Design is sometimes only a tool
to decrease our ignorance about problems
”Marius AeberliHead of Education
What is the EPFL+ECAL Lab?
The EPFL+ECAL Lab is a design research and innovation centre
We depends both of the EPFL/Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (one of the two Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), and the ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne. In its educational mission, the EPFL+ECAL provides students (in engineering, design or even business & management) with educational experiences that prepare them to face these challenges and the quickly changing working environment. Our education strategy embeds several dimensions: human-centered design, project-based approach, interdisciplinary, real-life application and possibility to fail. The EPFL+ECAL Lab has created, co-created, runs and supports various academic programmes and educational courses to advocate a designer’s mindset in engineering, business & management schools.
Why did the EPFL+ECAL Lab co-created this program?
The EPFL+ECAL Lab is always trying to question the design and innovation relationship in different contexts. However, whatever the context, advocating for human-centered design and inclusivity remains a priority. But people and students too often consider innovation as a single technology-driven paradigm. Going to Bangalore, diving into migrants communities or street vendors realities, working with local actors and prototyping something is a very powerful in-depth human-centered design experience.
What have you learnt?
From the design point of view, it’s clear that immersion and empathy aren’t optional in social innovation. In a more ‘traditional’ innovation project, it’s often a fancy option you can tick. But designing successful solutions for social issues cannot be made remotely over the night, with a top-down approach. Embracing so many cultural, social and economic constraints both on a personal and collective levels takes time, dedication and… trust. Trust is a key condition for this kind of project. Don’t expect people in the street or in the communities to answer your questions, test and adopt your ideas because you want to. Of course, in a 12 days design sprint, it’s impossible to get this trust. But thanks to the SELCO Foundation team and the incredible relationships they have with numerous communities, the students have been given a unique chance to witness the issues of the bottom of the pyramid. Going back to the beneficiaries with prototypes to demonstrate and test is also very important. Firstly, it shows to the involved communities that you are serious. Secondly, it’s a reminder that prototypes are here simply boundaries objects in this context. They help you to reduce a bit your ignorance about the problem and its potential solutions.