Italy, Milan, POLIMI DESIS Lab

For Admission

Starts: 22 March, 2016
Duration :
Instructors: Italy, Milan, POLIMI DESIS Lab
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City: Milano

Country: Italy

Coordinator: prof. Anna Meroni,

Operational manager: prof. Davide Fassi,

Polimi DESIS Lab, Politecnico di Milano, Department of Design, Via Durando 38/a, 20158 Milano – Italy, tel. + 39 2399 5967

Background and objectives
The POLIMI-DESIS Lab, based in the Department of Design of Politecnico di Milano, is composed of a group of researchers adopting a strategic and systemic approach to design, with a specific focus on design for services and design activism. It has a background in service and product-service-system design for sustainability and investigates the way design can support and trigger social innovation, combining creativity and visioning with the capability of engaging in co-design processes.
The Lab operates in multicultural and multidisciplinary contexts, integrating various competences in systemic projects, which require contributions from service design, strategic design, user centered design, interaction design, product design, interior/spatial design, design for territory and local development, communication, economics, architecture, planning and sociology.
Involved in several local and international research projects, the group runs post-graduate courses and design studios in service design, product-service-system design, design for sustainability, local development and communication. Several international training collaborations and teaching exchanges are also in place.
The Lab has a considerable experience in organizing scientific symposiums, events, exhibitions and developing basic and applied research in national and international projects.
Its objective is exploring how design can enable people, communities, enterprises and social actors to activate and manage innovation processes, aimed at experimenting with sustainable, convivial and collaborative ways of living and doing. Over the last decade, the group has been contributing to lay the foundations for the disciplines of strategic and service design.

Primary research areas and activities
Primary research areas are tied up with collaborative services for local development, with specific emphasis on food, urban, mobility, distributed manufacturing and housing systems as well as small enterprise networks. Besides these specific topics, the Lab has matured unique competences in detecting and collecting cases of social innovation (the creative communities), in designing services of de-mediation (producer-consumer direct re-connection, short supply chains), in supporting the community interaction for collaborative living (social and co-housing), in investigating the capacity of the public and urban space to be welcoming, meaningful and multicultural (temporary urban solutions, public space design, cross cultural societies, walking cities), in supporting the network society and ICT potential (smart cities and living labs), in designing for distributed manufacturing (fablab and design makers) and in creating hubs to support networks of small enterprises.
The Lab develops and experiments methodologies for on-field research, co-design, service design, prototyping and scenario building aiming at changing the ways people behave. The concept of community-centered design is explored as a way to work with local groups of stakeholders and to make things happen in the society.
Finally, the Lab promotes and participates in several activities with the international network, included clusters and philosophy talks.

List of projects and research

  • “Human Cities – Challenging the city scale”, (2014-2018) co-funded from 2014-2018 by the Creative Europe Programme of The European Union. It is a platform of interdisciplinary exchanges, exploring the way in which the inhabitants reclaim the constantly evolving contemporary city (especially through experiments in the urban space) and ways of (re)inventing city life, as sources of wellbeing and quality of life.
  • “Coltivando – the convivial garden at the Politecnico di Milano”, (2011-ongoing, Politecnico di Milano, Human Cities). A community garden in the public areas of the Politecnico di Milano Bovisa Durando Campus open to the neighbourhood.
  • “CampUS – Incubation and prototyping of social practices” (2014-ongoing, Polisocial Award) A multidisciplinary project aims at incubating social innovation projects in the Politecnico di Milano Bovisa Durando Campus and let them be self- sufficient in the neighbourhood by involving Neet (not employed, not trained or educated) and over 75 citizens.
  • “SIMPACT. Boosting the Impact of Social Innovation in Europe through Economic Underpinnings”. (2014 – 2016, EC – FP7). A research collaboration that aims at understanding the economic foundation of social innovation targeting marginalised and vulnerable groups in society
  • “TRANSITION. Transnational Network for Social Innovation Incubators”. (2013-2016, EC – FP7). A 30-month project that supports the scaling-up of social innovations across Europe by developing a network of incubators which brings together established partners within the fields of social innovation (SI) and innovation-based incubation
  • “Nutrire Milano. Energie per il cambiamento” – “Feeding Milan, energies for change” (2009 – 2014, Slow Food, Fondazione Cariplo). An applied research project aiming at creating a network of services of short food chain between the city of Milan and its productive peri-urban countryside.
  • “SPREAD 2050 – Social Platform identifying Research and Policy needs for Sustainable Lifestyles” (2011-2012, EC – FP7). Developing a scenario for sustainable lifestyles in 2050 and creating roadmaps for strategic action.;
  • “Periphèria” (2011- 2014, EC – CIP Pilot action). Deploying convergent Future Internet (FI) platforms and services for the promotion of sustainable lifestyles in and across emergent networks of “smart” peripheral cities in Europe.
  • “Human Cities 1: Sustainable urban design” and “Human cities 2: Reclaiming the Public Space” (2007-2013, EC Action – “Culture”). A European Network in which partners develop specific themes around sustainable urban design and solutions to redefine the meaning of the public space.
  • “Social and Collaborative Housing” (2008 – on going, Fondazione Housing Sociale and other actors). A number of projects and initiatives to support the creation of housing communities collaborating in the design and delivery of services and initiatives.
  • “TANGO. Towards A New interGenerational Openness” (2011-2013, in partnership with Aalto University, Fi – coordinator – and L’École de design Nantes Atlantique, Fr). Product service system design to explore the issue of social inclusion of the elderly and intergenerational dialogue.
  • “CCAlps – Creative Companies in Alpine Space”. (2011-2014) A strategic design project to create a real and virtual network of hubs in the Alps. It aims to push policy makers in thinking out specific regulations that can support CCIs in the Alpine Space.
  • “Green Move”. (2011- 2013, financed by Regione Lombardia) A project with the objective of designing an electric vehicle-sharing system in Milan. The multi-owner flexible mobility solutions are based on a credit system to repay virtuous behaviours. The project aims at designing a full scale service.
  • “ColtivAzioni Urbane” (2012-2014 – co-funded by Fondazione Cariplo; Lead partner ICEI). An action research project aimed at strengthening the social cohesion and the territorial networks in the Dergano neighborhood (Milano).
  • “Milano Design Camping” (2010-2011), Design competition for innovative units for low cost hospitality, funded by the Municipality of Milan (Assessorato alle Attività Produttive, Moda e Design) in partnership with Triennale di Milano
  • “Temporary housing for Milan Expo 2015 staff at Cascina Merlata” (2012-2013), funded by Euromilano



  • Anna Meroni (coordinator)
  • Davide Fassi (operational manager)
  • Marta Corubolo
  • Annalinda De Rosa
  • Chiara Galeazzi
  • Laura Galluzzo
  • Martina Mazzarello
  • Ezio Manzini
  • Martina Rossi
  • Daniela Selloni


  • Elisa Bertolotti
  • Massimo Bianchini
  • Cabirio Cautela
  • Mariana Ciancia
  • Luisa Collina
  • Alberto Colorni
  • Marisa Galbiati
  • Stefano Maffei
  • Marina Parente
  • Margherita Pillan
  • Alessandro Sachero
  • Carla Sedini
  • Simona Venditti
  • Carlo Vezzoli
  • Arianna Vignati
  • Beatrice Villari
  • Francesco Zurlo

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Bianchini M., Maffei S. (2013). ‘Microproduction Everywhere. Social, local, open and connected manufacturing’. Conference Social Frontiers: the next edge of social innovation research. London, NESTA, 14-15 November 2013.
Cantù D., Selloni D. (2013). ‘From engaging to empowering: a set of co-design experiments with a service design perspective’. Conference Social Frontiers: the next edge of social innovation research. London, NESTA, 14-15 November 2013.
Cantù, D., Corubolo, M., Simeone, G. (2012). “A Community Centered Design approach to developing service prototypes”. in proceedings of the ServDes Service Design and innovation Conference, Co-creating services. Espoo, Finland, 8-10 February 2012.
Cantù, D. and Simeone, G. (2011). Creating Scenarios for Regional Projects. Service design for multifunctional and collaborative food networks. 2nd Nordic Conference on Service Design and Service Innovation proceedings, Linkoping 1-3 december 2010
C. Cautela; M. Simoni (2013). Product design strategies in technological change, Ed. McGraw Hill
Cautela C., Zurlo F. (2012). “Ambidexterity and dynamic capabilities in design management: an anatomy”, International Journal of Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship.
Collina. L. (2010). “A welcoming city”, in Barbara Golicnik Marusic, Matej Niksic, Lise Coirier, Human Cities. Celebrating Public Spaces, pp.26-30, Stichting Kunstboek
Collina, L., Fassi, D., “System Design for Sustainable Tourism”, in Yongqi, L. (ed.), (2013), Design Harvest. An acupuntural design approach towards sustainability, Mistra Urban Futures, Gotheburg, Sweden.
Fassi, D., Gemayel J., Rogel, L., Seyrig, A., Motter, R. (2012). “The human cities toolbox: how to reclaim public space” in: Niksic, M., Golicnik Marusic, B. Houlstan-Hasaerts, R., Human Cities – Civil Society reclaims public space. Bruxelles, 15/3/2012 – 16/3/2012, p. 16-20, Ljubjlana:Urbani Izzive Publikacije.
Piredda, F., Fassi, D., “In a Garden. Designing Gardens Through Storytelling”, in Collina L., Galluzzo, L., Meroni, A. (eds), The Virtuous Circle Design Culture and Experimentation, proceedings for Cumulus conference Milano 2015, McGrawHill, Milano, 2015. pp.119-129. ISBN 9788838694059 Fassi, D., Sachero, A., Simeone, G., “Designing a Community Garden” in IDEA Journal, “Design Activism”, n°1 – 2015, ISSN 1445/5412, pp.42-53, Fassi D., Wenqing, Y., “Do it again- a community centered design activity on upcycling”, in INTED 9th International Technology, Education and Development conference, Madrid, 2-4/MAR/2015. Conference proceedings. ISBN: ISBN: 978-84-606-5763-7. ISSN: 2340-1079 Chueng-Nainby, P., Fassi, D., Xiao, D.J., “Envisioning Collective Wishes with Local Community for Social Innovation towards Village Regeneration in Inner Mongolia”, in Ma, J., Lou, Y., Fassi, D.. Emerging Practice: inquiry into the developing. Tongji University Press, Shanghai, 2015. ISBN 978-7-5608-6031-2. pp. 5-14
Fassi, D. (2012). Temporary Urban Solutions, Santarcangelo di Romagna: Maggioli Editore
Fassi, D., Rogel, L., (2012). “C’è spazio per tutti / There’s room for one more”, in AA.VV. Cumulus proceedings: Northern World mandate, Helsinki
Ferri. G. (2011). “Il gestore sociale”, Milano: altreconomie edizioni, pp 25-56, 111-125
Ferri. G. (2011). “L’integrazione tra residenza e servizi” in Ferri. G., Pacucci. L., Pero. E. “Nuove forme per l’abitare sociale”, Milano: altreconomie edizioni, pp 32-37
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Manzini, E. and Meroni, A. (2013). ‘Design for Territorial Ecology and a New Relationship between City and Countryside: The Experience of the Feeding Milano Project’. In: Walker, S. and Giard, J. (edited by) The Handbook of Design for Sustainability, Berg, Bloomsbury, London, Chapter 15, pps. 237-254.
Meroni, A. (2013). ‘Un inventario di creatività necessaria per il futuro. / An invetory of creativity necessary for the future’. In Inventario, n. 07, Corraini Edizioni, Milano, pgg 132-145
Meroni, A. (2012). ‘Designing for social innovation. The project “Feeding Milano. Energy for change”’. In: Bartolo R., Cipolla C. Inovação social e sustentabilidade. Desenvolvimento local, empreendedorismo e design. Rio de Janeiro: E-papers, pp. 155-174
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Selloni D. (2014). ‘New service models and new service places in times of crisis. How citizens’ activism is changing the way we design services. CUMULUS Spring Conference 2014 – What’s on: Cultural Diversity, Social Engagement, Shifting Education. University of Aveiro, 8-10 May 2014
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Selloni D. (2013). ‘Service Makers. City dwellers and designers creating a Local Distribution System’. 10th European Academy of Design Conference. Crafting the Future. Göteborg: HDK, School of Design and Crafts, 17-19 April 2013
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