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Academic year
Didactic period
Primo Semestre

Training objectives

The Concept Design Laboratory, at the second academic year, aims to direct students in dealing with critical and design tools, through which to understand the articulated reality where designers are operating. The laboratory strengthens previous year knowledge about design method, increasing the complexity of the processes and the multidisciplinarity, to arrive at the conceptualization of a product-system.

The course program comprises frontal lessons and design workshops, marked by regular revisions, adopting a work method similar to the one used in the professional activity.

The main target of the course is to provide the students necessary skills for the production of a Concept Design, starting from the briefing up to the final stage of representation and communication.

The Graphic Design module proposes an in-depth analysis on some technical and methodological aspects of visual design, as well as ensuring and stimulating the knowledge of the visual communication subject. Issues related to typographic design, the identity design process Concept will be examined in connection with the themes developed by the Concept Design laboratory.


It is necessary to have acquired and assimilated the following knowledge:

- Expertise to convey ideas through hand drawings and other free representation techniques (i. e. design mock-ups)

- Adequate capacity to use writing, graphics and layout softwares tools

- Ability in organizing creative and conceptual processes during the design, through a logical and analytical method.

Course programme

- a) “design thinking” introduction as a process for the design concept definition

- b) Description and utilization, through active classroom workshops, of a clear design methodology, summarized by the following phases: RESEARCH on the field of study; USERS’ needs definition; BRIEF explanation; BRAND identiy; CONCEPT scenarios; DESIGN developement.

- c) thematic lessons on the main elements defining the user experience.
The lessons will be organized according to three main themes, through which reeading the complexity of contemporaneity.
The first field of study will deal with investigating the subject which composes spaces and objects, including materials’ properties and manufacturing processes.
The second field of study will deal with investigating the relationship between human bodies and products, considering both natural and artificial environments. The central role of physical experience is the starting point in designing systems for humans.
The third field of study wil consider info data and pervasive connectivity phenomenon that is influencing, more and more, our lives and the objects around us.

- d) Final design project
The final design project of the Concept Design Laboratory will adopt, as case study, a system of urban spaces, investigating the multiple relationships between citizen-users, the symbolic value of public space and the numerous interfaces between services and urban communication.
At the end of the conceptual exploration, a number of design product issues will be investigated, according to a structured design process.
The areas of study, while including the traditional work fields of Product Design, will consider more extensive and innovative content, related to sustainability, environment, services and digital interfaces.
The theoretical contributions and exercises will refer to users’ needs and their interactions with complex systems, rather than considering the design of simple objects.

The Graphic Design unit program is divided into two main phases: in the first one we’ll consider some exercises, following the observation and recognition of urban signs (lettering, urban interfaces, etc.), that will be preparatory to the redesign of the typography within the urban context.
In the second phase the Graphic Design unit will help the Product Design unit to to develop the final project.

Didactic methods

The teaching activity will consist in lectures, practical exercises during the course and a final exam.
The lessons will provide technical and analytical tools to achieve a flexible methodology for the design conceptualization, the process development, the communication, as well as the awareness awareness of market strategies for the business sector.
Guests will be invited directly from the professional practice, the cultural field, as well as from the production companies. Several case studies will be displayed and analyzed.

The teaching methodology will use the following tools:

- Urban context visits, in order to get in touch with the complexity of the reality on which the students will have to apply their design thoughts;

- Classroom workshops (in single or groups modality), using various design methods (freehand drawing; digital image processing; short texts) in order to represent the design concepts;

- Use of digital tools when required by individual projects

A digital shared folder will be used on Google Drive platform for the exchange of educational material. All the specifications will be exposed during the presentations of the course.

For the Graphic Design unit, the delivery of each intervention will be a small exhibition of the works. Lectures related to the identified issues will be held mainly in the classroom.

Learning assessment procedures

Students will apply on written and drawn exercises, focused on the themes of the course, in order to check the learning level on different topics.
Following, a final examination, marked on a whole process of Concept Design, will be carried out, in order to verify and evaluate the notions acquired by students.
The final examination involves the delivery and discussion of a series of drawings on the final project theme.

In particular, during the examination, the student must communicate the project in the following ways:

- final design project presentation:

Each group will argue its project through a digital presentation to the whole class (pdf, power point or animated graphics).
Following the different design concepts, students are free to choose, as integration of the presentation, the most suitable communication support for their product project (physical model, video, etc.).

- summary dossier - logbook:

The document consists of two parts: the first one is dedicated to the exam project, which will include the whole design process summarized as follows: a) RESEARCH: research and analysis on the project theme - brand context, best practices, product and market trends; b) USERS: definition of user-type profiles, lifestyles and identification of users' needs; d) BRAND: definition of the brand related to the concept of the product under development - competitors analysis, value proposition, family feeling, brand positioning, naming, brand identity; e) CONCEPT: description of the concept inspiration and the related design scenarios - mood board, concept diagrams, users storyboard, renderings, maquettes, texts, materials palette, details & technical drawings

Graphic Design
The exam will consist in the evaluation of the results achieved in the project activities, through a collective exhibition of the realized works (conceived and set up through the co-design formula, together with the teaching staff) at Palazzo Tassoni Estense. The final evaluation will also take into account the results achieved during the intermediate exercises carried out.

The final evaluation of the didactic units (Product Design and Graphic Design) is given mainly by the Final Exam outcome, that will be partially interpolated by the intermediate exercises results and the active participation of the students.

To pass the exam Students have to obtain a minimum score of 18 / 33.
If the total score is less than 18, Students have to repeat the final exam.

Reference texts

- Bassi, A., Design. Progettare gli oggetti quotidiani, Il Mulino 2013
- Mirti, S., Il mondo nuovo - guida tascabile, postmedia books 2013
- Munari, B., Da cosa nasce cosa. Appunti per una metodologia
progettuale, Editori Laterza 2010
- Potter, N. (autore), Rainò, M. (a cura di), Che cos’è un designer, Codice 2011

Further texts:
- Maeda, J., Le leggi della semplicità, Mondadori 2006
- Verganti, R., Overcrowded: Designing Meaningful Products in a World Awash With Ideas, MIT Press 2017
- Weinschenk, S. M., 100 cose che ogni designer deve conoscere
sulle persone, Pearson

Web contents and magazines
- Mirti, S., Design 101 lessons (

Graphic Design
- Phil Baines, Catherine Dixon, Segnali. Grafica urbana e territoriale, Logos, Modena 2004
- Lewis Blackwell, Caratteri del XX secolo, Zanichelli, Bologna 2003
- Ellen Lupton, Caratteri, testo, gabbia, Zanichelli, Bologna 2010
- Ellen Lupton, Thinking with type. A critical guide for designers, writers, editors & students,
Princeton Architectural Press, New York 2010

Further texts and references will be provided during the begin of the laboratory.