Designing change

Education | Jourdan Ma 29 May 2018

Designers should reach out to people and probe into their needs, says Rama Gheerawo, director of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art.

The school consistently ranks first in the field of art and design in the QS World University Rankings, an annual publication by Quacquarelli Symonds.

"Our school offers holistic education and gives designers immense creative freedom," Gheerawo said. "We have famous alumni, including James Dyson, film director Ridley Scott, Hyundai-Kia chief designer Peter Schreyer, Tata Motors head of design Pratap Bose and artists like Tracey Emin."

"A lot of furniture makers and fashion houses are also headed by our graduates."

The school continues to step up efforts to foster collaboration between students and key industry players. Its largest and longest-running research center, the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, has set its sights on improving people's lives through three research areas: age and diversity, health care and social and global.

The center has completed 280 projects with more than 180 organizations in different sectors.

Cases in point are projects with London Doctoral Design Centre, architecture practice Scott Brownrigg, lift manufacturer Stannah, BlackBerry, Royal Bank of Scotland and Bupa.

"We worked with Samsung to reimagine mobile phone learning 10 years ago," Gheerawo said. "We have done projects on the use of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park after the London Games, redesigning hospital equipment for patient dignity and raising Qatari migrant workers' visibility."

"We are currently redesigning the London taxi with Turkish car manufacturer Karsan."

The Hong Kong Design Centre is one of its longtime collaborators. Center executive director Edmund Lee has joined forces with Gheerawo to provide design and leadership training to hundreds of civil servants in the SAR.

Gheerawo will visit Hong Kong for Knowledge of Design Week 2018 from June 11 to June 15.

The program, organized by the Hong Kong Design Centre and sponsored by Create Hong Kong, features panel discussions and workshops conducted by international industry experts at Hotel Icon.

He will host two workshops with ArtCenter College of Design faculty member Sean Donahue. Design Thinking and Creative Leadership for Educators, to be held on June 12 from 9.15am to 5.30pm, will explore the importance of nurturing the next generation of creative leaders.

"Creative leadership is my personal research area," Gheerawo said. "At the workshop we will give teachers bespoke tools to co-create with their students. We will talk about the three components that benefit the workplace: creativity, clarity and empathy."

The second workshop, Design Safari on June 15, will tap into the latest trends of public health care design, catering to both designers and non-designers.

"We are taking groups of participants to three care homes and get them to observe some of the challenges faced daily by staff, residents and visitors," he said.

Participants will go through the whole design process, from observing to using rapid prototyping to presenting their design proposals within the day.

Entries to the workshops are now open. Each workshop costs HK$2,400.


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