Hong Kong, HKDI DESIS Lab for Social Design Research

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Starts: 24 November, 2020
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Instructors: Hong Kong, HKDI DESIS Lab for Social Design Research
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​​HKDI DESIS Lab for Social Design Research

Hong Kong
Director: Mr. CHAN Kwong Yiu, Daniel (danielchan@vtc.edu.hk)
Associate director: Mr. SIU Kwong Yiu, Sherman (shermansiu@vtc.edu.hk)
Project officer: Mr. CHAN Yuk Biu, Bill Silent (billsc@vtc.edu.hk)
Assistant project officer: Ms. YEUNG Chung Yan, Joann (joannycy@vtc.edu.hk)
Hosting institution: Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI)
Adress: 3 King Ling Road, Tseung Kwan O, New Territories, Hong Kong, China
Email address: hkdi-desislab@vtc.edu.hk
Telephone number: +852 3928 2480
Website: http://www.hkdi.edu.hk/en/knowledge-centre/desis_lab.php

  • ​​Background and objectives

Founded in 2013, HKDI DESIS Lab for Social Design Research is a cross-disciplinary action research group at the Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI) part of the Vocational Training Council (VTC).

Under the motto “Local Actions and Global Thinking”, the Lab initiates social design research projects in two strategic directions, (1) Local Actions – HKDI DESIS Lab employs the model of applied research as a means to explore new design practices to address various issues of Hong Kong and establish HKDI as an agent of social change within local communities; (2) Global Thinking – the lab collaborates with international partners and across departments within HKDI to co-create solutions for global issues.

Our aim is to set up a research platform for social design, advocating a new approach to design: “designers as enablers of social change”. We work to advance international knowledge in design for the social good and develop social design practices to benefit Hong Kong’s society. The team is committed to the practice of “participatory design”, an open-for-all design concept, alongside
with the utilisation of up-to-date design knowledge to achieve advancement in our contemporary life and society.

  • Primary research areas and activities

The HKDI DESIS Lab’s primary focus currently is on “Marginal and Marginalised Communities” within the complex urban fabric of Hong Kong. Our methodology involves generating knowledge through two means: workshops and investigations partnering with different communities for knowledge gathering and research to empower these communities; an active process of participatory design to collaboratively realise and deploy design solutions building on this research that help make Hong Kong more inclusive and equitable for all citizens.

List of previous projects and research

  • Fine Dying – 2013-15

In July 2013, HKDI DESIS Lab kick-started its first Design Possible Study on Living and Dying, collaborating with William Outcast (陳偉霖), an activist of death education who was born with skin cancer, the study aimed at exploring new design implications for everyday life by enabling people from all backgrounds to be active in the design processes. The Fine Dying project involved 300 HKDI design students and 100 senior citizens in Hong Kong over a two-month period of co-designing dying matters.

  • Design Our Village with Elders (DOVE) – 2014

The second Design Possible Study recruited over 500 HKDI students to explore the possibilities of ‘How to age well in Hong Kong’. The study was supported Culture Homes (文化村.長者用品展銷中心 ) and resulted in multiple innovative ideas developed by young design students with senior citizens in Hong Kong that included assistant devices for home and new spatial concepts for care homes/community living.

  • Ageing Case Study Book – 2014

HKDI DESIS Lab led the Ageing & Ingenuity Cluster of DESIS International Network. Co-authored with Dr Patricia Moore, over 20 international cases of “Ageing in Place” were collected in the international case-study book, which was published by DESIS International Network.

  • Draw Your Home! – 2014

‘Draw Your Home!’ was the third Design Possible Study of the lab and an extension of the collaborative project ‘Patterns of Living’, conceived by the HKDI DESIS Lab and HKDI’s Department of Product and Interior Design. The project featured participation from design students, senior citizens, and secondary school pupils, all of who were empowered by learning spatial design tools in order to express their expectations of future home design in Hong Kong.

  • Open Health – 2014

In collaboration with Dr Patricia Moore, HKDI DESIS Lab conducted four student workshops and one citizen workshop as its second open design initiative. Citizens of different generations and professional backgrounds were invited to participate and rethink the healthcare system of Hong Kong, such as medical packaging and appointment system, in order to develop effective campaigns for improvement.

  • Open Dementia – 2015

The Open Dementia project was commissioned by Jockey Club Centre for Positive Ageing to redesign their ‘dementia experience tools’ as part of their public awareness programme about dementia. Instead of focusing on talks and games by instruction, we chose to anchor the experience on tangible objects. We redesigned a set of everyday objects that actually let the participants live through the experience of a person with dementia. The whole set consists of 11 different ‘dementing objects’, each of which corresponds to a specific symptom of dementia.

  • Open Design Forums/Cumulus Hong Kong – 2014-16

We believe more creative dialogues must take place in order to create our better future. This is why we developed the Open Design Forum (ODF) to discuss practices of open design through making and experiencing design. Our aim is to provide an inspiring platform for everyone to participate in this discussion.

  • Micro/Co-Living Design in Hong Kong – 2018

In order to inspire students how design can resolve the problems of the chronic affordable housing shortage in Hong Kong, HKDI DESIS Lab and the Department of Architecture, Interior and Product Design undertook a collaborative venture to organize a social design project entitled Micro-/Co-living Design in Hong Kong in 2018. The project invited design students from the Department of Architecture, Interior and Product Design (AIP), inclusive of the Higher Diploma (HD) in Interior Design, HD in Architectural Design, and HD in Furniture and Lifestyle Product Design in a one and a half months social design engagement activity. Students participated in a social design studio with a seminar on new living design (micro-/co-living), social design engagement workshops, and a micro-/co-living design forum, through which Mr. James Law JP shared his experiences and explored social design solutions for future urban lifestyles with the students. The collaboration also coved a physical exhibition of the OPod Tube Housing as an illustration of design concepts of micro-living.

  • The 1st Open Design Forum was staged in November 2014 for active citizens in Hong Kong to meet with international social design pioneers to collaboratively investigate how to co-create an open society. The forum’s first conception involved ‘meeting the pioneers’ – in which the lab invited six key design thinkers from different social design groups to come to HKDI to share their insights on Hong Kong society. Together we imagined how we could make Hong Kong a more open society through design.
  • After ODF2014, the HKDI DESIS Lab team continued to explore different aspects of open design through a series of design actions. The 2nd Open Design Forum as a result consisted of two main components: an Open Design Weekend featuring different design actions (Hacking Data! Fixing Things! Measuring Bodies! Drawing Flowers! And Opening City!), and concluded with the 2nd Open Design Forum which aimed to understand better what design could do for a more open society.
  • The ODF project concluded with Cumulus Hong Kong 2016 on the theme of ‘Open Design for E-very-thing’ and expanded to six tracks on diverse aspects of open design with international design researchers.


  • ​HKDI DESIS Lab. Open Design in Action: Design Debates & Projects for Our Open Society. Hong Kong, 2016. ISBN: 978-988-13962-3-5
  • HKDI DESIS Lab. Fine Dying: Let’s Co-design Our Dying Issues《死過界》 Hong Kong, 2015. ISBN: 978-988-13961-4-3
  • HKDI DESIS Lab. Conversations from Open Design Forum 2014: Co-creating Our Open Societies through Design. Hong Kong, 2015. ISBN: 978-988-13961-3-6
  • Lee Y & Moore P (eds). DESIS Network Presents: Ageing, Ingenuity & Design International Cases Collection 2015. DESIS International Network, 2015. ISBN: 978-988-1232​​5-6-4
  • French H & Lee Y. Patterns of Living: Hong Kong’s High-Rise Communities 《設計生活模式 香港高樓社區》. Hong Kong: New Talents Press, 2013. ISBN: 978-988-12324-4-1