What Got Us Here Won't Get Us There

In Aalto University, we are co-hosting the European Academy of Design (EAD) and closure event of DocS4Design. This conference explores doctoral design research and education over five themes, hosted by five higher education institutions around the world. In Aalto University, we invite you to submit papers EXPLORING THE SOCIAL IMPACT OF DESIGN RESEARCH. These will be presented and discussed in October 2023 in our in-person event, together with talks and workshops from professionals in the private and public sector.

Doctoral education in design is gaining strength worldwide with an increasing population of graduates, programmes, and research outputs. Nonetheless, design itself is changing; contemporary sustainability challenges and social values transform how design research impacts the world outside of academia. This track aims to explore and understand the social impact of design research beyond academia.

Submit a paper to the conference before the 24th of March of 2023. If you have any questions, contact Michel Nader at [email protected]
Full call for papers
EAD conference
Call for papers Finland Hub
Call for Papers EAD-D4D

Themes of inquiry/questions:

  • What are current research environments within and across universities and related organisations in design today? How can research diversity be embraced and utilised as an asset?

  • What is the potential of doctoral education in design to tackle bigger societal problems and have impact outside of academia? How can doctoral curricula be improved to support competences that are needed for social impact?

  • How can we position doctoral education in design and share its value outside of academia?

  • How can we assess the social impact of design research? Why is it important? How can a better understanding of social impact untap the potential of design research across industries and sectors?

Social impact can be understood as “intended and unintended social consequences, both positive and negative, of planned interventions (policies, programs, plans, projects) and any social change processes invoked by those interventions.” (Vanclay, 2003). Social impact is “the changes that happen to people, the community, and the environment (Parrett, 2019). Social impact includes social, economic, environmental, and wider community changes, which can be positive, negative, intended, or unintended. (Design Council, 2020). 

Design doctoral research and education are increasingly tackling bigger societal problems in the public and private sectors and within other organisations capable of social innovation, such as NGOs, think tanks, research institutes, social enterprises, citizen action, and community organisations. It is a concern to understand the social impacts of design research in today’s world and evaluate the implications of applying it in diverse contexts. The design community lacks clarity on resources, processes, and activities to support and situate doctoral design activity that demonstrably addresses stakeholder needs. Furthermore, the value of design research is not often understood by organisations that could benefit from it.

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