Last month, Leapfrog’s PhD candidate Mirian Calvo presented a paper co-​authored with Annalinda De Rosa, the DESIS Lab’s PhD candidate in the Politecnico di Milano at the 12th European Academy of Design (EAD12) Conference, hosted at the Sapienza Università di Roma 12–14 April. Titled Design for Next, the conference afforded a platform for sharing international design research aiming at fostering discussion among designers, academics and experts about contemporary design and its perspectives, with intent to nurture diversity and interdisciplinary approaches to research. Indeed, the EAD12 is considered a primary source for high quality dissemination of design research about a large range of strands, including aesthetics, education, environment, health, industry, society, technology and thinking.

The paper presented focused on analysing the role of the physical realm in supporting co-​design practices and shaping social identity, as well as how co-​design practices can become vehicles to support changes in built environments driven by community-​based initiatives. It outlined two PhD research projects focused on strengthening community engagement by analysing two different settings: firstly, research associated with Polimi DESIS Lab in the urban fabric of Milan (Italy); and secondly, research associated with Leapfrog on rural areas in the Highlands and Islands (Scotland). Both research projects are design processes that support social innovations, which are part of Social Design – design motivated by social demands and not by the market. This collaboration flourished during the 2016 Leapfrog Summer School, in Forres.

The EAD12 Conference provided an international atmosphere to share perspectives about the role that design research is playing nowadays as an activator of societal change by expanding and crossing boundaries into other disciplines. About this, one of the reflections resonating over the conference was the need to educate designers in interdisciplinary approaches and equip them with a variety of skills to enable them to conduct ‘socially active design’, which foregrounds society and its process of change in complex and uncertain environments.


Read the paper here: http://​radar​.gsa​.ac​.uk/​5​2​93/