Space (natural and built) as text: the semiotic approach

Event | Date: 04.12.2018

Location: Department of Humanities, Room 1

This seminar, proposed by the Design Research Lab at the University of Trento and led by Prof. Ugo Volli from the Department of Philosophy and Education Sciences at the University of Turin, aims at providing a semiotic interpretation of space, as determined and structured by a text.


Prof. Ugo Volli, University of Turin

How does a text organize the spatial dimension? How can processes of meaning pose limits on a text? The seminar will deal with these questions and others, and will be primarily aimed at transmitting the fundamental concepts and contemporary discussions within the field of semiotics to the participants.

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Design Research

Seminar | Date: 01.10 – 02.10 – 03.10.2018

Location: Department of Humanities, classroom 118 – via Tommaso Gar, 14 Trento 

In a series of three lectures, Tom Bieling will attempt to clarify the concept of Design Research and discuss its relevance and theoretical/practical application. The core argument is that design research offers an entry to conceptualizing the artificial interfaces of design through which we meet the world, which may take many forms such has material objects, virtual spaces, hybrid systems, and social processes.

Dr. des. Tom Bieling, Visiting Professor, Design Research Lab – Universität der Künste Berlin

The first lecture (1.10) will present a framework for conceptualizing Design Research as mainly subdivided into Research about Design, Research for Design, and Research trough Design. Self-evidently, the design of products, technologies, services, systems, virtual worlds and tangible objects always implicitly transmits role models and values. Design and the images it disseminates, often unreflectively, are hence unavoidably political. Thus design is an effective force in shaping not only material culture, but also societal values and human behavior. Investigating on the three above mentioned levels of design research, shall help us to gain a deeper understanding concerning the potentials as well as the pitfalls of design as a ‘critical practice’.

The second lecture (2.10.) will discuss, how digital technology affects the ontology, the aesthetics as well as the (constantly new emerging) fields practice in Design. For instance we will discuss the notion of embodied interaction, as an approach for investigating new forms of interactions between humans and the digital world. Emphasizing the interconnectedness of body and mind, and not least exploring ways of making digital content tangible.

The third lecture (3.10.) will discover how Design (Research) impacts other scientific disciplines, and – even more important – the social field in general. While historically designers have attempted to induce social change by designing objects, today (social) design understands itself as a change agent in a much more direct relation to the social. In that the focus of this lecture will be on questions regarding social transformation, urban communities, participation and engagement, as well as social, cultural, ecological and economical sustainability.


Lecture I
Monday, 1. October 2018, 5–8 pm
17.00 – 20.00 Introducing Design Research

Lecture II
Tuesday, 2. October 2018, 5–8 pm
17.00 – 20.00 Applying Design Research

Lecture III
Tuesday, 2. October 2018, 5–8 pm
17.00 – 20.00 Projecting Design Research

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Aesthetics and interdisciplinary research

Seminar | Date: 13.06.2018

Location: Department of Humanities, Room 229 – via Tommaso Gar, 14 Trento

The seminar, organized by the Design Research Lab at the Univetsity of Trento, investigates research potentials for aesthetics developed in an interdisciplinary manner through critical theory, visual studies, philosophy of images, perception theory and, not least, complexity theory and design theory. The seminar was organized in collaboration with the journal I Castelli di Yale (


Prof. Leonardo Distaso, University of Naples Federico II

Prof. Andrea Gatti, University of the Studies of Ferrara

Prof. Giuseppe Patella, University of Rome Tor Vergata

Prof. Renato Troncon, University of Trento


15.30 – 15.45 Presentation and greetings

16.15 – 16.45 Andrea Gatti, Theories of perception and philosophy of images

16.45 – 17.15 Leonardo Distaso, Social aesthetics between critical theory and Visual Studies

17.15 – 17.45 Giuseppe Patella, Aesthetic and cultural turns

17.45 – 18.15 Renato Troncon, Design sciences and philosophy

18.15 – 18.30 Conclusions

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Design Sciences

Seminar | Date: 30.05.2018

Location: Department of Humanities, Room 229 – via Tommaso Gar, 14 Trento

Organized by the Design Research Lab (Trento) and including the presence of professor Tom Bieling of the Design Research Lab (Berlin), the seminar investigated interpretations and controversies around the concept of “design” within different historical and cultural contexts and, specifically, within an evolutionary perspective.


Prof. Tom Bieling, Design Research Lab – Universität der Künste Berlin

Prof. Renato Troncon, Design Research Lab – University of Trento

Dott.ssa. Camilla Robuschi, Design Research Lab – University of Trento

This framework takes into account disciplines and fields of study including philosophy, biosemiotics, cultural theory, media studies, and schools of thought such as positivism, rationalism, constructivism and the new philosophy of science, in order to fully understand and apply design research in its many forms.


09.30 – 09.45 Introduction and greetings

09.45 – 10.30 Tom Bieling, The idea of design between cultural theory and media studies

10.30 – 10.45 Break

10.45 – 11.30 Renato Troncon, Design and Evolution: The meaning of exaptation

11.30 – 12.00 Camilla Robuschi, The role of code-duality within the creative process in the perspective of biosemiotic studies

12.00 – 12.15 Conclusions

Creative and Design Thinking

Workshop | Date: 17.05.2018
Location: BUC, Central University Library, Room 2C, Via Adalberto Libera, 3 - Trento

The DRLab presents a series of intensive monthly workshops on important skills for professional designers, under the guidance of national and international experts. The aim is to contribute to the training of designers capable of lending their own professionalism to supporting economic development. The third appointment will deal with Creative and Design Thinking.


Prof.ssa Marita Canina, IDEActivity Center of the Politecnico di Milano
Dott.ssa Carmen Bruno, IDEActivity Center of the Politecnico di Milano

This intensive training workshop, organized by DRLab and led by the IDEActivity Center from the Department of Design at the Milan Polytechnic, illustrates the process of Creative Design Thinking through a case study of which the participants will be the principle guides. Aimed mainly at a public of specialists, the workshop offers an opportunity based on ‘learning-by-doing’ that runs through the methodology of the IDEActivity while experimenting in first person with its principle tools. The aim of the Creative Thinking Workshop is to activate each person’s creative potential and generative collaborative dynamics for innovating and identifying new planning solutions together.

09.30 - 09.45 Introduction and greetings
09.45 - 10.45 Theoretical presentations on Creativity, Design Thinking and Human-Centred approaches
10.45 - 11.00 Design Challenge launch
11.00 - 13.00 Explore: the first phase in the design process
13.00 - 14.00 Lunch break
14.00 - 16.00 Generate: the second phase in the design process
16.00 - 16.45 Presentation of ideas
16.45 - 17.30 Debrief and conclusions


Marita Canina Ph.D in Industrial Design and biodesigner. She is Associate Professor of the Department and School of Design of the Milan Polytechnic, where she is also in charge of the scientific coordination of IDEActivity Center. Expert in creative process, Design Thinking and bio-design, current research interests are aimed at the development of Creativity Design Thinking aimed at the innovation of products and services.

Carmen Bruno is a PhD student at the Design Department of the Milan Polytechnic. The research interest focuses on the identification and analysis of new spaces of action for the designer from a human centered point of view, experimenting with new approaches based on design thinking and co-design.

Data Visualization

Workshop | Date: 22.11.2017

Location: Room 229 – Department of Humanities, via Tommaso Gar, 14, Trento

The DRLab presents a series of intensive monthly workshops on important skills for professional designers, under the guidance of national and international experts. The aim is to contribute to the training of designers capable of lending their own professionalism to supporting economic development. The second appointment will deal with Data Visualization.

The workshop will explore a project for visualizing data in all of its forms: from the choice of themes to be represented to the analysis of data connected to these themes, right up to arriving at the visual representation of the selected information. The final result will be a collection of a range of visualizations closely linked to the participants’ interests and creative tendencies.


Federica Fragapane

Francesco Majno


09.30 – 10.30 Introduction to the world of data visualization and case studies

10.30 – 11.15 Presentation of planning activities and working material

11.15 – 11.30 Coffee break

11.30 – 13.00 Choice of themes and data to be represented; first revision and discussion of representation possibilities

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch break

14.00 – 16.15 Definition of visual models and data design

16.15 – 16.30 Coffee break

16.30 – 17.30 Project presentations; conclusions and final reflections

Federica Fragapane is a freelance information designer. She attended the Polytechnic of Milan, where she specialized in data visualization within the Density Design Lab. She holds a Master’s degree in Communication Design and her thesis has been selected and published in the ADI Design Index 2015. Her data visualization projects have been published on Corriere della Sera, Wired Italia and Wired Uk and she is co-author of “Pianeta Terra. Infographic tables to discover our world “, a book for children published by National Geographics Kids and White Star. The awards include the honorable mention at the Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards 2014, the silver medal at the European Design Awards 2017 and the award ceremony at the Core77 Design Awards 2017.

Francesco Majno is an information and service designer. He holds a Master’s Degree in Communication Design from the Politecnico di Milano, where he specialized in data visualization within the Density Design Lab. After his studies he worked as a data visualization collaborator in the Accurat studio and as communication and information designer with expertise in data visualization and information architecture in the SocialFare Social Innovation Center. His data visualization projects were published in La Lettura – Corriere della Sera and received the honorable mention at the Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards 2014.

Moscow Innovation Roadshow

Seminar | Date: 04.07.2017

Place: Department of Humanities. Classroom 005

“Moscow Innovation Roadshow” is an international project of the Moscow Agency of Innovation that aims to concretely involve talented European university students and graduates, startups and selected companies from the major metropolitan areas of Europe in the challenges of technological and cultural innovation that arise on its territory. Moscow invests important economic resources in this and is home to numerous important technology parks, companies and cultural institutions.

U_CODE (Urban Collective Design Environment)

Seminar | Date: 03.07.2017

Location: Department of Humanities, University of Trento, Design Research Lab – room 482

Dipl. Ing. Benjamin Stelzle, Faculty of Architecture, Technische Universität Dresden. During the seminar the “Laboratory of Knowledge Architecture” of the Technische Universität Dresden and more specifically the Europe project or U_CODE (Urban Collective Design Environment) will be presented, explaining the numerous researches carried out within the laboratory in the fields of Co-Design, spaces collaborative, urban social innovation, Smart Cities and bionics.

Winter School Design for Higher Education

Seminar | Date: 24-25.11.2016


Thursday 24th, Palazzo Trentini – Sala Aurora – Via Giannantonio Manci n. 27, 18.00

Friday 25th, Department of Humanities – Room 007 – Via Tommaso Gar n. 14, 9.00

You can find the recording of all the interventions on the dedicated  YouTube channel and on the official page of the winter school.