Completed PhD thesis: Selin Gürdere Akdur on social design in Turkey

My first ever PhD student to complete her studies, Selin Gürdere Akdur has successfully completed her PhD, titled “Socially oriented design practices in Turkey: A critical analysis of participation and collaboration” and presented her thesis on 16 September 2019. Her work involved the compilation and analysis of 93 social design practices at the first stage, and the analysis of participatory approaches via in-depth interviews with facilitators of a selection at the second stage. The findings of the first stage were published here, where we discuss the salient features of the social design field in Turkey, from which we start deriving a framework for the study of local social design practices.

Social Design in Turkey: Paper on The Design Journal

Our paper with Selin Gürdere has been published on the Design Journal as advance online publication. The paper reviews 27 social design projects from Turkey, uses those to provide a local overview. The abstract goes as follows:

Selin Gürdere Akdur and Harun Kaygan (2019). Social Design in Turkey through a Survey of Design Media: Projects, Objectives, Participation Approaches. The Design Journal, 22(1). DOI: 10.1080/14606925.2018.1560592

The literature on social design consists of studies that report on single cases on the one hand and global reviews that are offered for theoretical purposes on the other. There is a lack of local reviews that report on social design practices that stem from peculiar political, economic, design professional and educational contexts. In response to this gap, we provide a review of 27 social design practices in Turkey from the last decade. The projects are compiled in accordance with social design criteria derived from the literature. Sampled projects were analysed via textual analysis of their representations on design media. In our findings, we demonstrate the ways in which local context shapes local social design practices. We also outline a framework for the discussion of prominent issues, range of actors, objectives, and participatory approaches.

This was a difficult one to write, and it took a huge amount of time and effort to come up with workable selection criteria and a representative selection of projects. It was equally difficult to fit everything into 7000 words. By the way, we do not say that these are the best or even the better projects; we know that there are designers out there in Turkey, trying their best to be helpful, to bring change. We hope that the paper will draw attention to projects happening in Turkey, regardless of whether they are presented here. We also hope that similar work is produced for other places so that we can compare and learn and devise strategies.

Download the paper here. (Please note that this is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in The Design Journal on 21 Jan 2019, available online: here.)

CfP: Socially and critically engaged design (DRS Learn X Design 2019)

We have proposed a special track for the DRS Learn X Design 2019 Fifth International Conference for Design Education Researchers, which will take place on 9-12 July 2019 at METU, Ankara. Deadline for papers is 10 December. See our call below:


Harun Kaygan (METU), Selin Gürdere (METU), Åsa Ståhl (Linnaeus U.), Guy Julier (Aalto U.)

Recent literature on design competences reports how design education has changed both its emphases and contexts over the last decades. As design educators, we all seem less concerned with the traditional, technical and designerly skills, than ‘soft’ skills, which are expected to help design graduates at the job market navigate a wide range of job offerings as curators, coordinators, design thinkers, and strategists. In these roles designers collaborate with a wide range of stakeholders for a seemingly endless range of innovation problems. A common sight in design curricula are those projects that are shaped with social and political considerations: projects where design students work with communities, with schools, with local craftpersons; projects of criticality and fiction through which they inquire into todays and futures; projects where they learn to position themselves not only professionally but politically within real-world environments. Rather than considering merely to prime our students for a more flexible job market, however, design educators are genuinely enthused by the learning opportunities that socially oriented projects offer: in teaching design students lessons in social responsibility, critical thinking, political awareness, and empathy.

We are interested in papers that contribute to a discussion over possibilities of integrating socially and critically oriented pedagogies in design education. Possible topics are as follows:

– Strategies for integrating social responsibility, critical thinking, feminist epistemologies and intersectional positions, politics of dissent, etc., into design curricula.
– Use of ethnographic, generative and other design research methods in teaching for fostering awareness, reflexivity, criticality and empathy.
– Shortcomings of novel learning models or practices as currently applied in design education.
– Studies of power asymmetries within social, participatory and critical design practices in education, not least between design educators, design students and project stakeholders.

DiSalvo, C. (2012). Adversarial Design. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
Dunne, A. and Raby, F. (2013)
Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction and Social Dreaming. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
Ratto, M. (2011). Critical Making: Conceptual and Material Studies in Technology and Social Life.
The Information Society, 27(4), 252-260.
Schalk, M., Kristiansson, T., and Mazé, R. (Eds.) (2007).
Feminist Futures of Spatial Practice: Materialisms, Activisms, Dialogues, Pedagogies, Projections. Baunach, Germany: AADR (Spurbuchverlag).
Simonsen, J. and Robertson, T. (Eds.) (2012).
Routledge International Handbook of Participatory Design. New York: Routledge.

Conference website is You may download the call for papers here. There is a submission template and a link for submissions.