Under the banner of ‘Humanizing Design’, the WDO 2019 Research and Education Forum invites academics and industry leaders to submit papers and posters under one of the three themes detailed below.


Integration of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) in International Design Curricula

The UN SDGs were set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030, as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. During the 30th World Design Assembly held in October 2017, WDO established the World Design Agenda to help achieve the UN SDGs, using design to bring new perspectives to some of the world’s complex problems. Together, with more than 100 delegates from over 40 member organizations from around the world, we have embraced the UN SDGs as a framework for action, but as we move forward we need to continually better define a range of relationships, conditions, and criteria that will help us measure progress and contribute to best practices.

Sub-themes include:

  • Changing needs and aspirations of students and young designers around the world, and methods for increasing engagement and participation at the various stages of education from undergraduate to doctoral work
  • Evolving methods of design research, curricular planning and integration in university and community vision planning
  • Best practices to date and regional case studies that have potential for global application and impact
  • Ways to maximize opportunities between private sector companies, educational institutions, and promotional and professional organizations
  • The leadership role WDO can play in building partnerships with the wider design community and other international institutions also addressing complex economic, social and environmental challenges from a design research and education perspective
  • Understanding how designers approach complex problems and the inherent challenges and limits

Future of Design Education in Emerging Economies

The emergence of university level industrial design programmes outside of Europe and North America can be traced back to the early 1960s in India and Brazil. Since then, modern design education systems are widespread in all parts of the world. More recently, after two decades of intensified globalization, design has been accepted as part of the competitive capabilities of emerging economies. However, issues such as a lack of resources of all kinds, and the rapid expansion of design education programmes, acutely challenge the standards of international design education and the capability of design to meet the relevant local social and economic conditions.

Design research and education institutions in emerging countries are now at a critical junction to understand their own unique characteristics, as they identify new problems, opportunities and responsibilities, definitely in order to define themselves, but also in terms of their ability to redefine the global design education and research agenda.

Sub-themes include:

  • Identifying the main challenges and opportunities of design research and education in emerging economies, and recognizing the importance of research to redefine design education
  • Finding case studies on how designers survive in countries where innovation and development of new products are limited due to economic, technological, cultural, historical or social factors
  • Challenges to the quality of education in the rapid expansion of students and programmes, and how humanizing design education is impacted, if the human dimension is reduced to market success rather than quality of individual
  • Identifying the essential core of design learning, learning by doing, the value of apprenticeships, and the proper balance between professional practitioners versus academics as educators
  • Comprehending what sustainability really means, now and for generations to come, given the enormous human and environmental impacts of previous ideas of progress
  • Reflections and insights into the impacts of the Ahmedabad Declaration (UNIDO-ICSID-India ’79) and opportunities still existing today that were initiated at that time

Human Approach to Digital Media

The industrial revolution has provided us with powerful tools, which forged the next revolution – the digital revolution. Digital technologies have radically transformed the way we live, learn, work and play. The traditional methods of education have been radically altered by the ease of access and versatility of digital media. However, vouching for the progress of technology without understanding the human element acts as a barrier to learning. Design offers a wide range of tools and ways of thinking that can humanize digital media for education. Some of the challenges being faced by developing countries in the field of education range from easy access to knowledge, clarity in fundamental knowledge, reducing the academia-industry skill gap and learning how to solve real-world challenges through design and innovation. Design acts as an important way of thinking about complexity as the nature of these challenges is interdisciplinary.

We invite ideas where design, with the human aspect at its core, helps in enhancing and empowering the current system of education.

Sub-themes include:

  • The Internet of Things (IoT) and the interconnectedness of future environments for living, working and designing
  • Case studies that demonstrate the implementation of technology in student projects and the digital tools and resources required
  • AI and Bots as educational tools and their effectiveness at supporting learning outcomes, teaching assessments, and the process of learning
  • Open education and the challenge of making higher education accessible to students in need
  • Using virtual and augmented reality in design studios to enhance student experience
  • Mobile phones as learning tools and access points to knowledge, particularly in developing countries


All submitted extended abstracts will be reviewed by conference chairs and revisers. Selected candidates will be contacted and will receive further instruction. The deadline for submission of abstracts is 28 June 2019.

Submit your extended abstract for review online here.