‘Our goal is to provide at least an introduction on design in the different areas of the university. We have planned it together with the schools so we can meet field-specific needs. The solutions and models vary but the aim is the same: design is offered through education in all fields’, says Bandoni.
Bringing design elements into existing courses requires close cooperation with teachers. Design content is tailored for specific audiences and purposes. The focus of these collaborations is on the university’s mandatory bachelor courses, since they concentrate a high number of students in an initial phase and thus the impact is maximized. At the end of 2020 more than 1 000 students will have been affected by Design Inside educational activities.
There are or soon will be several courses with design content, both mandatory and elective, available at all of Aalto’s six schools. Pilots are made first, testing ideas and how the school could absorb the design content and integrate it in individual courses.
‘Many schools and teachers have a good and open approach, and at the same time there are some that need more work. But at Aalto people are very open to experimenting’, Bandoni explains.
In addition to the field-specific design courses, four discipline-free elective design courses are also being piloted and offered through University-Wide Art Studies (UWAS), an already existing platform for electives with a transdisciplinary and pedagogically experimental approach. The courses are Service Design with Emerging Technologies; From Idea to Shelf: Design for the Aalto University Shop; 3D Prototyping in the Context of Creative Practice and Integrated Design Thinking.
Planning, piloting and developing
A few courses including design content started early last year, so there are some first experiences to learn from and results already gained. All the courses and contents are being improved with feedback from students and teachers.
At School of Science, professor of practice Maria Clavert’s project coursehas the participation of professor Severi Uusitalo and lecturer Teppo Vienamo from the Department of Design. The mandatory course is for all third year bachelors, about 250 students yearly, and its design content includes user-centered design, prototyping, testing and feedback. Collaboration is already taking place for the third time this year.
‘Our topic is user-centered product development, and design is an integral part of that. It was obvious for us that we must invite teachers from design background to talk about prototyping and user-centered design’, says Maria Clavert, who has background in Aalto Design Factory.
The role of Design Inside has been to help the teaching team develop the course content, connect the right design teachers to the course and give feedback on students’ final works. The design teachers help focusing projects on the user perspective and also in making, testing and improving prototypes with users.
‘Science students are used to solve problems already defined, where instead, this course challenges them to find their own problems to solve. This means they will need a completely different mindset and new, creative tools. This is where design comes into place’, explains Andrea Bandoni.
In their feedback, students state that they have learned to think "out of the box" and gained confidence to work with open problems. They highlight creativity and innovation competencies as well as interdisciplinary teamworking skills as the main outcomes of the course.
‘Some of the students are questioning, however, if these skills are relevant for their future profession. In my opinion, all Aalto students need capabilities for innovation, and Design Inside has been very helpful in supporting that mission’, says Clavert.
At School of Electrical Engineering, contents and materials for senior university lecturer Salu Ylirisku’s mandatory course Electronics and Design Workshop, meant for all first year bachelors, have been developed together with the Design Inside initiative. The contents have included video interviews with designers as a base for reflective learning, as well as animations of user-centered design methods and tools used for the benefit of students’ projects.
Furthermore, at the School of Chemical Engineering professor Jouni Paltakari’s course had graphic designer Juuso Koponen helping students in visualizing knowledge. The students’ assignment was to make interviews with existing research groups at the school, then transform that knowledge to visual format that can be showcased as a poster in an exhibition.
A design workshop followed by individual guidance helped the students to get familiar with the poster format, understand how to balance information through images, graphics and text, and how to highlight important aspects in a clear, concise way.
Value of design and collaboration
‘Design Inside has gained a lot of insight so far’, says Bandoni. ‘The collaborations show us that if we want to integrate design content to other fields, we need to look at design from their perspective, be very humble and work on the preconceptions that usually come with each one’s background.’