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Dynamic Culture of Interdisciplinarity and Diversity in School of Design Work-in-progress Show

Offering the chance to see how some of the world’s most exciting designers work, from conception to creation, this year’s Work-in-progress Show represents the diversity of the six programmes that make up the School of Design, as well as the culture of interdisciplinarity and cross-pollination among the programmes, and beyond. As students consider how to best represent their discipline, a Service Design ‘Pop-up Studio’ allows real insight into working practices.

Group projects make up a significant part of the curriculum in all programmes in the School of Design. The ten group projects by second-year Innovation Design Engineering students see them embracing complex and challenging real-world problems, with many focusing on questions of communication and language: CUE-scape, for instance, uses a Dictionary of Gestures as part of on-going research into non-verbal communication. In Design Products, a group project concerning ‘Object-mediated Interactions’ brings together the skills of students from Design Products and Innovation Engineering Design to work with Sonos, a music and sound hardware company, to explore the intersection of technology, design and sound.

The interdisciplinary approach continues in Service Design, where ‘Terra Nova’, a project in association with Land Rover, brings together Service, Textile and Vehicle Design to create potential offerings for Land Rover in 2030. One scenario is Aurora, which aims to design a complete mobility solution for modern life in India, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with a middle class of 500 million and rising. A Service Design project in collaboration with the National Health Service looks to re-design and prototype an improved patient discharge experience, a key issue facing the NHS today. Solutions concentrate on patient planning, understanding, support and communication, and include stickers that patients can wear in hospitals making it clear to medical staff that they have questions or need to talk.

Healthcare innovation is a subject further explored in Global Innovation Design, as students use design-led thinking and the latest research for societal good. Nudge by Filippo del Carlo is a platform that helps patients comply with their programme of medication, analysing the user’s behaviour to provide unobtrusive alerts and support; Rember by Chema Pastrana is a wearable physiotherapy device for patients with paralysis, such as following a stroke, that reduces public costs by allowing rehabilitation at home; and Simi by Allison Rowe is a fully customisable personal health assistant for women, based on monitoring of hormones throughout a lifetime, with benefits to nutrition, mood, pregnancy and menopause.

Pushing questions of health and the human body to greater extremes, students in Design Interactions take a speculative and critical approach, exploring the social, cultural and ethical impacts of existing and emerging technologies. Outcomes in the show include DiGas by Yi-Wen Tsang, which utilises human organic material and processes for energy production as a way of tackling increased demand due to population growth and diminishing fossil fuel resources, while Jinhee Park’s Breast Milk Fruit presents a provocation for discussion about the limits of biotechnology when applied to everyday life, in the form of a possible solution to older or working mothers being unable to breastfeed their babies, with ‘fruits’ grown from the mother’s genes and hormones.

Offering a glimpse of how the world will, or might, be shaped in the future, this Work-in-progress Show presents a great diversity of projects and approaches, as well as a lively environment of debate, experimentation and innovation. From radical future scenarios and critical projects posing ‘what if’ questions, to industry-led projects that engage with real-world problems, students are engaging with design as a cultural and societal activity, and as an innovation process.