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Every year in November, master students from the six universities of applied arts in Switzerland assemble for the Junior Design Research Conference. Their backgrounds are various, their interests multifarious. Looking for common ground across fourteen design specializations may seem like a hard—if not impossible—task. Yet that is exactly what this year’s edition wants to do: to find what truly binds us together as a collectivity. As such, the event was purposely retitled “Assembly.” Because, “to assemble” means to bring together different parts into one whole. In a political sense, an “assembly” is a gathering of a multiplicity of positions to discuss pressing issues of the world.

“Designers are collaborative by nature, and we have always had the ability to bring different fields together,” says designer, researcher, and educator Danah Abdulla. This quality is, however, impeded by the many design specializations, which function as “narrow borders,” and “prevent us from building meaningful relationships, from developing real collectivity and collaboration together.” Clustered in our narrowed fields, segregated by disciplinary topics, we are blinded by the specialized gaze and consequently disengaged as a collective. As a way out of this “disciplinary containment,” Abdulla proposes “border-thinking”: a decolonial concept that puts forward alternative knowledge traditions and alternative languages of expression in order to think outside established, hegemonic structures.

At the 2019 Junior Design Research Assembly, we want to take the term “assemble” at face value, and create an event that aims at forging bonds, strengthening networks and building collectivity. Understanding that border thinking is not an additive concept but a systemic one, the Assembly— this year in its 9th edition—has been entirely reimagined. Traditional modes of paper and project presentation, based on a hierarchy of speaker-receiver, have been set aside to make space for newly envisioned formats. The event unfolds through a one-day, multifaceted program for participation, debate, and exchange, giving space for multiple perspectives, positions, and personalities to co-exist. With this, the conference hopes to ignite a reflection on what binds us together as a group, which is a crucial step towards understanding how we designers are entangled with complex social and environmental problems, and thereby can gain agency by playing our part in impacting change.

The concept of ‘border thinking’ was first used by Gloria Anzaldúa in her book ‘Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza’ and has subsequently been developed by decolonial thinkers, most prominently Walter Mignolo. It is based on the idea that the theoretical and the epistemic must have a lived dimension to them, and that theories already exist which sit at the very borders of the colonial matrix of power (if not outside it). ‘Lived’ here is meant in the sense of the experiences of those who have been excluded from the production of knowledge by modernity. Border thinking does not happen irrespective of modernity but in response to it, as part of real-life struggles against the oppressive apparatus of the colonial matrix of power. Thus, “border thinking is the epistemology of the exteriority; that is, of the outside created from the inside” (Mignolo & Tlostanova, 2006:206).

All quotes from Danah Abdulla are from her recent talk “Disciplinary disobedience: a border-thinking approach to design,” presented at Dilemma! Dilemma! a conference organized by HKB / MA Design students, in May 2019.


Exclusive for participating MA students

9:15 AM


10:00 AM


by HKB / MA Design (Robert Lzicar, Miriam Koban) and common-interest (Nina Paim, Corinne Gisel)

10:15 AM

Exercises to Unlearn the Canon: Do the work

How to deal with the transformation towards lived equality, when the appearance of injustices is based on sensational experiences of multiple individuals, rather than a set of fixed arguments that can be delivered? Can we literally embody these experiences (=learning) and in doing so, subvert the status quo (=unlearning) and envision a future of empathy, cooperation and plurality? “Exercise to Unlearn the Canon” is an invitation to practice changing power dynamics through tactile and bodily engagement. As a series of experiential performative interventions, the participant become the material itself, exploring the capabilities of our bodies to extend the individual experience of our environment and thus provoke behavioural change.

Vivien Tauchmann
Designer and researcher based in Leipzig, co-coordinator for Clean Clothes Campaign Germany

10:30 AM


Eleven group discussions and activities, moderated by students from different universities together.

Meet-up 1: Building common ground
by Mathilde Lefaille (ECAL) and Maha Daoudi (HSLU)

Meet-up 2: Democracy, design and its discontents
by Sophie Walker (ZHdK) and Aurelio Todisco (HSLU)

Meet-up 3: Reimagining type design
by Sascha Bente (ECAL) and François Harik (HEAD)

Meet-up 4: Everyday, urban, routine, protest, riot, violence
by Tammy Demelier (HGK FHNW) and Ronald Alexander Pizzo (ZHdK)

Meet-up 5: How to break visual oppression: an incomplete guide
by Mayar Aly Mostafa Elbakry Elhayawan (HKB) and Alessia Gunawan (ECAL)

Meet-up 6: Up in the clouds, it’s quite stormy
by Fabien Roy (ECAL) and Lara Grandchamp (HGK FHNW)

Meet-up 7: Moving beyond precarity
by Camillo Cornuz (HKB) and Alessandra Puricelli (HGK FHNW)

Meet-up 8: You and design, design and you — a feminist discussion
by Alice Fada (HGK FHNW) and Maya Ober (HKB)

Meet-up 9: Neutral or fake? On the politics of mass communication
by Paulina Zybinska (ZHdK) and Raphaël de la Morinerie (ECAL)

Meet-up 10: Imagining photography beyond binaries
by Nike Tessa-Lilli (HKB) and Jelly Luise (ECAL)

Meet-up 11: Bad, unsustainable, and worse
by Lea Rahel Hess (ZHdK) and Claudia Epiney (HGK FHNW)

12:30 PM

Exercises to Unlearn the Canon: Kill the joy of the seated

Vivien Tauchmann
Designer and researcher based in Leipzig, co-coordinator for Clean Clothes Campaign Germany

12:45 PM

Food for Talk

Lauren Wildbolz
Food activist based in Zürich

2:00 PM

Pop-up Funding Fair

Free and open to the public

3:00 PM

Publishing as Bloodletting: On the Circulation of Public Humours

A lecture delivered in fragments. On the extended simile of making public as a form of bloodletting. Research or content or cultural capital as bodily humour, signaling vigor, nourishment, the imperative to circulate, and embodied practice. The independent researcher-publisher as convalescent, afflicted with all manner of precarious ills, or on the contrary, engorged with access to cultural capital and institutional resources, bound by duty to redistribute to limbs furthest away from the source, from the center of the body of knowledge. Books as leeches on the body public. Circulation as a physical act—books do not move themselves. The act of (independent, unsanctioned) publishing as a creation of value that is located in the body, because implication of the body is needed to circulate in networks.

Clara Balaguer
Head of Social Practices Willem de Kooning Academie, tutor Experimental Publishing Piet Zwart Institute, publisher at Hardworking Goodlooking

3:30 PM

Care as Power

Care as power is a conceptual approach to creatively disrupt and reorder unequal power relations with matter to surface new textures and rhythms that may otherwise remain invisible. This talk is concerned with and invites consideration of the interrelationship between biopower, affect and care. It asks how might we critically reflect on what it means to live an algorithmic life alongside the conundrum of humans giving power to machines at a time of disruptive climatic change and mass species extinction inflicted by some humans? We will discuss experimental works to reconfigure human-human and human-planetary relations to protect and cultivate biodiverse architectures of care.

Squirrel Nation (Erinma Ochu and Caroline Ward)
Not-for-profit creative studio based in Manchester, directed by Caroline Ward and Erinma Ochu

4:00 PM

Ecologies of co-existence

Sepake Angiama
Head of Education for documenta 14, Kassel, 2017, co-curator Chicago Architecture Biennial, 2019

4:30 PM

Moderated Discussion

moderated by Sarah Owens
Design educator and researcher, Head of MA Design Visual Communication, ZHdK

5:00 PM

Exercises to Unlearn the Canon: Say her name

Vivien Tauchmann
Designer and researcher based in Leipzig, co-coordinator for Clean Clothes Campaign Germany

5:15 PM

Talk More
Casual apéro organized by the students of the HKB/MA Design


Meet-up 1: Building common ground

Mathilde Lefaille, ECAL MA Product and Maha Daoudi, HSLU


In today’s fluid world, disciplinary specializations seem to no longer match the growing hybridity of design practices. How can we overcome simplistic disciplinary boundaries to truly gain agency in impacting positive change in complex social, environmental and economic contexts? What binds us together as a group? How can we develop real collectivity? We will start by reflecting on selected quotes, then, through an ideation workshop, generate ideas, leveraging a diverse variety of perspectives.

Meet-up 2: Democracy, design and its discontents

Sophie Walker (ZHdK) and Aurelio Todisco (HSLU)


In this day and age, digital media is ubiquitous and all-intrusive. Tactics of persuasion are not only used to encourage the consumption of commercial goods but also to influence our political opinions. How does this affect democracy? And how can our generation regain agency to reshape the digital future of our society?
—Sophie Walker, ZHdK

Between 90,000 and 250,000 migrants live and work in Switzerland without proper residence status as “sans-papiers.” How could designers help improve their living conditions?
Let’s experiment with a brain-writing technique to develop intervention ideas together.
—Aurelio Todizeo, HSLU

Meet-up 3: Reimagining type design

Sascha Bente (ECAL) and François Harik (HEAD)


“Letters are things, not pictures of things,” said British type designer Eric Gill. Do you agree? How does type-design compare to product design?
What are the similarities and what are differences? Let’s discuss examples from history and today.
—Sascha Bente, ECAL

Let us explore a concept I call “Arabtation”: to use the shifting of typography from verbal entities to abstract geometrical shapes as a way to break some of the limitations involved with Arabic letter-forms. Through this, Arabic letter-forms may evolve, open up to new possibilities, and potentially be set in motion.
—François Harik, HEAD

Meet-up 4: Everyday, urban, routine, protest, riot, violence

Tammy Demelier (HGK FHNW) and Ronald Alexander Pizzo (ZHdK)


Urban space is one of the most significant visual experiences of everyday life, yet we often pass through it without seeing it, the routine of the everyday dulling our senses.
How can we consider the relationship between the lived, sensorial experience of urban spaces and the images of such spaces?
In this activity, we will reflect on the day-to-day experience of our distinct, situated, urban communities.
—Tammy Demelier, HGK FHNW

Demonstrations. Revolutions. Riots. How can we understand the semiotics of violence that emerge in the course of various socio-political uprisings and movements of resistance?
We will analyze and discuss semiotic and semantic elements related to violence.
—Ronald Alexander Pizzo, ZHdK

Meet-up 5: How to break visual oppression: an incomplete guide

Mayar Aly Mostafa Elbakry Elhayawan (HKB) and Alessia Gunawan (ECAL)


Design and art aren’t neutral! To say so disservices the interconnected nature of oppression. To be more inclusive, we must not only change the content of the conversations we’re having around contemporary culture, but we must also change the terms of the conversation. Join us in exploring, unveiling, and challenging power structures through contemporary culture to make way for these new forms of inclusivity (and knowledges).

Meet-up 6: Up in the clouds, it’s quite stormy

Fabien Roy (ECAL) and Lara Grandchamp (HGK FHNW)


What is the ecological impact of our daily presence in the cloud? How much CO2 is generated by data storage and data processing, by our streaming, texting, or Dropboxing? How can we really understand the meaning of our life in the cloud and what that represents in terms of emissions? And how could these emissions be reduced, especially if we don’t see them? Could we imagine a way to make our data production and consumption more sustainable? This meet-up starts with a reading followed by a brief discussion. We will then form groups and make storyboards of ideas in a playful and effective way. Utopians welcome!

Meet-up 7: Moving beyond precarity

Camillo Cornuz (HKB) and Alessandra Puricelli (HGK FHNW)


How can we resist precarity and promote fair labor conditions, not only for us but for the people with whom we collaborate?
As designers, we often tend to approach issues through a positive and elevated stance where everything seems possible.
Paired with structural labor issues, this approach can worsen working conditions. This activity is a consciousness-raising attempt at bridging us and the work of others.
—Camillo Cornuz, HKB

Today, due to precarious work conditions, freelance designers feel the pressure to build an extreme online presence.
In this activity, we will talk about money, labor, time, the value of work, time, and what our design portfolios have to do with all of that.
Let’s imagine absurd and daring proposals of how to tackle everyday issues of precarity! Let’s demand new working conditions! Let’s write a manifesto!
—Alessandra Puricelli, HGK FHNW

Meet-up 8: You and design, design and you — a feminist discussion

Alice Fada (HGK FHNW) and Maya Ober (HKB)


How do you feel that design—and, in particular, design education—relate to who you are and the diverse aspects of your identity, such as gender, ethnicity, class-background, ability, sexual orientation, and others? And how, in turn, has design education and its narratives shaped your identity? This session is about hearing your voices, in an atmosphere that recognizes our different lived experiences within capitalist, heteronormative, racist, sexist, classist, and ableist societies.

Meet-up 9: Neutral or fake? On the politics of mass communication

Paulina Zybinska (ZHdK) and Raphaël de la Morinerie (ECAL)


What you see is what you fake. In the age of ever-expanding computational potential, manipulation of facts has become easier than ever. This session is a mix of discussion and experiments which focus on such topics as deep learning, AI, the credibility of evidence, and microtargeting.
—Paulina Zybinska, ZHdK

Each shape is a thought. From a perceptual mapping group exercise of our typographic environment, we will discuss the concept of neutrality and mass communication, and by extension the political role of graphic design.
—Raphaël de la Morinerie, ECAL

Meet-up 10: Imagining photography beyond binaries

Nike Tessa-Lilli (HKB) and Jelly Luise (ECAL)


How can art, design, and photography help overcome the complications around identity politics? How can we construct mages that imagine worlds beyond rigid divisions of gender, race, sexuality, religion, class-background, ability, and more? We'll gather to examine the nature of images through intersectional lenses. Participants are encouraged to bring examples of images by artists, designers, and photographers whom you think are pushing the boundaries of image-making.

Meet-up 11: Bad, unsustainable, and worse

Lea Rahel Hess (ZHdK) and Claudia Epiney (HGK FHNW)


Just for once, instead of talking about good design, why don't we take a proper look at “bad” design? I invite you to confess to your worst design and consumption sins and sins and errors.
—Lea Rahel Hess, ZHdK

What makes a material sustainable — or unsustainable? Thinking beyond stereotypes of sustainability, we will discuss complex issues such as overproduction, overconsumption, and environmental collapse.
—Claudia Epiney, HGK FHNW


Squirrel Nation (Erinma Ochu and Caroline Ward)

Squirrel Nation Studio create memorable experiences and concepts that consider co-existence as an ethic. Our work spans installation and live events in a range of public settings, from an urban mushroom farm reimagining the future of food in climate emergency, to moving image; Nature's Switch, which was also exhibited in a forest clearing and explores human-plant relationships to red light. Leading through intersectional practices, Squirrel Nation is co-founded and directed by Caroline Ward and Erinma Ochu. Squirrel Nation were artists in residence in The Stuart Hall Library/INIVA (2018) and Jerwood Fellows at Manchester International Festival in 2017 and 2019.

Caroline Ward is an artist, designer and researcher whose practice spans moving image, performance, digital interaction and installation. Her critical practice explores the public imagination as a contested site and care as an ethic, informed by architecture, human sciences and technology, and focused on posthuman perspectives. She has a Masters in Research at The Royal College of Art. She has worked as designer and researcher at BBC, The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design and currently, The Wellcome Trust. In 2019 Caroline was awarded a British Council research bursary and a Jerwood Fellowship at Manchester International Festival.

Trained as a neuroscientist, with a PhD from The University of Manchester, Erinma Ochu worked in broadcast science TV before securing a Sci-Art fellowship to evolve her practice through scriptwriting, filmmaking and digital participation. As EAVE-trained producer and curator, she executive produced film slates for B3 Media and curates a public series of talks, film and exhibits at Sheffield International Documentary Festival, inspired by the convergence of social, environmental and digital movements. In this regard, as a practice based researcher and lecturer, she holds grants as Digital Society Fellow from Wellcome and in digital storytelling from UK Natural Environment Research Council.

Squirrel nation

Sepake Angiama

is a curator and educator currently based in Europe. Her work focuses on the social framework and discursive practices. This has inspired her to collaborate with artists, architects, and designers who disrupt or provoke aspects of the social sphere through action, design, dance, and architecture. Angiama recently served as Head of Education for Documenta 14 where she initiated Under the Mango Tree: Sites of Learning In cooperation with ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen), a project that gathers artist-led social spaces, libraries, and schools interested in unfolding discourses around decolonizing education practices. Previously, she was Head of Education for Manifesta 10 hosted by the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. Angiama was recently a Fellow at BAK, Utrecht (basis voor actuele kunst), undertaking research on science fiction, modernist architecture, and intersectional feminism. Angiama holds an MA in Curating Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art, London

Sepake angiama

Clara Balaguer

is a cultural worker. From 2010 to 2018, she articulated cultural programming with rural and underserved communities in the Philippines through the Office of Culture and Design, a residency space and social practice platform. In 2015, she co-founded Hardworking Goodlooking, a cottage industry publishing hauz interested in horror vacui, thickening research on the post-(or de-) colonial vernacular, collectivizing authorship, and the value of the error. Currently, she coordinates the Social Practices course at Willem de Kooning Academy and teaches Experimental Publishing at Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam. Frequently, she operates under collective or individual aliases that intimate her service in a given project, the latest of which is To Be Determined.

TO BE DETERMINED is an undocumented organization that has recently migrated to the Netherlands from the Philippines and other places, assuming a new name and identity. It is curious about models of collectivizing authorship (be it credited, anonymous, or divested), underground railroads (in plain sight) to institutional access, territory constructed between repose and transit (including languages spoken by any inhabitants), and the decolonization of cultural work through the lens of the contemporary (post-colonial) vernacular. It is currently molting or in the process of determining how it must operate within a foreign landscape. But what is clear, at this point in time, is that TBD is (still) comprised of sleeper cells and yet-to-be-determined networks that activate and deactivate in response to external factors: abundance to be distributed, urgencies to be addressed, or leisure to be. When prompted, TBD identifies as a social practice performance.

Clara balaguer

Sarah Owens

is an educator and researcher who focuses on the history, practice and mediation of visual artifacts, as well as the social and anthropological aspects of design. She currently chairs the subject area and directs the graduate programme in Visual Communication as well as research endeavours in this area at Zurich University of the Arts. She is a graduate of the University of Reading, the Royal College of Art in London, the University of Applied Sciences Augsburg and in 2009, was a fellow at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart.

Sarah owens

Vivien Tauchmann

Vivien Tauchmann is a designer and researcher, exploring sociopolitical relations through an embodied and kinaesthetic approach. By positioning the human body as communicative material, she seeks to expose the relational aspects of man-made infrastructures and subvert processes that seem to constitute social and cultural boundaries. Currently living in Leipzig, Vivien was trained as a fashion designer at the Faculty of Applied Arts Schneeberg and graduated with a Master’s in social design from the Design Academy Eindhoven. Besides working on her own projects and collaborations, she is active as artistic lecturer and co-coordinator for public outreach at ENS e.V. and Clean Clothes Campaign Germany.

Vivien tauchmann

Lauren Wildbolz

Lauren Wildbolz is a catering entrepreneur, food activist, artist, and cookbook author. In 2010, she opened the first vegan restaurant in Switzerland and quickly established herself as one of the pioneers of the vegan diet in Switzerland. She organizes vegan cooking classes and workshops. Wildbolz has been a vegetarian since the age of fourteen and changed to a vegan lifestyle at 27. She started getting more involved in political and ethical aspects of the food industry achieved as a dedicated animal rights activist and with projects against food waste.

Lauren wildbolz


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Bern University of the Arts
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