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From not knowing to new knowledge via imagining

Designers are trained to connect the dots, to envision and test multiple variables, not to think in linear pathways but suggest alternative futures, says Julia Lohmann.
Julia Lohmann and Department of Seaweed. Photo: Mikko Raskinen
Julia Lohmann had her Hidaku Ohmu seaweed pavilion installation in the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year. Photo: Mikko Raskinen, Aalto-yliopisto

The knowledge needed to address complex problems is scattered across all scales of intervention, across all disciplines. This requires us to be empathic towards other forms of knowing and bold to step out of our own disciplinary comfort zone and cultivate the conceptual land between the disciplines.

I consider design a bridge-building discipline that enables collaboration and communication across disciplines. Designers are trained to connect the dots, to envision and test multiple variables, not to think in linear pathways but suggest alternative futures. 

We are also trained to visualise ideas, to think boldly (even though we might not be sure yet), and not be embarrassed to ask naïve questions. This translation enables communication across disciplinary silos. Design-knowledge is also applied knowledge: we are trained to turn theory into practice, a vision into reality. 

However, it is only when we bring in experts from other disciplines or from the societies we are addressing, that we can turn this transformational knowledge into a useful asset and system knowledge. 

Radical creativity happens in the stages from not knowing to imagining and slowly establishing new knowledge. So radical creativity can occur in different states: as a vision, as a process, as a method of inquiry that questions the given. 

Julia Lohmann
Professor of Practice
Contemporary Design
School of Arts, Design and Architecture 

Radical creativity happens in the stages from not knowing to imagining and slowly establishing new knowledge."

Julia Lohmann

Mindset for radical creativity by Julia Lohmann:

  • Willingness to communicate across disciplinary boundaries 

  • Curiosity for other types of knowledge 

  • Empathy towards other processes 

  • Humbleness to acknowledge that each discipline provides only parts of the puzzle 

  • Playfulness to sometimes just try out renegade ideas 

  • The self-confidence to not be scared of sounding naïve 

  • Values that make you care 

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