Design 101

by Stefano Mirti

Aldous Huxley says: “I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself.” By the way, a similar concept was expressed by Leo Tolstoy some hundred years before (much earlier and in a sharper way): “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” I wanted to change the world

Let’s forget for a second about this desire of improving/changing the world. Let’s focus on a more reasonable goal: trying to understand the world (or some parts of it). As contemporary geographers explain, it is a quite relevant operation. Everytime we describe something, we are already into “design”. Any analysis is in some extent, a project. To observe and describe the world as a first exercise in order to transform the world in a real and practical way. Description as a tool of alteration: I decide what is described and what is not, and because of my choices things start to happen. Finally, design is foremost an operation of manipulation. To manipulate reality.

First step: describing what is around me. Understanding what is happening around us: mutations, directions, moods. It is like shuffling playing cards, shuffling them always more to invent new games that were never seen before. New relations, often unexpected, new connections able to transform the meaning and the value of the existing world. To modify and stretch coded meanings into new significances.

The world is changing at an impressive speed. In these processes of transformation, a key role is played by the new media (either way digital and/or social). Not to accept this challenge is a possible choice but it automatically condemns to a marginal role. A marginality that becomes cultural, social and – obviously – economical.

Broadly speaking, the “new world” we find ourselves in runs along the lines of the dystopic descriptions narrated by the above mentioned Huxley. It is not an easy world, neither reassuring. Once this has been said, this is the world in which we are, here and now. Most likely, it is the hell of some other planet, but at the same time a very intense and passionate place to be in. Understanding the way new media work becomes a necessary choice. It is not what you say. It is what they say. With a lot of attached implications (generally negative). But it can be fun. A lot of fun.

Stefano Mirti is an architect, designer, teacher etc. etc. He is one of the partners of Id-Lab in Milan, responsible of all the design activities and one of the instructors of iversity's MOOC "Design 101".

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by Stefano Mirti

In the English language, the word “design” can be used as a noun. A plan or drawing made to show the appearance and functioning of some kind of object (furniture, building, garment etc.) before it is built or produced.Design is a language

Then of course, “design” can be a verb: “to design”. In this extent we can design a building, an exhibition, a journey, our own life.

The design for a lamp. To design a lamp. A design lamp.

Too many lamps, let’s get back to design.

It could be useful to approach “design” from a different point of view. “Design” as an attitude, “design” as some kind of special glasses to view the world, to view life, to view ourselves. Design as a cognitive pattern to generate new meanings, new relations between existing meaning, modifying our perceptions and understanding.

To achieve this is quite a radical goal, but nonetheless, it is very simple.

It’s a switch. A switch that can be turned on or kept off. If you set it on, you enter another world. And this is what we like the most about “design”: when it takes us into magic realms. Feeling like Alice going through the mirror, entering some kind of fascinating (and spooky) wonderland.

Design is a language. Design as a language, as if it were philosophy or mathematics. As if it were music. Learning to play a musical instrument does not necessarily imply living the life of a professional musician. Learning to play music allows us in first instance to live better, add layers of meaning to our existence.

Design to transform the world, but to transform the world, the first thing to do is to transform ourselves. Are you ready? Then enrol in Design 101 here.

Stefano Mirti is an architect, designer, teacher etc. etc. He is one of the partners of Id-Lab in Milan, responsible of all the design activities and one of the instructors of iversity's MOOC "Design 101".

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by Anna Meixler

I'm a do-it-yourself kind of person. You won’t find me fixing the bathroom sink or jump-starting a car, but you might see me crafting purses out of vinyl records, building furniture with old suitcases, and pasting collage murals from magazine photos and food wrappers.

Anna Meixler, intern at iversity
(Photo: private)

In college, Art History courses helped me appreciate others with artistic inclinations and their past innovations, and Studio Art classes helped me hone technical skills. But both disciplines limited what I studied and what I made. iversity’s course Design 101, taught by designer Stefano Mirti, Professor Giovanni Pasca Raymondi, and Dott. Lucia Giuliano allows students to combine art history and practice through 101 activities, transforming everyday life into art and learning by listening doing. I’m itching to take Design 101 in the fall, launching it to the top of my MOOC to-take list.

I’m fascinated by design and interesting aesthetics. I love to flex my creative, quirky muscles by repurposing materials and re-examining the functions of everyday objects, infusing them with new purpose and visual appeal.

Which of iversity's MOOCs are you most excited about?

Anna is currently doing her internship at iversity. She's a sophomore at Yale University.

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