[DesignUp 2021] New frontiers in design, interaction and education – ideas from environmental psychologist Adeola Enigbokan

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Adeola Enigbokan is an environmental psychologist, combining a deep knowledge of human behavior and emotional intelligence, with a sense of how social and spatial systems work and how creative change occurs. She is a consultant on the design of urban housing, workspaces, public spaces and emerging technologies, and will speak at the DesignUp 2021 conference launched next week.

This year the DesignUp 2021 The conference team’s response to the second doomsday wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India is to host a virtual fundraiser with the stellar lineup of speakers. Will be held on weekends from June 11 to 20, 100% of donations will go to charities, provide much needed aid to rural India in the form of dry rations, oxygen concentrators and health services.

As a media partner of the lecture series, see Your story coverage of previous DesignUp online panels in 2020, May the fourth be with you and The impact of the pandemic on design. See also our articles on the annual editions of the DesignUp conference of 2019, 2018 and 2017, and our d-Zen (‘Design Zen’) section for more design resources.

Adeola Enigbokan join us in this discussion of pandemic-era design, leadership opportunities, and educational collaboration. She holds a PhD in Psychology from CUNY and a BA in Anthropology from Columbia University. She lived and worked in Seattle, New York, Moscow and Amsterdam.

His work has been presented internationally at the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Queen’s Museum (New York), Multimedia art museum (Moscow), Royal Geographical Society (London), and Beijing Normal university.

Edited excerpts from the interview below:

[YS]: What are the three remarkable examples that you have seen of effective design during the pandemic?

Adeola Enigbokan [AE]: Here in Mexico City, I noticed the local practice of lowering a shopping bag on a rope from the top floor windows of apartment buildings to the street, to retrieve groceries or food. ordered from neighborhood stores or roadside vendors.

It was very efficient and convenient. It was a simple pre-pandemic practice which, during the pandemic, allowed people to continue supporting local and informal businesses. without increasing the risk of infection through contact.

Another example is any service that allows people to share passive but restorative time together, without having to actively engage with each other, or with the service itself over long periods of time.

For example, I really enjoyed DJ sessions provided through services like Twitch. I can hear well-organized DJ sets over the course of a day, listening with friends all over town or the world, without having to actively engage (like in a video conference, for example), except to tip people. musicians, of course! Another example of this is well organized meditation retreats or online gatherings.

And finally, I have never enjoyed well-maintained urban parks, green spaces and urban wilderness so much. Having access to fresh air and other non-human living creatures during the pandemic has been a blessing. However, such access should not be a luxury, but a right of all people who live in the urban places hardest hit by the pandemic.

[YS]: What are the notable research projects or initiatives that you are currently engaged in?

[AE]: The most interesting projects I have been involved in over the past year have been, in no particular order:

  • Advise the management team of a multinational design and architecture firm on how to align their strategic objectives for the coming years with their corporate culture, by transforming their approach to talent management and cultivating and promoting leaders.
  • Join the neighbors of my building in successfully protesting and preventing the new property management company from reducing the yard tree and vines growing over our fence and replacing them with plastic “decorations”.
  • Co-author and research an article on the link between cultivating and maintaining difficult friendships, achieve social justice, and the role of architecture and urban design in this process.
  • Be the reviewer / external advisor for the thesis year in Graphic design at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague.

Graphic design students taught me a lot about what to expect in terms of courage and voice from emerging generation of designers, by tackling issues as diverse as artificial intelligence, colonialism, gamification, gender nonconformity, feminism, protection of natural environments, cryptocurrency and children’s education, among others.

[YS]: In what ways can industry and academia work together to improve design education?

[AE]: Industry can do more to commit to supporting free and open public education, from preschool to university level, by contribute financially to this effort. They can offer well-paying apprenticeships, support student-led design initiatives, and support paid parental leave for employees where possible.

Industry can also engage with professionals employee education and development by offering them ongoing paid training and individual leadership coaching. They can support the pursuit of formal education when needed, as well as sabbaticals and flexible hours that allow employees to pursue their curiosity and inspiration.

Formal design education could benefit greatly from an increased emphasis on practical skills (eg effective written and verbal business communication, non-violent mediation and conflict resolution, human, organizational, management and leadership skills). They can also provide students with greater exposure to current professional industry practices earlier in their courses and give them the opportunity to critique and analyze those practices.

[YS]: What are your three daily habits that you think help to strengthen your design sensitivity?

[AE]: Daily self-reflection (writing), meditation, sweeping and cleaning the outdoor areas of my living space have been very helpful in my practice.

[YS]: In your reading list, which good design books would you recommend?

[AE]: These days, I think designers could benefit from reading other books that don’t explicitly deal with design, for example:

Set limits, find peace, by Nedra Glover Tawwab

No Hard Feelings: The secret power to embrace emotions at work, by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy

Dare to lead by Brene Brown.

[YS]: What are the leadership opportunities for designers in a world where inclusion and environmental sustainability are becoming key concerns?

[AE]: Designers have the opportunity to lead by practically demonstrating the great results we can achieve across social and technological systems by centering the needs of all living things in decision-making processes.

Because designers mainly discuss perception – how we see the world and our possibilities within it – leadership in design is stronger when it succeeds in changing the perception of who or what is “the problem” or “the solution” or “the customer”. The current issues we face regarding people excluded from social mobility and how quickly our environment seems to be crumbling around us, is not disconnected.

As the recent disaster of rural-urban labor migrants stranded during the outbreak of the pandemic has shown: our environments are as sustainable as our structural capacity to take care of our neighbors. It’s the job of designers to see connections like this and make sure that this information plays a role in how we frame problems and how we present targeted design solutions.

It is acceptable, and necessary, to question existing business models in order to broaden the perception of what is possible now.

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