ID At The NCKU Design Workshop

by New Idiom

Matt, Yixiu, and Marty pictured with other design students.

Matt, Yixiu, and Marty pictured with other design students.

The National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan hosted their 2nd annual design workshop. The week-long workshop brings together professors and students from design schools around the world. The students have an opportunity to showcase their work and participate in a design competition. Teams are composed of students from different universities. The teams work on design projects related to the themes of the workshop. This year’s themes were Sustainable Design and Universal Ethics Design. Professor Marty Thaler and students Matthew Gardner and Yixiu Wu represented the Institute of Design at the workshop. Here’s what they had to say about the event.

This was an international design workshop. Who was there? Matt:

Representatives from schools in the Netherlands, Poland, Germany, US (ID, and SCAD), Korea, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan.

What work did you present?

Matt: I presented on a concept that I worked on with Peter Rivera-Pierola and Lise Lynam. It came from a project we did working with the City of Chicago. The concept was a laundromat that would also teach English to Spanish speakers. I tried to highlight the process that we went through to come to it, which was quite different than others.

Xiu: I presented a project we (as a team of 6 - with Mae, Sanghyuk, Sangyoun, Qijing and Angela) did for Vijay’s planning workshop, redefining the user experience for Able Networks - a non profit, job readiness and career counseling service.

Matt: Marty presented on the benefits of prototyping to design the CTA BRT bus system.

Yixiu getting an award.

Yixiu getting an award for her work.

What unique perspective on design did ID bring to the workshop?

Matt: ID brought a definite sense of practicality and need fulfillment to the workshop. While many of the concepts presented by other schools were form studies, new inventions, toys, etc, mine was a service that served an acute need. It came from a rapid dive into the culture of the Latinos in Little Village, workshops, and prototyping. I chose to present this concept because I imagined that it would be interesting to see the process we went through to develop it. I think that perspective was appreciated.

Xiu: The presentations from ID gathered quite a bit of interest from the group, with design at ID being more research oriented and user-centered. Like Matt’s, the Able piece was anchored off the observations and quotes we gathered - from the tons of user research we did. Thank goodness for having a large team! Also, I have to give credit to John Grimes’ user-centered case for making the presentation so convincing.

Matt I heard your team did well in the competition. Can you tell us about that?

Matt: We did. It was a glorious moment. Our theme was Universal Ethics Design. We won first prize in this category. Universal Ethics Design is based of the Confucian principle of Ren. We took Ren to mean interaction between two people. The portfolio of options were all seating concepts for public space, to help get over that social pattern of sitting far from others.

Matt working with his group.

Matt working with his group.

One strategy, which pervades all the concepts, was to bring people closer together. The concept was a system of seats, one of which is open to sit in. Once someone sits in that seat, the two seats next to it fold down, and all other seats lock, making it so you have to sit next to the first person. That second person sitting would unlock the next seat, and so on.

Ren seating concept.

Ren seat concept.

Did you get to experience anything outside of the workshop?

Matt: One night after dinner, 40-50 students went to the coast to set off sky lanterns, which are mini hot-air balloons made of light weight paper. The tradition is to write your dream or wish on the outside, then light a piece of oil-soaked fabric inside the balloon. The heated air lifts the balloon into the air. Because of the flame you can see the red balloon as it floats away out to sea. If it disappears into the air your dream will come true. If it falls into the sea, it won’t.

Xiu: Am very proud of Marty for eating like the locals do. Matt ate stuff that I would never have eaten - and I’m Chinese!

Marty: Did we mention the Karaoke bus ride?

Xiu: Marty and I went to a old part of town to see a surprisingly modern church (we nearly crashed a wedding at the church). We also went to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum which was hosting some of Pompidou’s paintings. Thanks to Marty, Matt, and Xiu for being excellent representatives of ID. All three mentioned how impressed they were with the hospitality of NCKU and supreme organization of the event. Hopefully we’ll get invited back next year.