The Value of Co-Design across cultures: engaging students to solve the ‘wicked problems’ of the 21st century

Lisa Scharoun and Carlos Alberto Montana-Hoyos (UC)
2017 Conference

To be an effective designer in today’s job market, students must be equipped with more than just technical skills. Today’s design leaders know how to engage with other cultures and understand how to approach the wicked problems of the 21st century. By 2020 Australia and many other countries in the Asia Pacific region will have a large imbalance of citizens over the age of 65. The impact of this population imbalance in both Australia and abroad will be profound. More robust health services will need to be implemented and considerations for housing, community interaction and dealing with new technologies will need to be adapted to suit the needs of this growing population. To teach students how to approach and address this issue we believe that a multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural approach is necessary. In June 2017, 27 students from the disciplines Graphic, Web and Industrial Design, as well as Nursing, from four Australian states (VIC ACT, NSW and QLD) travelled to Singapore to work with 47 Singaporean and Hong Kong students from the areas of Public Health, Nursing, Built Environment, Visual Communications and Product Design. Students explored the concept of “design for healthy ageing in multicultural societies” through an extensive research report and in site visits, lectures and intensive workshops and then designed strategies and prototypes for new technologies and approaches around key issues such as social isolation, dealing with new technologies, dementia care, mobility issues, residential care, and community engagement. This paper outlines our process and the benefits of this approach.

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About the author

Dr. Lisa Scharoun is an Associate Professor of Graphic Design and the founder and Director of the Cross Cultural Design Lab at the University of Canberra in Canberra, Australia. Lisa worked in London as a graphic and interior designer and has previously held the position of head of the graphic design discipline at Deakin University in Melbourne and senior lecturer in the visual communications department at Raffles Design Institute in Shanghai, China. She was a top 10 finalist in the 2013 Bill and Melinda Gates “Records for Life” competition and was awarded a prize for the design she created to assist mothers in developing countries to remember to vaccinate their children. The Australian Paralympic committee commissioned her to create motivational posters for Australian Paralympic Athletes for the 2016, 2014 and 2012 Paralympic Games. Lisa’s digital photographic design work has won numerous international awards such as the JM Cameron Prize for Women’s Photography and the Prix de la Photographie Paris. Recent publications include the books: Cross Cultural Design (Beijing Electronics Press 2016) and America at the Mall: the cultural role of a retail utopia (McFarland 2012).

A/Prof. Carlos Alberto Montana-Hoyos (PhD) is an Associate Professor of Industrial Design (ID) in the University of Canberra since 2010. He has developed award-winning, multidisciplinary design projects while living in Colombia, Italy, Japan, Singapore and Australia. As an academic, Carlos was Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Product Design Engineering course of EAFIT University in Colombia (2001-2003). He was also a Fellow and Assistant Professor in the ID Program of the National University of Singapore (2006-2010). His research interests are on multidisciplinary and cross-cultural approaches to design, and include topics as Design for Health and Sports, Biomimicry and Design for Sustainability.