CIID10: Celebrating a Decade of Serious Play

Thursday, 15th Sep 2016

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Article by Carl Alviani

For an unfamiliar visitor walking into the UN City complex or Langelinie Pavilion during last week’s CIID10 celebration, it would be easy to think you’d accidentally stumbled upon two different conferences happening simultaneously.

One of these conferences was about challenges, complications and endless hours of work. “Celebrating 10 years of not sleeping” read one of the cheekier captions projected on the screen during the closing party, and there’s a clear reason why: in keynotes, panel discussions and lightning talks, we saw an endless procession of human problems that need solving. The world is warming, cities are flooding, South Sudan needs safe drinking water, and roads to connect people with markets and medical services. Blind kids need to learn how to code too. Refugees need to know where it’s safe. Entrepreneurs still don’t have access to capital–especially, it seems, if they’re more concerned with helping people than increasing shareholder value. Fixing these problems takes effort, and effort is in good supply.

There’s always been a kind of fervor that permeates the CIID network, shared by IDP students, advisors and Nest startups alike. We’re a community of unusual passions, equally motivated by creative expression and a desire to improve the world. Judging by the presentations of the past four days, in fact, it may even be that creative expression is ultimately the less important of the two. This is what makes a design school different from an art school, after all.

But concurrent with all of this was a second thread–a second conference, almost–that was all about play. Learning through play, teaching through play. Generating and testing ideas through play. We need to play more, we heard, and we need to take its outcomes seriously. We should embrace our side projects and personal quirks, not just as opportunities for expression, but as a way of building useful skills and improving the quality of our ideas. We watched talks turn into slideshows of watercolors, and 50-person games of Rock/Paper/Scissors. We discussed the educational value of LEGO during an Impact Minds panels, and heard about the importance of taking on projects that are sufficiently useless. We laughed and cheered as Hololens demos turned us all into curious, gesticulating cyborgs.

From the inside, this collision of lightness and gravity feels natural. From the outside, it’s bewildering. Nowhere else on earth will you hear people so enthusiastically celebrate the value of not taking things seriously one minute, and emphasize the urgency of the world’s troubles in the next–in a venue hosted by the UN, no less. It can feel like a piece of dystopian sci-fi, rendered in the bright colors of a little kid’s cartoon.

But there’s a great reason for this strange combination: it works. Designers in general, and CIID’s creative network in particular, have gotten where we are because we’ve mastered play as a tool. We use it to suspend our preconceived notions of what’s possible, and to invite exploration. We use play as a motivator, with the power to engage the disinterested, and get the interested to obsess. We use play as the nucleus around which brilliant, unexpected solutions form, and to create a structure for making the unfamiliar accessible. We play seriously, in other words, and the outcomes of our efforts reflect it.

I was lucky enough to host a panel on Learning through Play during the Impact Minds portion of CIID10, which included an activity from Jesper Jensen of LEGO, illustrating one of the key elements of effective play. After receiving a small packet of just six LEGO bricks, each of the 40 or so participants was given one to build a duck. The results are astounding for their variety–no two results are identical–but also for the fact that they all look like a duck, more or less. Who knew there were so many ways to solve a single problem? It’s a powerful lesson in the potential of play to unearth unexpected solutions.

But dig deeper, and it holds another lesson. This particular exercise is something LEGO has been using for years as a demonstration tool, and it’s a highly refined game: one duck, six bricks, one minute, the same bricks each time. It’s very constrained, but constrained in exactly the right way.

And this is the challenge to designers of all stripes when we think about play: it’s wonderful to play, and let ourselves be frivolous and uncritical in the pursuit of new ideas, but it’s crucial to define the game we’re playing, and make sure it’s the right game. This dichotomy tells us to keep the needs of the world in mind and maintain a sense of urgency, even as we let our imaginations run wild. And to follow up our play with the expertise, collaboration and uncounted sleepless nights necessary to transform them into effective solutions.

This balance is deeply counterintuitive to much of the world–I originally trained as an engineer, and nothing in that curriculum remotely prepared me for this kind of mindset. But it’s also our best hope when facing problems whose traditional solutions are falling short. If there’s a call to action that came out of CIID10, it’s to play harder and play well. To play, in other words, as if the world depends on it.

Refugee Text in Brussels

Wednesday, 14th Sep 2016

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Refugee Text, one of the startups in the CIID Nest, is currently attending the Social Innovation for Refugee Inclusion Seminar hosted by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles in Brussels. 

Refugee Text, hosted in the Nest since February 2016, delivers trusted and vital information to any refugee with a phone. The founders have been selected as one of a small handful of startups to pitch their initiative to a room full of humanitarian aid organizations, city councils, and NGOs.

Find updates at @refugee_text on Twitter and at http://www.refugeetext.org/

Partnership With UNOPS

Monday, 5th Sep 2016

UNOPS Executive Director, ​​​​Grete Faremo with Simona Maschi, Co-Founder and CEO of the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design. Photo: Hasse Ferrold

UNOPS Executive Director, ​​​​Grete Faremo with Simona Maschi, Co-Founder and CEO of the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design. Photo: Hasse Ferrold

CIID10 is in full swing right now, and besides the many inspiring panels, Lightning Talks and joyful reunions, there’s some great to news to announce: an official partnership between CIID and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS). UNOPS Executive Director Grete Faremo made the announcement Thursday, as the CIID Impact Minds conference kicked off at the UN City campus in Nordhavn, lending additional weight and excitement to an already momentous event.

In honour of UNOPS new partnership with the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID), Grete Faremo, opened the one-day conference on the eve of the Institute’s ten-year anniversary.

“At the heart of the 2030 Agenda is the need to think outside of the box – using innovation, business and technology to help people build better lives,” said Ms. Faremo at the opening of “Impact Minds” on 1 September.

​​​​​”UNOPS and CIID share a common belief that innovation can help spur global development.”​

The partnership between UNOPS and CIID will allow both organizations to tap into each other’s networks in future joint projects.

UNOPS Social Impact Investment Initiative and the Institute’s interest in applying its work to the Sustainable Development Goals, led both organizations to each other earlier this year.

“Impact Minds is an opportunity to gather over 300 participants and CIID’s international network of experts to discuss future direction and impact.  For an event focused on impact at global scale, we couldn’t have found a better place to share this agenda than with our partner, UNOPS at the UN City,” said Ms. Simona Maschi, Co-founder and CEO of CIID.

Interaction design combines traditional design disciplines with socio-economic trends. The Institute is an innovation​ institution for designers, engineers and architects, as well as a consultancy and start-up hub for designers.

The partnership comes at a significant time for both CIID and UNOPS, as global concern about the complex problems of the developing world aligns with a deeper embrace of design, and its unique potential to find sustainable solutions that work at the human level. UNOPS has a strong track record of working with government agencies and private companies alike, providing the project management expertise to direct resources where they’re most needed.

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By partnering with CIID, they hope to leverage the extraordinary network of experts we’ve built over the past decade, and combine creativity with pragmatism in a way that impacts lives for the better, all around the world.

CIID 10 – Open House

Monday, 29th Aug 2016

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CIID will be opening its doors on the 31st of August. We’d love to see you there and show you more about who we are and what we do. Each floor will be hosting events throughout the day. You’ll be able to participate in research studies, experience our design process and have in-depth chats with our students and entrepreneurs.

It’s your chance to understand what we’ve been up to and what’s coming next in the world of interaction design.

From 11:00 to 18:00 on Wednesday the 31st of August.

In order for us to plan for a great day, we ask you to reserve your free ticket.

We look forward to seeing you!

Refugee Text In The News

Wednesday, 17th Aug 2016

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Last year, IDP student Kåre M.S. Solvåg dedicated his final project to the refugee crises. The output of his final project is Refugee Text – a service that allows refugees receive information on-demand from humanitarian aid organisations, via SMS chat bot. This project has since been taken into the NEST incubator at CIID, where Kåre is joined by IDP 2015 graduate Ciarán Duffy, and Caroline Arvidsson, who was working with CIID Consulting.

The project has recently received some media attention in the UK. The team are hoping to implement the service with a major humanitarian aid partner very soon. You can follow their progress on their Twitter page, and find more information on their site.

Date a Startup: A Two-Day Innovation Exchange

Monday, 4th Jul 2016

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The CIID Nest incubator in collaboration with the Plus Program are creating a free two-day workshop September 29-30 to build meaningful and lasting connections between startups and established companies. The workshop is designed to infuse companies with proven skills, design thinking methods, and an agile startup culture while Nest startups benefit from the experience and knowledge of an already successful company.

Entrepreneurs at the CIID Nest are trained in design thinking, user research, and concept development tools, and the workshop is built around the application of these methods to concrete issues faced by participating companies. Over the course of two days startups work on specific challenges of participating companies and contribute their creativity and speed, and in return, companies lend their knowledge and experience to the startups on one of their challenges.

At the end of day 2, participants will walk away with fresh ideas, new practical skills, a deep foundation for a potential partnership, and even possibilities for hires or acquisitions.

Participation is free, but there is only one slot available to collaborate with each Nest startup. Contact us at nest@ciid.dk for more information and an initial mutual assessment.

Participating Nest startups include:

M-PAYG is democratizing access to clean, affordable and reliable energy to developing countries through pay-as-you-go solutions.

Media Sifter is a news aggregator which helps people interpret the news they read online.

Refugee Text is delivering trusted information into the hands of every refugee with a phone providing vital information about the asylum process and safe travel routes.

Remories helps people overcome anxiety by reminding them of previous achievements through an app. Self-support in your pocket – built on principles of behavioral psychology.

Minimiles is an app enabling children to take an active part in the travel planning experience with their families by exploring destinations ahead of time.

Honorary Professorship for Simona Maschi

Friday, 10th Jun 2016

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Today, our founder and CEO, Simona Maschi, has received an honorary professorship from Design School Kolding recognising 20 years of her outstanding and committed leadership.

Looking forward to finding out what will the next 20 years bring, Simona!

CIID Projects Honoured by Core77!

Friday, 3rd Jun 2016

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We’re proud to announce that, this year, five projects from the 2015 Interaction Design Programme received Core 77 honours — a notable celebration of the richness and brilliance of our talented students! Highlighting the wide reach of CIID’s design process, the recognised projects ranged across categories for Interaction, Service, Built Environment, and Design for Social Impact.

Three projects received Student Runner Up awards:

Eye Conductor by Andreas Refsgaard

Design for Social Impact Award

A musical interface that allows people with physical disabilities to play music through eye movements and facial gestures.

Jam Blocks by Ciarán Duffy

Interaction Award

Musical toys, designed to bring music therapy into the home.

Refugee Text Service by Kåre Magnus Sand Solvåg

Service Design Award

A Digital Information Service for Refugees in coming to Germany, Denmark and Scandinavia, that provides access to information about who they can talk to, what they can expect, and what their options are, depending on their situation. Refugee Text Service continues to be developed in the CIID Nest.

Two projects received Student Notable awards:

City Window by Victoria Hammel, Alejandra Molina, Riccardo Ceresar, and Michael-Owen Liston

Service Design Award

A live-streaming service that allows tourists to experience a short “micro tour”, guided remotely by a local from the place they are visiting.

smART by Victoria Hammel and Gunes Kantaroglu

Built Environment Award

A dynamic data visualisation in the form of an art piece which takes consumption data out of the digital world and brings it out into the physical space of a home to better inform the user.

Congratulations to all of these students. And, the awards are still open — take a minute and vote your favourite project for the Community Choice Prize!

2017 IDP – Applications Open!

Saturday, 7th May 2016

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Excitement is brewing here at CIID. We can’t wait to start composing the best team of students for the 2017 Interaction Design Programme (IDP). Each year we select up to 25 talented people from all over the world, to immerse themselves in a year of designing, collaboration, prototyping and applying technology to everyday life.

Our future students will bring a diverse set of skills, thinking and culture to participate in an intense one-year curriculum starting from January 2017. Through the design of software, products and services, they will learn how to apply a hands-on and people-centred approach to interaction design – in line with CIID’s vision to inspire action towards better futures.

Once graduated, our Alumni have the opportunity to become part of CIID’s Incubator (CIID Nest), helping them bring their ideas closer to reality!

The deadline for applications is May 6th, 2016.

Click here for more information and application.

Researchers at CIID explore what makes us feel ‘European’

Wednesday, 4th May 2016

CoHERE

CIID-Research recently assembled at Newcastle for the kick-off of CoHERE project. The Critical Heritages (CoHERE) project, funded by the Horizon programme,  is the largest and most comprehensive study to date to explore the differences in how people, groups and institutions across Europe use the past to create a sense of belonging or non-belonging.

At a time of apparent crisis, the question we are essentially asking is whether and how diverse cultural heritages can help to create a more coherent Europe.
Prof. Chris Whitehead

The project, led by Newcastle University, has just begun (kick-off meeting on the 7th-8th of April 2016). The three-year study will cover a broad range of topics including how museums present the past and how ‘non-official’ portrayals of the past such as historical re-enactments contribute to our cultural identity.

The cross-cutting study involves 12 partners across nine European countries. The research team will look at heritage and identity across diverse European territories to see how different aspects of cultural heritage influences contemporary identities across Europe and if a coherent European identity really exists. 

CIID, partner of the project, will explore the role of digitally enabled conversations in constructing heritage identities in Europe.

Project website and more information coming soon.