Swiss Design Network Symposium 2021 | Online Conference

SDN Symposium 2021
25 - 26 MARCH


Design as
common good

Framing design through pluralism and social values

25 - 26 MARCH 2021

In light of social, economic, technological and environmental challenges, design researchers, practitioners as well as communities constantly critically address and question the contribution of design to the common good. The common good as conceptualized by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Zalta et al., 2018) “benefits society as a whole – in contrast to the private good of individuals and sections of society.” Design as a discipline has long been positioned from the context of developing and catering to the private good, focusing on individual and smaller sections of society - largely leaving its contributions to the common good under explored.

A range of frameworks currently situate design as a common good among them the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG, and the Quadruple Helix (Carayannis & Campbell, 2009). The SDG calls for new approaches of design to address 17 areas identified by the UN as elements of a sustainable world concerned with human well-being. Design, refers to much more than the active verb to design meaning "creation of objects, famous buildings, functional social services, or ecologically minded production. What the notion of design signals […] is diverse forms of life, and often, contrasting notions of sociability and the world” (Escobar, 2018 p.3). The second, the Quadruple Helix, emphasizes the need for co-creation and co-design among governments, industries, academia and civil society in order to achieve socially desirable innovations.

With our conference Design as common good, the Swiss Design Network invites everyone interested in reflecting upon what constitutes a common good and specifically what constitutes a common good in and through design. The conference aims to develop new and relevant points of entry for research, education and practise around this topic.

Professional responses to matters of inclusion, sustainability, safety, accessibility, health, well-being, equity, or education are central to these endeavours. They are pushed to the foreground by disruptive events, such as the financial crisis 2008 or the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the fast-paced and omnipresent digital transformation. We want to collaboratively explore what common good can entail, critically thinking and learning from each other. We welcome papers and projects from researchers and scholars addressing the issue of the common good through, with and within design in the hopes of encouraging others from domains outside the academic design discipline to join our discussion and conference.

We are looking for papers that convey the contributions of design to the common good from a multitude of theoretical perspectives and professional practices. Particularly desirable are research projects targeting new models of knowledge production and innovation that address social, environmental and economic issues to enhance human living. The research focuses on the needs of society – be that at a local, national or global level – and so makes a valuable contribution to policies, the economies, and societies.

We are aiming for high quality contributions that will form the foundations for a book, a special journal issue or another publication and also engaging workshops.

Research questions could be but are not limited to

- Is design a common good? If so, what are the implications and why?
- Does design contribute to the common good? If so, how and when?
- How are design theories, methods and practices evolving to contribute or challenge the common good

- What impact does the common good have on education?
- Can we develop curricula based on the premise of designing for the common good?
- Are there relevant experiences in education models and programs that encompass the common good?

- How is ongoing research addressing the topic of design as common good?
- How might we develop approaches and methods to face societal, economical, political and environmental issues for the common good?
- What are methods to design the common good? Have specific methods emerged?

- Is the practice of design being reoriented? If yes, how?
- Which are the design outcomes of the common good? Are there specific outcomes?
- What is the most obvious impact on design practice?
- Are design agencies reorganizing their structures, competences, and skills?
- Who is involved in designing the common good?

Zalta, Edward N, Uri Nodelman, Colin Allen, and R Lanier Anderson. “Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,” 2018, 29.

Carayannis, Elias G., and David F.J. Campbell. “‘Mode 3’ and ‘Quadruple Helix’: Toward a 21st Century Fractal Innovation Ecosystem.” International Journal of Technology Management 46, no. 3/4 (2009): 201.

Escobar, Arturo. Designs for the Pluriverse: Radical Interdependence, Autonomy, and the Making of Worlds. New Ecologies for the Twenty-First Century. Durham: Duke University Press, 2018.

“Sustainable Development Goals .:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.” Accessed April 27, 2020. .

Submissions procedure and online conference format

Submitting a Paper
Applicants are invited to submit a 500-word abstract by July 31, 2020. Following acceptance of the abstract, authors will be notified by September 10, 2020 to submit their full paper (4000 words) by November 15, 2020, which will also be undergoing a double-blind review.

Submissions must be written in English, should not exceed 4000 words (excluding references), and should be submitted as a single PDF.

Submitting a Workshop Proposal
Applicants are invited to submit a 500-word proposal for an online workshop at the conference. The proposal needs to include title, topic, method, length, format and number of participants. Submission is due July 31, 2020. Following acceptance of the proposal authors will be notified by September 10, 2020 to submit their detailed agenda and structure by November 15, 2020.

In addition to the 500 words, authors need to share how they plan to present their paper and workshop online. We encourage the creative exploration of the online conference format and want to support authors to go beyond 'reading' their paper, doing the 'old PowerPoint', or run an in-presence workshop. By sharing your idea with us, we can also work with you on any technical requirements.
All abstracts and workshop proposals must be sent via the Easychair Platform.
For more information about the content of the conference please contact:


Conference proceedings

All accepted papers will be published in the Conference Proceedings online as a PDF. We plan to make the proceedings available with the conference. In addition, select authors of high quality conference papers will be invited to expand their papers into a book chapter during a physical workshop that we plan for October 2021.

Key dates

Deadline for Abstract Submission
31 July 2020

Notification of Acceptance
10 September 2020

Deadline for Full Paper
15 December 2020

Feedback of Reviewers
15 January 2021

Registration open for conference
15 January 2021

Final Paper
20 January 2021

Full Program
28 February 2021

25 - 26 March 2021

Hosting Institutions

SUPSI – University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland
Department of environment, construction and design
Campus Mendrisio, Via Francesco Catenazzi 23
CH-6850 Mendrisio

HSLU - Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts
Art and Design
745 Viscosistadt
Nylsuisseplatz 1
CH-6020 Lucerne-Emmenbruecke

Conference co-chairs
Dr. Massimo Botta, University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland, SUPSI
Dr. Sabine Junginger, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, HSLU

Conference Committee – Swiss Design Network
Dr. Massimo Botta, University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland, SUPSI
Prof. Dr. Davide Fornari, Ecole Cantonale d’art de Lausanne, ECAL
Prof. Dr. Claudia Mareis, FHNW Academy of Art and Design, Basel
Martin Wiedmer, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, HSLU
Prof. Dr. Sarah Owens, Zurich University of the Arts, ZHDK
Prof. Dr. Arne Scheuermann, Bern University of the Arts, HKB
Prof. Anthony Masure, University of Art and Design Geneva, HEAD – Genève

Conference Coordination
Mayar El Hayawan, Swiss Design Network Coordinator
Dr. Vanessa De Luca, University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland, SUPSI


For more information about the content of the conference please contact: