The closure of the Portuguese design center in 2013, left Portugal with no governmental instruments of mediation between the Portuguese design ecosystem and the socio-economic fabric. DesignOBS, a 4-year research project aiming to identify, map and interpret the Portuguese design landscape, aimed to tackle this issue via the development and application of a distributed and participatory observation approach, that integrated the knowledge of local nuclei, namely, design schools, about certain vectors of the national design ecosystem. The application of this approach to gather and discuss about the different vectors (design companies, education, research, users), and the use of information design as an approach to interpret and materialize data resulted in 10 open datasets about design in Portugal; 41 infographic posters developed by design students and design professionals; 2 dynamic visualisations with an info-object; 3 national design meetings; 2 design exhibitions; and 9 short- to long-term strategic actions to enhance the design ecosystem in the country. With the project at an end, reflections about the continuation of this collective endeavour are being discussed and tackled, first, at the country level, to find potential mechanisms that could lever continuous observation and representation of design in Portugal; and second, at the European level, to reflect on alternative strategies and actors that can support these actions in countries with similar conditions as Portugal – that is, with no specific entities dedicated to design observation/representation.
Researcher, Communication and Art, Universidade de Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal
DESIGN ECOSYSTEM, DESIGN OBSERVATION, PARTICIPATORY APPROACH
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