design collaboration for cross-cultural learning” alongside fellow NC State graduate Kelly Murdoch-Kitt. Our research examines how a series of cross-cultural collaborations between design students in San Francisco and Dubai—mediated by virtual communication—can impact learning experiences, promote cross-cultural communication and understanding, explore similarities and differences, change ideas of representation, and address perceptions of “self” and “other.”
The overall conference was a wonderfully organized event with plenty of activities planned throughout the week including gallery exhibitions, historical sites, and outstanding food.
NOTE: In case you were wondering – that *is* a rock climbing wall located in the main foyer of the University (image below). What a great way to take a break during a stressful school day!
One of the most amazing meals of the conference dinner took place at Tjuvholmen Sjømagasinet along the Oslo waterfront (next to the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art).
The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art
The dinner was a little piece of heaven and featured a local fish complemented by mango wrapped feta cheese – yum!
A highlight of the trip was the participation of my dear friend Bonnie in the conference. Unfortunately, she had the added challenge of balancing the conference with the demands of graduate school (she is currently attending SCAD) – but I’m happy to say that she handled her workload beautifully.
All in all, it was a wonderful week supported by fruitful dialogue, engrossing workshops, and intriguing design research. Thank you DRS, Cumulus, and the city of Oslo!