Minor Makers Lab: Designing Difference
About the course:
In the course Makers Lab: Designing Difference you will learn to research topics creatively, through making. By leveraging your curiosity, design sensitivity, hacker mentality and maker’s attitude you will explore new perspectives on various societal issues. Sound good? Read on!

Before we can know what will make a difference, we have to understand what it means to be or stay the same, and even to get an understanding of what we mean by“normal”. But when we say that certain things, people, interfaces, bodies, features, preferences, behaviors, collaboration tools or target groups are typical, default or normal, we are making a statement that is heavy with meaning, judgment, and even politics. “Normal” is a stamp that doubles as justification for things to remain the same, whether that is beneficial for all involved or not.

Challenges in today’s society are often complex, and no one (wo)man job, and making change that is an improvement is not a straightforward process. This is why in this program, we will practice falling in love with problems, not solutions.

The course is a combination of an intense training in digital fabrication (tools and techniques like laser cutting, 3D printing, electronics production), an introduction to practice-based creative inquiry (research through design), and an extended exercise in interdisciplinary collaboration. After this course, you will have developed a conceptual and practical methodological toolkit that allows you to creatively research topics through making. All the tools, techniques and methods offered throughout the course are developed to help you question why things are the way they are, and which values are at the core of design decisions.

What to expect:
Learning activities
All learning activities are geared towards these skills:

The hands-on skills, methodological toolkit, and collaboration prowess you will develop throughout the course will enable you to become radically creative in terms of your thinking and your professional practice as designer, thinker or maker. It will prepare you to enter into unlikely interdisciplinary collaborations, and might just serve you for a lifetime of learning and personal development.

Interdisciplinary practice-based creative inquiry
We call the kind of work we do in and outside of class interdisciplinary practice-based creative inquiry. Which means we will generate insights by doing stuff, making (and breaking) things, and reflecting on that process together. The ability to question a complex problem in a precise way, to peel away the layers of a problem and to find multiple interesting perspectives is more important here than immediately solving that problem. You will make the invisible visible and the intangible tangible by building and refining design research tools for a specific context and present these tools and their output in evocative and innovative ways that spark discussion. In close collaboration with peers, coaches, researchers and guests from the fields of design, arts and technology you will explore, inquire, think-through-making, and develop ways to package and present that process as a valuable result in and of itself.

Core recurring activities in the program include:

Grading and credits
The first 10 weeks are dedicated to in-class exercises, discussions and (bi-)weekly assignments to cover a range of methods, core concepts, models of collaboration and design and digital fabrication tools such as 2D design for the laser cutter and plotter, design for 3D printing, molding & casting, and extensive work on electronics skills building. Students explore preferred styles of collaboration and identify their own learning objectives for the course.

Week 11-20 are dedicated to team research projects in collaboration with researchers affiliated with the university’s research labs (eg. Fashion Technology Lab, Visual Methodologies Collective, Citizen Data Lab, Crossmedia, and more).

Students are graded on their progress in three learning objectives (shown on the right) with a formative midterm assessment in week 10, and a summative final assessment in week 20. Students prepare a document to demonstrate their process and products, and reflect on their learning outcomes in a verbal assessment.

These three tracks are not separate courses but are entangled throughout the course. Each assignment allows you to cover all three to varying extent and we will dedicate time to understanding the relationships between all three of them.
Collaborative learning - 10 EC
This course if for you if...
• you are interested in creating a more just world;
• you are curious about things and tools as well as people;
• you want to develop your creative skills as well as your quality of thinking;
• you are able to express yourself in English (verbally and in writing), and are able to work through university-level texts in English;
• you believe collaborating with people with other skills and disciplinary backgrounds extends possibilities to realise great things (and it sure isn’t always easy!);
• you are willing to take responsibility for your own learning: by engaging actively in class, speak your mind, share ideas, contribute, collaborate widely and generously;
• you want to become well-versed in digital fabrication techniques using CNC machines like the 3D printer and laser cutter;
• you are interested in learning (more) about programming and electronics, whether you are a beginner or already design your own PCBs;
• you are willing to make yourself uncomfortable and challenge yourself;
• you are interested in getting better at failing and are ok with the discomfort that can bring.

We welcome students from all disciplines who can demonstrate an interest in making in the broadest sense of the word (be it designing, tinkering, branding, hacking, cooking, collaging, drawing, crafting, building, composing, practicing other art forms) by showing examples of things they have made. We organize intakes to figure out together whether the program is likely to be meaningful and manageable for you.
How to join:
If you decide to register for the course, please also send a letter of motivation and a portfolio (some examples of things you created) to Shirley Niemans: s.j.niemans@hva.nl. The letter of motivation should give us an idea of what/who inspired you to participate in this course and how you think you would benefit from participating in the program. Please include a phone number where we can reach you if we feel it might be wise to manage expectations face to face and make sure this is the right fit for you.
NOTE: Submitting a motivation letter and portfolio via email is mandatory, but it does NOT automatically register you for the course. Remember to also arrange your official enrolment using the university's main minor registration system.
Selection from the class reading list:
A selection of articles and excerpts from the following and complemented with professional literature supporting the semester theme:

• DiSalvo, C. (2012). Adversarial design. The MIT Press.

• Dunne, A., & Raby, F. (2013). Speculative everything: design, fiction, and social dreaming. MIT Press.

• Fuller, M. (2005). Media ecologies: Materialist energies in art and technoculture. MIT press.

• Gaver, W. W., Boucher, A., Pennington, S., & Walker, B. (2004). “Cultural probes and the value of uncertainty”. interactions, 11(5), 53-56.

• Hertz, G. (ed.) (2012) Critical Making. Telharmonium Press. Retrieved at: http://conceptlab.com/criticalmaking/
Lexicon of Design Research, Design Academy Eindhoven, Retrieved at: http://www.lexiconofdesignresearch.com

• “Makers Bill of Rights” (A.K.A. Owner’s Manifesto) Make Magazine. November 26. Retrieved at: https://makezine.com/2006/11/26/owners-manifesto/ 

• Pater, R. (2016) The Politics of Design: A (Not So) Global Manual for Visual Communication. BIS Publishers.

• Ratto, M., & Boler, M. (2014). DIY citizenship: Critical making and social media. MIT Press.

• Van Abel, B., Evers, L., Troxler, P., & Klaassen, R. (2014). Open design now: Why design cannot remain exclusive. BIS Publishers.
looking critically at how ideas of what is “normal” shape the design of every product, object, service and tool we use, and how that translated into forms and material choices;

making explicit which values are at the core at any instance of “normal”, and be able to discuss whether and why these values might not serve everyone in the same way;

developing stimulating what if…? questions to help you open up the design space where you can unleash your creativity and making skills. This is a powerful technique that will help you imagine and effect value-based change through your ideas and designs.
This is a full time program with mandatory plenary sessions on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, plus independent and collaborative study in the lab. All classes (excluding excursions) are taught at the Amstelcampus near Weesperplein, Amsterdam.

Consider material costs of about € 150-250 on account of the student.

In previous year’s evaluation, 11 out of 12 students said to be very satisfied to extremely satisfied with the overall course*

*From a class of 15 students, 12 students submitted a course evaluation

More questions? Contact Shirley Niemans: s.j.niemans@hva.nl
Last year's research projects:
Question: How can we visualize our (possible) relationships to urban nature in a way that sparks discussion and engagement?

Research partners: the Knowledge Mile & the Visual Methodologies Collective

Outcomes: A series of street tiles and an Augmented Reality app that brings to life the various attitudes we have to urban nature, and explores what other relationships with nature and their consequences might look like.
Making Things Visible
The wardrobe as a system
Question: How can we observe the life cycles and value of clothing items in a wardrobe?

Research partner: Fashion Technology & Research

Outcomes: WardProbe: a research tool that asks people to log their motivations and emotions in relationship to the clothing in their wardrobe. The probe helps researchers understand the logics by which people make choices in terms of fashion consumption.
Naya Data
Question: How do design decisions of a measuring device influence the gathering (or creation) of data? How can we make people aware of the consequences such design choices in the system design may have?

Partners: Citizen Data Lab

Outcomes: An interactive installation that deconstructs all layers of a generic sensing device that allows citizens to monitor their surroundings. How does each layer (design, technical, material, code) influence the way data is captured (or created)? What does it mean if such data is always slightly colored? It allows visitors to explore these questions by interacting with the installation.
Museum Experience
Question: How can researchers and museum employees gain museum experience data in a visually appealing and playful way that doesn't disconnect this situated knowledge from the museum experience and its visitors?

Research partner: Readership for Crossmedia

Outcomes: various probes and examples of alternative self-mapping tools that are integrated into the museum experience. The tools gather data that can provide insights, without storing more information than strictly necessary to be informative.
Making Sense (team 1)
Question: How might we imagine future senses using technologies? What makes for a meaningful bodily extension?

Research partner: Fashion Technology & Research

Outcomes team 1: A series of tangible prototypes that explore 1) the body as a technology, 2) how the senses can be misled, and 3) possible body extensions of the future. Additionally, this team developed a set of design prompts to rethink and re-imagine the body, using thought-provoking What if..? questions.
Making Sense (team 2)
Outcomes team 2: An interactive sleeve that detects the presence of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and vibrates when it picks up spikes in electromagnetic activity, allowing you to “get a sense” for when such potentially harmful signals are present in your vicinity.
making, mapping, experimenting, hacking, coding, sketching, tinkering, designing, reflecting and documenting in different modes, using different materials and tools. Weekly supporting activities include: class discussions, reading literature, attending guest lectures, excursions, tutorials and giving peer feedback
image: kristin jakubek
image: kristin jakubek
image: kristin jakubek
image: kristin jakubek & barbara krantz
images: kristin jakubek & barbara krantz
image: kristin jakubek
image: kristin jakubek & barbara krantz
images: barbara krantz, melvin stans, kaj van der ster
images: jesse feenstra & guillaume daumas
images: yannick mulder & nisse van rossum
image:jesse van thijn, ryan narain, melle rijpstra
images: kristin jakubek & frida eriksson
images: geert lens, jaap spruitenburg & anton westin
Useful info:
“What if the solution involves letting the world transform you,
rather than you trying to change the world?”
Design Research Skills - 10 EC
Maker skills & attitude - 10 EC
Enroll now!*
*or email us for a spot on the waiting list
Enroll now!*
*or email us for a spot on the waiting list