From Sydney to Shanghai
Despite the different country, language and culture, Nadia Lee couldn’t help but see the similarities between Shanghai and Sydney when she attended Tongji Design Week last October.
Tongji Design Week is an annual conference held by the Tongji University College of Design and Innovation. It’s an opportunity for thought leaders to gather and discuss how design can address global challenges and elevate our quality of life. With the conference’s philosophy so closely echoing that of UTS’s Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation (FTDi), it made sense that an FTDi student would attend – and Nadia was over the moon to be that lucky student who received the call.
“I had never been to a design innovation conference before, certainly not to represent any institution,” Nadia exclaimed, “I just couldn’t say no!”
So right before she handed in her final assignment for her Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation (BCII) degree, at the invitation of the faculty Nadia Lee jetted off to attend the 2018 Tongji Design conference and explore ‘Design for Collaborative Cities’ on an international scale.
Once Nadia touched down, picked up her nametag and got into the swing of the conference, the striking similarity to what she’d learnt during BCII became increasingly apparent. “In many ways being a BCII student is a privilege as you are given constant exposure to the newest and most exciting ideas,” Nadia said. Because of this exposure, “most of the ideas raised by the speakers sounded familiar.” Not to mention Professor Kees Dorst – one of FTDi’s founding academics – was also one of the conference’s key speakers.
“From Kees Dorst’s monochromatic slides about Design Thinking we all know and love, to MIT Lab’s presentation of real-time sociographics mapping of cities modelled in Lego blocks that blew me away, all ideas that were presented were passion filled and innovation driven; which are the core values of BCII.”
“Kees said something at the conference that not only resonated with the audience but made an indent in me, and that is that ‘you can never solve problems, but you can bring them forward to a better place’. At Tongji Design Week organisations were doing just that – recognising that they may never revolutionise the world, but just maybe they’re able to bring it forward to a better place.”
What this conference reiterated for Nadia was that these complex, global problems – like the future of our cities – don’t have simple solutions. Being able to witness how thought-leaders approached design for these challenges was a powerful reminder of how shifting your thinking can completely alter your understanding of problem spaces.
“This process may feel slower, but it is more meaningful – and it all starts with observing the problem in depth.”
Now, with her final assignments submitted and her graduation set for this year, Nadia can’t wait to see what the future will hold. And her final thoughts on that whirlwind trip to an international design conference in Shanghai?
“It was definitely a unique experience.”