Most of my working hours are spent thinking about, talking about and engaging in design for social innovation. The amazing thing about this field of design is that every day presents new opportunities and provokes new discussions about what the role of design is and what it can be.
To that end, I’m pleased to note that I recently returned from Hong Kong where I met students, educators, curators, social entrepreneurs to discuss the role of design skills, design thinking and the RSA Student Design Awards.
As some may know, the RSA Student Design Awards is a global curriculum and competition that challenges emerging designers to apply their skills to today’s most pressing social, economic and environmental issues. The programme is delivered through a set of topical briefs issued each year, which are then adopted by courses in their modules to complement and contribute to learning outcomes.
I was invited to Hong Kong by Birmingham City University in collaboration with the School of Higher and Professional Education (SHAPE) programme at Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI). SHAPE offers both full-time and part-time top-up degree programmes in collaboration with local, mainland and overseas universities. The SHAPE degree awarded is identical to that awarded at the partner university.
The Birmingham City University SHAPE programme has embedded the RSA Student Design Awards briefs in the curriculum and I was pleased to see that there was so much enthusiasm and drive for design for social innovation amongst this cohort of BA (Hons) Interior Design and BA (Hons) Product Design courses. Over the few years that we have been working together, I am pleased that the SHAPE course leaders and tutors have developed a unique way of launching the briefs with their students where students kick off the year and their projects by working as a group on one of the RSA briefs in a day-long charrette. This gives the students the opportunity to think about the ‘who, what, when, where, how and why’ of designing for social innovation before they embark on their individual or team RSA projects. Popular choices included One Man’s Waste, Sustainably Clean, and Making It Inclusive.
I look forward to seeing the responses to the RSA briefs from the talented Hong Kong students and encourage design students all around the world to tackle these briefs and to apply their skills in new ways.