My Design-At-The Edge Class At Parsons. Ethnography & Innovation

I’m about to go to my first Design-At-The Edge class for 2010 at the Parsons School for Design in NYC. Here’s the preliminary syllabus and list of presenters. We’re spending more time on Ethnography and Innovation this year. It’s going to be a blast. Parsons is hot, hot, from fashion to strategy.

ULEC: Design at the Edge—From The City Street To The Rural Village, Ethnography Unlocks Culture And Creativity. Bruce Nussbaum 2010.

This course is one curatorial view of the current state of design. It focuses on the forces of demographic, technological, cultural, economic and political change that are disrupting our social organizations and personal lives. The course will analyze key trends shaping US, Asian, European, Latin American and other societies and discuss the tools of design thinking that we can use to operate, innovate and succeed. Through a series of live presentations, videos and other engagements by a roster of design stars from around the world, the lecture series will push students to think widely about the forces shaping their lives and critically about how to harness the tools and methods of 21st Century Design to deal with them. The course itself is designed to provoke thinking and engagement among students as well as transfer a body of knowledge. The lecture series will be, in part, about the students themselves, the rising Gen Y or Global Youth Culture (GYC) cohort that is one of the most dynamic forces remaking societies around the world. It will require the students to group into small teams, do ethnographic observations, map traits, networks and trends, and develop a social tool that can enhance our lives. Students will be asked to harness the free technologies around them to present their work at the end of the class. Attendance and active engagement is required at all the Monday night presentations and weekly sessions. The core of this course revolves around the information and analysis provided by internationally well-known presenters, not by a long list of readings. So please come on time, take notes and exchange views with the presenters. TAs will guide discussions around the content presented every Monday in their sessions with you during the week. Books/Blogs/Websites/Articles—a preliminary list. More will be scanned and made available to you as we progress in class.

Tim Brown—Change By Design Jacqueline Novogratz—The Blue Sweater Jane Fulton Suri—Thoughtless Acts

Schedule of Lectures: #1. 1/25/10. Introduction to Design at the Edge: Forces of Change, Methods of Practice. Bruce Nussbaum. This opening talk will outline the scope of course content and objectives. The presentation will capture the spread of social networking, the rise of Asia, the integration of bottom-of-the-pyramid village culture into global commerce, global warming, population growth, return of city-states, and above all, the rise of Global Youth Culture.

#2. 2/5/10. Fred Dust—Partner at IDEO and leader of its Large-Scale Social Systems group. Dust will present ethnographic work done at Parsons with students on designing classroom and other spaces for the new building on 14th Street. He will show what ethnographic tools and methods IDEO used with the students, how it analyzed the data, visualized the research results and prototyped new options. This research with Parsons students is currently informing the architecture of the new building.

#3. 2/8/10. Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator of Architecture and Design at MOMA. Antonelli will present on the designer’s role in society as translator of the “edge,” whether in science and technology or in urban street fashion, to society as a whole. She will talk about her ability to spot trends around the world and translate them into exhibitions that bring them to large numbers of people.

#4. 2/22/10. Pieres Fawkes, founder of the trends and ideas site PSFK. Fawkes is one of the world’s top trend spotters. He will talk about the tools and methods he uses to decipher the latest changes and creative ideas emerging in popular, consumer and business cultures.

#5. 3/1/10. Dr. Jay Parkinson, founder of Hello Health, a new medical practice in Brooklyn based off Gen Y social media platforms. Hello Health is revolutionizing the delivery of medical services. Parkinson is now launching a new design firm, The Future Well, to expand the model. From with Gen Y culture emerges a new business model. Parkinson explains how he is doing it.

#6. 3/8/10. The Femme Den. They think about sex a lot. Female designers from the NY-based, innovation and design consultancy, Smart Design, who design for women. The Femme Den started as an underground collective of international women looking for answers in a world not designed for them. They are now a team of design researchers, industrial designers and engineers able to understand and design for both genders, especially women. Femme Den’s Erica Eden and Yvonne Lin will explain their unique tool-kit and design methodologies and show their results..

Spring Break 3/15/10.

#7. 3/22/10. ZIBA Design presents on Gen 1—China’s youth culture. Portland-based Ziba Design, a global innovation and design consultancy, will present work being done for one of China’s best known athletic shoe brand. Jeremy Kaye, the creative director on the project and Wibke Fleischer, manager of trend research and consumer insight, will show the tools and methods of understanding Chinese youth culture—and how to translate cultural information into creativity and product for the culture.

#8. 3/29/10. Harry West, the CEO of Continuum, the global innovation and design consultancy based in Boston, will present on Gen Y culture in the US. He will analyze Gen Y demographically, attitudinally and behaviorally. How do Gen Yers differ from earlier generations? Are Gen Yers different because of their generation or because of their life stage? Who are you guys, anyway?

#9. 4/5/10. Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of the Acumen Fund, is a pioneer in using design thinking to better the lives of people at the bottom of the pyramid. Non-profit, for-profit organizations, such as Acumen Fund, using design thinking are a new force in promoting economic development in villages and towns in Asia and Africa. The user-centric, sociological framework is a bottoms-up approach that is radically different from the top-down philanthropy of the past. Design methods are used to identify local needs, such as water, health, and education, find local business actors who can satisfy those needs and arrange financing to launch new businesses or expand existing ones.

#10. 4/12/10. The Rise of the Rest: Connecting to Creative Global Cultures. Contemporary Native American jeweler Pat Pruitt and painter Marla Allison, will talk about their extraordinary work and the inspiration for it. Technology enables all cultures, however “remote,” to connect to the global network. People everywhere around the planet can now become global creators/consumers/players. Two commercially successful artists from a village outside Santa Fe, present their pictures and jewelry and explain how they broke the standard frames of their media.

#11. 4/19/10. David Rockwell, founder of the Rockwell Group, is an architect who focuses on designing wonderful experiences for people. Hotels, restaurants, the Academy Awards, a children’s hospital, Broadway stage sets, gambling casinos, Cirque du Soleil,—all designed by Rockwell to shape an experience for an audience. How does he do it?

#12. 4/26/10. Fashion design. Surprise to come. Perhaps Sean John Fashion, founded by Sean “Diddy” Combs. How fashion designers understand the “street” and translate urban trends into clothing.

#13. 5/3/10. Surprise to come.

#14. 5/10/10. Surprise to come.

#15. 5/17/10. Presentation of student work.

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