Public Design Lab – IADT channels Design for Change

The Public Design Lab (PDL) was founded to engage IADT’s design skill sets and creative practices  in community projects for positive social impact.

Plastic Free Planet App, designed by Hilary Goudie IADT as her graduate project

The Public Design Lab (PDL) was founded to utilise IADT’s design skill sets and creative practices to engage in community projects locally and beyond to create positive social impact. The PDL combines design thinking, collaborative methodologies and emerging technologies to tackle all manner of ‘wicked’ problems like climate change, the transition to a low carbon economy, demographic developments and the multidimensional (social, economic, ethical, cultural and political) challenges that we face in a post-Covid world. 

The PDL captures the research and networking already taking place in IADT and collaborates with a wide range of stakeholders, in industry and the community.  Significant relationships and projects have been cultivated with companies including IBM, Deloitte, Logitech, Accenture, Fjord, Allianz, Musgrave, and public sector organisations such as Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council. 

PDL engages at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.  IADT undergraduate and postgraduate programmes affiliated with the PDL include: the MA Design for Change, an international postgraduate course founded in collaboration with the Institute without Boundaries in Toronto; the award winning MSc in User Experience Design, the MSc in Cyber Psychology and postgraduate Certificates in Design Thinking and Data Visualisation.  

Recent research projects have explored a wide range of topics such as the future of food, the migration crisis, community engagement with climate change and recycling, the ethics of designing Artificial Intelligence (AI), grocery shopping for the elderly and physically impaired, peace and reconciliation in areas of conflict. 

Recent graduate Daniela Maria Yepes, created a programme ‘Tools for Reconciliation and Understanding’ (Figure 1) that encouraged Columbian students and teachers to question how they can contribute to the reconciliation process.  

Another project by Robert Guisti examined the implications of AI in order to develop an ethical framework for designers working with this technology (Figure 2).  

UX student Vicky Anderson designed a voice-based mobile app to help the visually impaired conduct the daily task of grocery shopping with ease and independence, either remotely or in store. The project was shortlisted in the Universal Design Student Challenge Awards 2020. 

IADT’s Public Design Lab focuses on design for social good, ensuring those who needs are underserved or overlooked can have access to the newest design methodologies and technologies to solve their problems and improve life for everyone in our wider communities.  At the PDL launch event a competitive, open call to SME’s was announced.  SME’s were invited to submit challenges that the PDL can potentially collaborate with them on, working with them to find sustainable, affordable solutions.  

Further examples of PDL projects include: 

Robert Giusti – Are you A[i]ware? – Handbook for Ethical AI - As a discipline responsible for shaping human experiences, designers have a responsibility to contribute to the development of more ethically sound and transparent AI systems. This can position design in a future where the designer remains relevant and has an even greater role in shaping the artificial world to improve the human condition.  To help designers navigate that future principles were developed, and a handbook produced. 

Bronwyn Murphy White’s Speculative Design Project envisions a future where the government sponsors a national health scheme to encourage the wider population to maintain a physical exercise regime, which through tracking technologies can earn the participant points for tax exemptions. The project called ‘Fit Coin’ critiques extant social problems such as obesity, access to healthcare and future scenarios where personal data, privacy and health surveillance by the state seem normal. 

Hilary Goudie graduate project investigated the effect of persuasive technology in the design of a mobile eco-feedback app that aimed to help people increase their awareness and habits around plastic consumption and recycling. 

Carmen Paz  – Transparent Design, Making design’s invisible implications visible – aimed to make design’s invisible implications visible by creating a methodology for designers to observe their environment through a lens-based approach, facilitating their understanding of the relationships and connections that exist through complex systems.   

Casey Hinton – Future is Being Sold; The Power of Your Personal Data – developed a participatory speculative design methodology in order to generate near future scenarios. These were used to explore how individuals might gain awareness and control over their personal data.  

For further information on the Public Design Lab or the competitive SME challenge call, contact or 

Figures 1 (above) Design workshop in Bogota, Columbia, as part of Design for Change student Daniela Maria's Project 'Reconciliation and Understanding'

Figure 2 (above) Image from Robert Giusti's project "are you A[i] Aware