Design 101 (or design basics)

Mr Stefano Mirti, Prof. Giovanni Pasca Raymondi and Dott. Lucia Giuliano

Field/Discipline : Art and Art Studies

Language : English

Institution : Whoami / Abadir: and Abadir Fine Arts Academy, Catania

Course Description

This course is a journey into contemporary design through 101 exercises.

Learn by doing and transform your everyday life into 101 projects. Acquire basic design skills while developing interesting, substantial and appropriate ways of thinking for surviving in today’s world. Learn to trigger curiosity in others and find ways to stimulate your peers. See and understand the world in a new and very different way.

Just like any poet, philosopher or musician, being a designer is first of all a state of mind. While writers use novels as their storytelling medium, designers need to tell engaging stories through objects, spaces or services. The only way for learning to do so is by closely linking the conceptual and practical sides of a given project.

Organized in 7 themed families, the exercises involve specific “hands-on” tasks touching various aspects of the design world. In every given exercise, the student will be immersed into a particular subject’s universe through a series of references. Proposed films, books, websites, music will help him develop informed criticism on the certain task he needs to accomplish.

The 7 themes are:

  1. The world of notebooks: recording ideas and observations, Bruce Chatwin, golden proportions, paper-making, binding techniques, freehand drawing, keeping a diary, basic social skills...

  2. The kitchen: designing a perfect diner, listening to others, Bento Boxes, adapting the food to an instrument, learning to fry, planning a budget, comparing quality of products, creating from nothing, Buckminster Fuller, becoming an expert at something...

  3. My bedroom: plans and measures, Le Corbusier, creating a dark room, growing a micro garden, designing and exposing a wunderkammer, John Cage, ready-made furniture, creating a lighting system...

  4. The city: making maps and legends, techniques of photography, personalizing your own bicycle, making a "reportage", Bruno Zevi, looking and documenting architecture, William Burroughs, observing others...

  5. Making things: forms of narration, Carlo Scarpa, learning to write, scale and technical drawings, 3d models, Charles and Ray Eames, theory of forms, planning series, materials...

  6. Clothing: documentation and organization, Vivienne Westwood, typography, Louise Bourgeois, photoshop, serigraphy, custom-made, Issey Miyake, DIY tee-shirts...

  7. Travelling: documenting a weekend, The Beatles, inventing and telling, Orson Welles, researching, observing, Luis Buñuel, staying alone in nature, personalizing a tent, First World War.

The above mentioned activities are the "tools", the excuse. The course's real "goal" is to get to understand yourself in a broader and deeper way, while interacting with the teacher and the other participants.

Learning objectives

  • How does the world look through the special lenses called "design"?
  • Which kind of person/designer am I?
  • What kind of "attitudes" do I have (or do I miss)?
  • Who shares my visions and ideas? (who could I collaborate with in the future?)
  • Finally, do I understand how a community works? Its potential, its functioning, how we can change the world through it?

MOOC relevance

While the whole world is changing at the speed of light, the schools where we teach and learn design remain locked in the past.

In this course, the teacher acts more as a “game moderator” than as a figure of authority. Together with the students, they will create a design community. Making things and sharing them with themselves and others.

A community is the best place to learn. Through a series of exercises, participants will get to know each other, share references, play together and influence others.

The community will become a source of interest and reference to others. The participants will be coauthors of an important collection of content and material. In this course, in a sentence, the community is the message.

Prior Knowledge

No prior knowledge required. If we talk about design, nowadays, we are all "absolute beginners".

With respect to most of the activities, the student could think: "nice, interesting, but I’ve never done anything like this before, I don’t know how to do it, I don’t know this or that technique, I don’t know where to find the specific materials or tools and I have no any idea where to begin".

Well, that’s exactly the point: it only makes sense when we’ve never done it before and it makes our heads spin because we don’t know where to start.


  • P2P-grading of assignments
  • Discussions / Q&A

Additional tools

Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

The whole community will live on a dedicated webpage.
Furthermore, we will have a Facebook page, as well as a Facebook group. Things we do will be also broadcast and shared with Twitter and Instagram.

Use of online-tools

An important skill to acquire in this course is the ability to communicate and transfer knowledge in the most efficient way. Through social media, the student will test his own social influence and get external feedback on his work.

Furthermore, the course will have its own social media accounts for publishing daily the students’ most interesting works, the most “liked”, those that received the most feedback. The course will thus become a source of reference and interest to others.

Finally, through a system of hashtags, the content shared and published through these media will be redirected and reorganized into a digital archive available to all. At the end of the course, students will have the possibility to print this archive into a book in which they are a coauthor.


Walter Aprile, Britta Boland, Stefano Mirti, "Interaction Design Primer", Postmedia Books, 2006.

Then, you could take a look to this video of my students' works when I was the head of NABA design school:

This is also interesting:

Here, the website of my class at Università Bocconi, Milano (design for business students):

Furthermore, the best way to understand the course is to follow my flow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Being myself very sociable, if you follow my threads, you understand what kind of course it will be.

On Facebook:
On Twitter and Instagram: @stefi_idlab

Mr Stefano Mirti (Whoami / Abadir:



Degree + PhD in Architecture at Politecnico di Torino. Post-doc at Tokyo University. Teaching at Tama Fine Art Academy (Tokyo) and then at Interaction Design Institute Ivrea (2001/2005). From 2007 to 2011 director of NABA design school, then in charge of the design course at the Bocconi university in Milan. Since 2006 he is one of the partners of Id-Lab (responsible of all the design activities). Currently busy with, the prototype of a new school on-line / off-line / game. Since January 2013, he is one of the two curators of the Biodiversity Pavilion for Milan World Expo 2015.

Prof. Giovanni Pasca Raymondi (Abadir Fine Arts Academy, Catania)



Professor of History of Design from 1998 to 2008, he was chairman of the Bachelor Course and the Master Course in Design for the Mediterranean area at the University of Palermo, where he was also coordinator of the PhD in Industrial Design. From 2008-9 he teaches Contemporary designers at Politecnico di Milano, Design at IULM and History of Design at ISIA in Florence. He’s president of the Italian Association of Design Historians. He leads the series of books * Design for the publisher Lupetti / Editori di comunicazione and he is director of the following magazines: the free magazine Design Review, Zerocento Editors, Palermo; the on-line trough which he promoted in 2008 the first International Competition Mediterranean Design with a first exhibition and conference in Istanbul and a second edition in Barcelona in 2011.
He has been curator, among others, of the following exhibitions:

La cultura e i mobili degli Shaker, Milano 1984; Minimal design, Kortrijk 1995; Brasil faz design, Milano, São Paulo, Rio, Bahia 1996 e São Paulo, Milano, 1997 e 1998; Vico Magistretti, Milano 1997; Thirteen Years of Young Portuguese Design, Lisboa, settembre 1999; 1999 Italia- Europa/ scenari del giovane design europeo (con Giulio Cappellini), Verona, ottobre 1999, Oltre il design europeo- Progetti dal mondo, Verona 2000; Young Design from Israel, Triennale Milano 2004; Theater of Italian Creativity (con Gae Aulenti), New York 2003; Achille Castiglioni, Palermo 2004; 1978-2008: Made in Italy, National Museum, Brasilia 2008; Design Mediterraneo- Mediterranean Design, Istanbul 2009.

He has written or edited, among others, the following books:

Vico Magistretti- l’eleganza della ragione, Idea Books, Milano; Rizzoli International, New York; Thames and Hudson, London; Gustavo Gili, Barcelona; Ernst & Sohn, Berlin, 1991; Design: storia e storiografia, Esculapio, Bologna 1995; Arti applicate fra XVIII e XIX secolo: personaggi, fabbriche, eventi (a cura di), Appunti del Museo Bagatti Valsecchi, Lupetti, Milano1996; Minimalismo-Etica delle forme e nuova semplicità nel design (con Fulvio Carmagnola), Lupetti, Milano 1996; Vico Magistretti, architetto e designer (con Fulvio Irace), Electa, Milano 1999, Christopher Dresser. Il primo industrial designer, Lupetti, Milano 2001. Scenari del giovane design- Idee e progetti dall’Europa e dal mondo, Lupetti, Milano 2002; Corporate image, Lupetti, Milano 2006.

Dott. Lucia Giuliano (Abadir Fine Arts Academy, Catania)



Studied at the Faculty of Architecture in Palermo and at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Barcelona (ETSAB) obtaining a MA degree -Historia, arquitectura, arte y ciudad- and DEA degree (Diploma de Estudios Avanzados)in the Projects Department.

From 2000 to 2011 she worked at the Arata Isozaki office in Barcelona, as architect in concept and design buildings. She participated to several project developed between Barcelona and Tokyo: Distrito 38 master plan and office building in collaboration with Foreign Office (London), Illa de Blanes, Isozaki Atea in Bilbao, Bahns d’Arties Resort Spa, Public Housing Carabanchel 21 in Madrid, Hotel Puerta America in Madrid, National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) in Cairo. Beyond architecture, she also collaborated to several publications for the office and she is still maintaining a freelance collaboration for the Social Housing project, Carabanchel 21 in Madrid, now under construction. During her period at AIA office she broadened her interests in intersection between architecture, contemporary culture, territory and current issues in society. In 2008 she began her collaboration with Laura Cantarella, running the research project Topography of Trauma, one of the first activities of Landform. From 2010 she is full time engaged as director of ABADIR Academy (Arts Between Architecture Design & Interdisciplinary Research) in Catania.