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Design for Living Complexities (July)


Design for Living Complexities

MOOC--Collaborative Exploration--Graduate Course
July 2014

Explore critical thinking about design in a range of areas of life and its complexities
Starting July 14 for 3-4 weeks
Choose your level of participation: Three options

  • Graduate Course Register & pay, for credit. 4-7pm M-Th, July 14-31, face2face or from a distance by hangout

  • Collaborative Exploration (CE). Open & free. Register via

  • MOOC Open & free. Simply join the public google+ community

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  1. Waste
  2. Play
  3. Gathering into community
  4. Enabling
  5. Design-thinking education
  6. Craft, improvisation, innovation and uptake
  7. Standards, Conventions, Modularity and Infrastructure
  8. Local particularity
  9. Spanning distance
  10. Integration of diverse social and material worlds
  11. Keeping track
  12. Improving by taking stock

...more details =


This course explores critical thinking about design in a range of areas of life and its complexities. It started July 14 and continues for 3-4 weeks. The recorded presentations and subsequent discussion are taking place on google+, . See for other options for participation and links to more details about the course. The overview follows:

Design is about intentionality in construction, which involves a range of materials, a sequence of steps, and principles that inform the choice of material and the steps. Design always involves putting people as well as materials into place, which may happen by working with the known properties of the people and materials, trying out new arrangements, or working around their constraints (at least temporarily).
Critical thinking involves understanding ideas and practices better when we examine them in relation to alternatives. In a sense, critical thinking is in design from the start, because design cannot proceed without the idea that there are alternatives to the current way of doing things. This course exposes and explores alternative designs through history (showing that things have by no means always been the way they are now), “archeology of the present” (shedding light on what we might have taken for granted or left as someone else’s responsibility/specialty), comparison (looking at the ways things are arranged in different organizations and cultures), and ill-defined problems (in cases of real-world “living complexity” that invite a range of responses).
Each course session takes up an issue about design, introduced in a presentation, followed by work on a case related to that issue and, at the start of the next session, reports on participants’ design sketches to address the case. With each design sketch, participants add to or revise a growing set of principles for critical thinking in design. The design sketches and principles will, with participants’ permission, be made accessible to a wider online audience and serve as part of an evolving online text for subsequent years.


Course runs again from mid-July through mid-August 2016.
Choose your level of participation: for-credit graduate course; small-group collaborative exploration; free, open MOOC.