Professor Dorta and his research team are proposing a new method of teaching design ideation that involves a specific ideation methodology, a unique technological environment, new learning methods, a specific collaborative framework and a strong focus on research.
The workshop is based on the bionics methodology, which consists of identifying principles in nature that can be applied to a given design issue. Following an intense, collective research phase designed to identify the problem, the students participating in the workshop are asked to each produce 10 concepts based on 10 different bionics. Together, the group reduces the concepts to three per person, and then the customer chooses one. The workshop deals with an actual industrial issue and an actual customer, often on the international stage (this year, the Chrysler Group).
The workshop has a collaborative component—although each student is required to develop his or her own project, ideation sessions are carried out weekly in a group setting with the teacher (who acts as a co-designer), student colleagues, students from other institutions in other countries (this year, France’s École d’architecture de Metz [the Metz architectural school]) and/or professional designers in Milan. These collaborative ideation sessions, which are at times led remotely, take place in the Hybrid Ideation Space (HIS), which is a freehand immersive sketch space where designers can import images and models, do freehand sketches and share the images, annotations and sketches remotely and in real time (with Metz and Milan).
These choices are not random; in fact, they are the result of the ideation work carried out at the Hybridlab. Bionics promotes the creation of analogy, which is a key component of creative design. Learning in a collaborative setting is a key aspect of the professional practice and the teacher’s role of co-designer helps promote a tacit learning of skills (for instance, know-how). As such, the HIS showcases interactive and shared freehand sketching, which promotes flexible reasoning and collective participation.
The Hybridlab is a multidisciplinary research team currently made up of two doctoral students, one Master’s student and three post-doctoral interns in the fields of industrial design, architecture and psychology, under the supervision of Professor Tomás Dorta. The team is specialized in studying the ideation and creative design processes, as well as the hybrid support of the preliminary design. The bionics workshop is part of the team’s research and benefits from the research results, which help identify the educational and technological levers of creativity.