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Dating back to 1971, WDO’s Interdesign® programme brings together designers from around the world to address local problems of global significance. Initially conceived as a way for designers to become more involved in broader, community-driven projects, these workshops have spanned the globe.
Tackling issues such as climate change, urban transportation, ageing population, green spaces, healthcare access, and water management, Interdesigns are hosted by a different local organization or consortium each time. Over a two-week period, the programme connects established designers, young professionals, students and relevant stakeholders from both the host region and the international design community to research, collaborate and ideate under the banner of a specific theme.
From the first Interdesign in Minsk (1971), which explored the production and distribution of bread, to the most recent in Mumbai (2014), which sought to address some of the social and infrastructure challenges facing the growing city, these unique workshops have produced an array of innovative design solutions with lasting impact.
In 2020, WDO launched a virtual chapter of our Interdesign programme. World Design Challenges are two-week, virtual workshops that bring together international volunteer groups of designers and subject matter experts to tackle a specific issue or topic. Collaborating alongside partners like IBM, Design for America, UN Women Asia and the Pacific, ISS National Laboratory and World Packaging Organisation, WDO has since hosted four World Design Challenges.
1972 — Ireland
Design in tourism
Organized by Kilkenny Workshops, in conjunction with the Irish Tourist Board and the Irish Export Board, the 1972 Interdesign addressed the issue of tourism in Ireland. Bringing together twenty designers from twelve different countries, the aim was to design solutions that catered to Ireland’s tourist trade while preserving the country’s character and natural environments.
Participants were asked to develop projects that focused on four key themes: holiday accommodation, transport, general equipment and colour and materials. With consideration for Ireland’s natural landscape, proposals ranged from the careful conversion of existing dwellings, the management of caravan and car-park sites, the development of tourist infrastructure and services, to the aesthetic treatment of new buildings and structures.
The 1974 Interdesign was organized by the Association of Canadian Industrial Designers (ACID) and sponsored by the Ministry of Industry and Tourism, Government of Ontario, Canada. As the first Interdesign to be held in North America, some 40 designers from 26 countries took part, exploring the issues faced by communities affected by rapid urbanization.
The workshop focused on the area of Port Hope–Cobourg in Southern Ontario, which is situated about 100 kilometres east of the city of Toronto. Participants addressed the human needs of the area and investigated the possibilities for new local manufacturing industries through the application of industrial design, the extension of service industries, sound development of the tourist and recreational economy, and improvement in community amenities.
William Sloan, then President of ACID, referred to the project as “a search for an alternative to the rapid growth of large cities by improving the economic and environmental character of smaller communities to make them more attractive for living and working.”
Interdesign 1974 set new standards in scope and approach as well as in the quality of the preparations and execution. The problem presented to the participants was by no means easy and involved creative contributions ranging from regional planning considerations in the Port-Hope Cobourg area to communication and project planning ideas. My impression was that if there is such a thing as living democracy at all, this Interdesign was one of the remarkable examples of it. – Carl Auböck, former President of Icsid
1976 — Northern Ireland
The designer and the creation of employment opportunities
1978 — Mexico
Alternative energy sources: wind and solar energy for use in rural areas in Mexico
1979 — Hungary
Design for medical purposes
Hungary hosted three Interdesigns early on. The first one, in 1979 on Lake Balaton, was perhaps the most interesting. It explored design and healthcare and involved students as well as professional designers. In communist Hungary at the time we had few contacts with colleagues from the other side of the Iron Curtain, so the Interdesigns offered unique opportunities to connect with designers from Scandinavia, and even as far away as Australia. I have participated in 4 Interdesigns that helped me to grow professionally and gave me lifelong friends. – Tibor Szentpéteri, Industrial Designer, Hungary
1980 — USSR
Design for city environment
Sponsored by the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Industrial Design (VNIITE), Interdesign 1980 was “a search for methods to purposefully build the environment of big cities,” in the face of urban growth and the increase of populations around the world.
Bringing together 34 experts from 14 countries, participants of the workshop were charged with building an adequate living environment in new housing developments, specifically focused on designs that could offer residents outdoor green spaces, access to public transport and a central area for public services. After two-weeks of work, the participants submitted a general development concept and a master plan of the housing district.
1982 — Finland
Production problems of the Northern Cap
As the first Dutch Interdesign event, Interdesign 1982 brought together over forty designers from fourteen different countries to address product design for handicapped persons and the elderly. In addition to developing concepts for products that could be produced for the second generation of plastics technology, Interdesign 1982 aimed to demonstrate to industry, government and the general public that industrial designers work methodically to solve problems and produce designs that integrate functional and aesthetic characteristics.
At its close, nearly 200 designs directed towards twenty-five problem statements were presented to the manufacturers involved at the end stages of the workshop.
1982 — Netherlands
Product design for handicapped persons and elderly people, second generation of plastic technology
1984 — Sweden
Fun fair for the future
1985 — Belgium
Design for basic medical equipment for developing countries
1986 — France
Rendez-vous with interactivity
1988 — Hungary
Design and information technology
1989 — Norway
Design for elderly people
1989 — Japan
Living with water
1994 — Sweden
Transport for the future
Held in the city of Bergslagen, Sweden, where transport has played a central role for industry and trade, Interdesign 1994 explored the theme of Transport for the Future. The workshop aimed to increase the interest and understanding for design as a tool in the product renewal process in all of Sweden, to spotlight Swedish industrial design on an international landscape, and to encourage regional economies to engage in product development.
Participants were divided into ten teams, each tackling specific topics. These included: solutions for road building and equipment, fostering more inclusive transport services, interregional travel, sustainable transport proposals, and designing the “mass transit system of tomorrow”.
What started as attending An Interdesign, my first with all new and unknown participants, by the end became Our Interdesign in 1994 Interdesign Bergslagen, Sweden Transport for the Future in the village of Leksand. We were told that we would work hard, play hard, argue, and be friends for life. We valued the support and itineraries that included experienced Interdesign organizers, Swedish hosts (both local and ICSID/WDO member organizations), and numerous all team briefings on transportation futures, and thematic-based immersions from experts from around the world. Our own team challenge “Designing for Rail Travel” included expert sessions from Raytheon USA, ABB Sweden, and Swedish and German national railways with insights comparing current and future transport directions to fuel our design project brief. The excitement in the room for me was exhilarating and no other place in the world I wanted to be for the 2 weeks surrounded by talented internationals from students to locals to industry executives.
Team building exercises playing historic Swedish outdoor games, 19th century church boat rowing, and visiting wildlife parks, eminent national artist studios and regional craft centers rounded out our customized Interdesign-anchored Swedish cultural experience. We, the 100 contributors, believe we left behind collective design outcomes that assisted local communities and industry for the next future steps in revitalising and building upon strengths. We all left with many friendships which have led to many international relationships in Sweden, Finland, South Korea, among others, where we have met families and held other professional interactions. I see the 1994 Interdesign poster each day in my home, and recall the contributions we made to Make the World a Better Place and inspired ourselves to continue the work and host our own Interdesign. – Sasha Alexander, Director of Academic Program Industrial Design, Western Sydney University
1994 — Colombia
Crafts as a source of interior design
1995 — Australia
Sustainable development: the design imperatives
1996 — Latvia
Wood: global resource
1996 — Mexico
Design strategies for regional development
1999 — Australia, Mexico, South Africa
The first simultaneous Interdesign workshop: water
1999 — South Korea
Design for body and mind
Organized by the Korean Association of Industrial Designers, Interdesign 19999 explored the possibilities of applying traditional East Asian design paradigms of “body and mind non-dualism” to contemporary design practice. met to find solutions to a variety of themes.
Bringing together thirty designers from South Korea and twenty-one from abroad, Intedesign 1999 aimed to explore alternative design paradigms beyond the concepts of modern design theory. It focused specifically on functionalism and formalism in traditional East Asian design and the ways in which these approaches can contribute to humanistic design, giving people an opportunity to cultivate and appreciate the full faculties of both body and mind.
In the end, various proposals were put forth on the themes of communication, education, food, healthcare, transportation, work and leisure.
2005 — South Africa
Sustainable rural transport
The 2005 Interdesign in South Africa aimed to generate viable and sustainable solutions to challenges surrounding non-motorised rural transport in developing communities. During the workshop, the issue of rural transport in developing and emerging economies was considered against the background of social and environmental aspects.
Focusing on low-cost, non-motorised mobility solutions, the workshop was divided into four focus areas: animal-drawn carts, bicycles and tricycles, alternative modes of transportation, and communication. The two-week period saw the development of several concepts, 19 of which were eventually considered to have real potential to alleviate transport problems in the communities. Of these, a number were developed into prototypes and were field-tested amongst the original communities.
The Interdesign held in South Africa in 2005 (Sustainable Rural Transport) profoundly influenced me as a designer, and as a person living predominantly within industrially developing contexts. The Interdesign employed an assortment of participatory design tools focusing on real-life challenges facing people in Africa. These geopolitical realities challenged me to re-interrogate my role as a socially responsive and responsible designer, consequently inspiring my passion for Design for Sustainability and Universal Design applications on our continent. – Mr. Mugendi M’Rithaa, Icsid Executive Board Member 2009-2011
2007 — Canada
World House Interdesign Forum
Coordinated by the Institute without Boundaries at George Brown College in Toronto, Canada, Interdesign 2005 brought together over 150 participants from 11 countries to take part in a series of design workshops that focused on issues such as sustainable housing, water management, conservation and community development in Southern Ontario. Four aspects of the region’s urban landscape were investigated: Downsview Park, The Toronto Waterfront, the town of Port Perry and the Mount Dennis neighbourhood.
The solutions proposed during Interdesign 2007 demonstrated how one event could instigate both top-down and bottom-up solutions by bringing together diverse stakeholders and, most importantly, produce actionable results for the case study sites and communities.
2014 — India
Humanising a metropolis
The most recent Interdesign took place in Mumbai (India) in 2014 under the theme of Humanising a Metropolis. Hosted in collaboration with Prin. L. N. Welingkar Institute of Management Development & Research’s WeSchool, Interdesign 2014 aimed to address social and infrastructure challenges facing the growing city of Mumbai.
Over 40 individuals (20 from India and 20 from abroad) took part in Interdesign 2014, working on 6 sub themes formulated based on the pre-research done by WeSchool faculty. Participants visited various localities to further understand the design challenges faced by the city focusing on key issues like drainage system, waste management, challenges of creating an educational township, socialising in a metro, improving the outdoor experience for citizens, chaotic shopping experience, lifestyle related health problems.
Many of the design solutions were developed with the intention to later be applied in other Indian metropolises, as well as various international emerging economies.
This is the second time an Interdesign has been held in India and we are happy to be hosting it. For two weeks, WeSchool was an innovation hub with experienced designers from India and abroad devising ways and means to bring about simple design interventions, to tackle some of the critical infrastructure and social challenges in a metropolis like Mumbai. The aim behind this workshop was to try and bring about transformative changes that will improve the living conditions in Mumbai by tackling existing issues through a designer’s holistic and abstract approach. It has been our constant endeavour to give a fresh learning experience to our students and faculty members by contributing to society and hence, our attempt to bring positive reflexes will not stop at the planning level. – Professor Dr Uday Salunkhe, Group Director, WeSchool