China, Hong Kong, HKDI DESIS Lab for Social Design Research

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Starts: 22 March, 2016
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Instructors: China, Hong Kong, HKDI DESIS Lab for Social Design Research
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HKDI DESIS Lab for Social Design Research (香港知專設計學院.社會設計工作室)

City: Hong Kong
Country: China
Coordination: Mr Magnum Lam,
Management: Mr Michael Chan, and Ms Cecile Kung,
Tel.: +852 3928 2479
Hosting institution: Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI), 3 King Ling Road, Tseung Kwan O, New Territories, Hong Kong, China

Background and objectives

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

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

Our aim is to set up a research platform of social design, an emerging field that advocates 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 practice to benefit Hong Kong society. The team is committed to the practice of “participatory design” and “design how to live”, an open-for-all design concept, alongside with the utilisation of up-to-date design knowledge to achieve advancement in our life and society.

Primary research areas and activities

The HKDI DESIS Lab’s methodology involves generating knowledge through two ways: Programmes with different communities and a series of “Design Possible Studies”.

HKDI DESIS Lab’s ‘Design Possible Studies’:
During the first year of its development, four possible Design Studies were initiated: (1) Dying (死), (2) Ageing (老), (3) Home (家), (4) Open Design (開放設計). Until spring 2017, we had conducted several design-focused events, which directly engaged more than 2,000 design students and more than 70,000 Hong Kong citizens in participation.

HKDI DESIS Lab Social Design Programmes:
Graduate Trainee Programme
HKDI’s first Graduate Trainee programme was established to provide HKDI graduates with intensive training and guidance to develop projects that can make an impact in society.

DesignAge HK Club – Senior Citizens Engagement programme
It was launched at the Retiree & Senior Expo Hong Kong 2014. Over 400 senior citizens were recruited to be active design partners participating in design activities organised by HKDI DESIS Lab and HKDI academic departments.

List of projects and research

  1. Possible Study of Dying – Since 2013

In July 2013, HKDI DESIS Lab kick-started its 1st Possible Study of 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 part 1 of the Fine Dying Study in 2013 involved 300 HKDI design students and 100 senior citizens in Hong Kong over a two-month period of co-designing dying matters.

  1. Design Our Village with Elders (DOVE) – Since 2014

The 2nd 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 many innovative ideas were developed by young design students with senior citizens in Hong Kong which included assistant devices for home and new spatial concepts for care homes/community living.

  1. Ageing Case Study Book (January – November 2014)

HKDI DESIS Lab is leading 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.

  1. Possible Study of Home – Since December 2013

‘Draw Your Home!’ Study is the 3rd Possible Study of the HKDI DESIS Lab, which is an extension of the collaborative project ‘Patterns of Living’, conceived by HKDI DESIS Lab and HKDI’s Department of Product and Interior Design. The project was extended from design students to senior citizens and secondary school pupils. All participants were empowered by learning spatial design tools in order to express their expectation of future home design in Hong Kong.

  1. Open Health – March 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 medicine packaging and appointment system, in order to develop effective campaigns for improvement.

  1. Open Dementia – Since 2015

The Open Dementia project is a project 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.

  1. Open Design Forums/Cumulus Hong Kong – 2014/2015/2016

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.

  • The 1st Open Design Forum was staged on 28-29th 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. This is why we organised the 2nd Open Design Forum, which consisted two main features: Open Design Weekend (28-29 Nov): Through different design actions (Hacking Data! Fixing Things! Measuring Bodies! Drawing Flowers! And Opening City!), and concluded with the 2nd Open Design Forum (30 Nov) which we aimed to know better what design could do for a more open society.
  • The discussion finally accomplished at the Cumulus Hong Kong 2016 which theme was ‘Open Design for E-very-thing’ and expanded to six tracks on diverse aspects of open design with international design researchers.


Lee Y, Hendriks N & Tsang A. ‘Open Dementia Project: Empathic tools between magic and everyday life’, Proceedings of Cumulus Hong Kong Conference, November 2016

Lee Y, Light A, Binder T & Tsang A. ‘Democratic Design Experiments: From Open Design to Open Society’, Proceedings of Design Research Society Conference (DRS), Brighton, UK, June 2016

Tsang A & Lee Y (2014), ‘Democratisation by Design: New possibilities of design education by sharing design knowledge to the community’, at Cumulus Johannesburg Conference, South Africa

Lee Y, Lau M, Eide EK & Ryhl C (2014) ‘Ageing in Bergen: a collaborative design experiment to explore interdisciplinary diversity and design citizenship’, at Cumulus Johannesburg Conference, South Africa

Lee Y, Ho D & Tsang A (2013), ‘Design for the Ingenuity of Ageing: New Roles of Designers in Democratic Innovation’ co-authored by Dr Yanki Lee and Dr Denny Ho Kwok Leung, paper presentation at the Social Frontiers conference, NESTA, Shoreditch, London, UK

Lee Y & Ho D (2013), ‘The Ingenuity of ageing: An experiment to explore the Role of Designers as a Moral subject’, Proceedings of the Nordic Design Research Conference 2013, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation in Copenhagen, Denmark/K3 Malmo, Sweden

Lee Y & Ho D (2013), ‘Design for Ageing and Happiness: From ‘Design Things to a solution-focused design approach and design intelligence’, Proceedings the 5th International Congress of International Association of Societies of Design Research (IASDR), Tokyo’s Shibaura Institute of Technology

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: 978-988-12325-6-4

French H & Lee Y. Patterns of Living: Hong Kong’s High-Rise Communities 設計生活模式 香港高. Hong Kong: New Talents Press, 2013. ISBN: 978-988-12324-4-1