Rita Faia Marques: Köln International School of Design

KISD: The School
Köln International School of Design (KISD) was my host university for this year. The small design school is one of a kind: with no grades, no year levels and working groups that keep the school running and as lively as it is known to be. The teaching philosophy gives students a lot of freedom and incentives experimentation, focusing on the process rather than on the result. At KISD students are highly responsible for their own educational path.

Scientific Seminar
The scientific seminar ‘Horizon of Enhancement: Technology and Society today’ was one of my favorite courses this year. Not only the topics approached were super interesting but it was also a great platform to develop critical thinking and argumentation. At the moment I am even considering writing my thesis on it.

Ecology Design
(1) I chose two courses connected with Ecology Design. The first, gave me a good insight on how to approach very complicated subjects related to sustainability, through problem-scenario storyboarding. In order to become familiar with a scenario we assumed different points of view: the object perspective, the people around, the environment etc. This project provided me with a tool to understand a problem- scenario in a more comprehensive way. The second had materiality as a starting point. We learnt how to explore, test and experiment with materials to re-invent them. There was an emphasis on how the iteration and discovering process can be a crucial when dealing with problems such as waste and harmful materials.

Interaction Design & User Experience
digital shared drawing canvas experience that rewards synchrony. During my time at KISD I had the chance to work for the school professionally. I was in charge of re-designing the online platform and overall concept related with mobility. There was a great deal of research and testing, which gave me the chance to apply some of my UX skills.

Service Design
(3) I joined the self-initiated project ‘Plant Care’ and took a service designer role in it. The service consisted in: a plant with a personality; a monitor connected to an app; and a community around it. The aim was to promote mental-wellbeing through building a mutually beneficial relationship between the carer and the plant. The plant personality shined through the app (which used a personal dialogue to ‘talk’ to the carer), through personalised graphics and a birth certificate that came with the plant. The monitor allowed the user to have live feedback on the plant and make sure they could keep it alive, giving their own life a sense of meaning.

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German Culture & Design

“From bread to techno, I attempted to try it all and really get a taste for the German culture. 

Cologne, the city
The city was nostalgic and simultaneously hungry for discovery. From their fashion, to their stores, and the inside of their houses, everything evoked the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s. Their love and appreciation for vintage design contrasted with their fascination for the future and their ease trying and experimenting new things. Events were mostly unpretentious, they always looked somehow improvised - like they didn’t have to worry about expectations, like the rest of us. Indeed, this freedom to try and fail wasn’t exclusive to the university, it extended itself to the whole city.

Speaking German was somehow a bit more challenging. I believe I would need a few more years to be able to have a conversation. Nevertheless, I grew more and more comfortable with the language, being able to recognise themes of conversation and place my order at the local pub.

Getting the job done
During the internship I took before the start of my academic year, I became familiar with German working ethics. Their precision is notorious; they expect their employees to be always updated, efficient, solving problems quickly and progressing with their projects. In return, they provide all tools and materials on demand, as well as all commodities employees might need. I enjoyed very much working in Cologne.

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What I am taking away

“I will remember to keep one foot in the past and the other in the future.”

Finding my design road
I first applied to KISD to spend a year freely exploring different areas of design and find my design path. Reflecting on it, I might have actually found my area/direction, but unlike what I was expecting, it isn’t something new, it is something which I was already familiar with – Service Design / Innovation Design.

3 important things
If I had to sum up what this design community taught me during this year, that would be these three things: first, that design doesn’t have to be a competition, that through mutual-aid we can develop into better and more complete designers; second, that what differentiates and elevates our work is how much we invest of ourselves in a project, how passionate we are about it; and third that in order to push boundaries and really innovate we cannot be afraid of failure, we have to abandon what we know and try different design areas, processes, materials.

It all comes together
I consider my year at KISD successful. It was a good year to apply knowledge and ‘connect the dots’ between different areas of design. I feel like I have a better understanding of the different areas of design and that I can move freely and confidently within them.

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David Mullane