The labs and studios at KISD promote and support students’ design research projects and encourage the investigation of research questions in open-ended, explorative and critically reflective design processes.
The labs are regarded as spaces of experimentation where forms and processes of design are analyzed and developed utilizing specific media, materials and tools. The studios are flexible spaces in which techniques and materials are tested or preliminary results are documented with the aim of expanding upon and communicating works of design research at KISD. The transdisciplinary and collaborative work performed in the labs and studios is supported by academic staff and student tutors.
Computing systems and interactive systems, from web applications to games to embedded services, are an integral part of our everyday lives, and their design has a large effect on users’ relationship to technology. In the Physical Computing Lab, investigations into this relationship are encouraged and questions such as how we interact with technology, how we integrate it into our lives and how it impacts our relationship to our environment are considered by means of both application-oriented and speculative designs. The design of computing systems is as important in this respect as the design of their material expressions and physical interfaces.
The Lab thus supplies students both with equipment and tools to develop interactive systems (e.g., Arduino Uno/Nano, Raspberry Pi, ESP32 and a collection of compatible sensors, motors, LEDs etc.), also providing help with coding, and, by its close connection to the Prototyping Lab, with the means to make material enquiries into interfaces.
Physical Computing Lab:
So-called »artificial intelligences« are on everyone’s lips these days, with countless companies and sprouting start-ups citing them as a selling point while they are alternately described as being either universal saviours or an existential threat to humanity. Designers are usually only marginally involved in their development: design aspects are often neglected; the social implications of these systems are not investigated or discussed; the needs of potential users are not taken fully into account, if at all.
The Living Objects Lab is part of a joint project in which KISD and four other universities are working to integrate the teaching of AI methods into the education and training of designers. It is connected to the existing laboratories at KISD, especially the Prototyping Lab, and establishes a space for embedding code – especially advanced algorithms that contain elements of machine learning or deep learning –in materials and objects, thus creating so-called living objects. For this purpose, students in the lab have access to powerful computers, mobile and small single board computers, tiny microcontrollers and a workbench for electronic work. For more complex computing tasks, such as the training of machine learning models, there is also the option of using the computing centre of the joint project.
Material experimentation is at the core of Integrated Design Research at KISD. The translation of ideas into the physical is part of the iterative inquiry into them and holds the potential to produce both new insights and new questions. It further allows designers to explore form and material qualities and their influence on perception, understand physical properties and their implications for production processes, test and refine. The Prototyping Lab with its Model Building, Wood, and Metal Workshops plus Ceramics Studio provides students with the means for physical prototyping, model-building, and material research. It encourages experimentation with both materials and tools, especially regarding modern production techniques, such as 3D printing, which instigate a rethinking of design and design processes.
Amongst other machines, the Lab provides several 3D printers for both quick and dirty as well as high quality model printing (Prusa i3 MK3S printing with filaments and 3DSystems ProJet 360 printing with powder), a laser cutter (SABKO 1290) for cutting or engraving a variety of materials and a thermoforming unit for the generation of plastic parts such as those used in packaging.
In the Wood Workshop, objects and material systems can be crafted with the provided professional carpentry tools and machines. Students with prior training, e.g. as a carpenter, may also use industry standard machines including a sliding table sizing saw, a spindle molder, and a combination jointer and thicknesser. In the Metal Workshop, a wide range of metal sheets and profiles can be cut and processed. Workpieces may be bent, drilled, turned, or milled. Complex constructions may be realized in the workshop by various connection techniques ranging from screwing and riveting to a variety of welding and soldering processes. The Ceramics Studio provides basic equipment for working with the material and an oven which can fire up to 1300° C.
The Textile Lab is an open, adaptive and interdisciplinary space for experimenting with textiles. To investigate topics such as sustainable production, interactive technologies and textiles, or the textile in relation to the human body, several industrial sewing machines, an overlock machine, and a knitting machine are at the disposal of students.
Eating is, above everything else, an experience. It engages all of our senses and, on top of that, is a socially meaningful activity with distinct cultural habits, rituals, and conceptions. Food and food culture is thus a point of interest for research into social conditions and factors influencing dietary habits, cultural constructions of identity, cultural and personal perceptions of sustainability and health, production and distribution models, and many other socially relevant topics.
The Food Lab is a fully equipped professional kitchen lab and an experimentation space not just for food- and food-waste-based products and materials, but also for food design and production processes and food experiences.
Research into materials also includes experimentation with color, its effects and expressions. In the Paintshop and the Screen Printing Studio, students explore physical color – paints, dyes, and pigments – as well as processes of color application in the two- and three-dimensional. They thus gain a theoretical and practical understanding of the material effects of color. The studios provide space and the customary tools to experiment with silk-screen printing and various types of lacquer work and investigate color effects, physical properties of colors, and processes of color application.
Paintshop: Yannick Lange (student tutor)
Screen Printing Studio: Friedel Schlör (student tutor)
The Motion Experience Lab with its integrated VRLab is a hybrid playground environment for researching in the area of image and motion, with a focus on artistic research of augmented motion in the context of performative interaction and interdisciplinary media studies. In a conceptual framework which allows variations and encourages cross-discipline approaches, students conduct hands-on research in high-tech environments on prototypes and designed artifacts, exploring aspects of movement, audiovisuality, spatial performance, interaction, and experience design.
In the Motion Experience Lab, students can work directly with and in Virtual Reality (with tools such as HTC Vive glasses and trackers, Oculus Quest headsets, and a Optitrack MOCAP System with cameras, suits and markersets) or merge and augment reality with the help of green-screens, video-cameras, point cloud tracking cameras (AZURE Kinect), AV equipment (e.g. DMX controlled lights, a Lumidesk Mixer, surround speakers, amplifiers, …) and more.
The Photo Studio promotes experimentation in motives, techniques and processes of photography both digital and analogue; here the camera is used as a tool to explore light, color, form and perspectives. Aspects which have remained hidden before can be rendered visible by adopting the camera’s alternate point of view.
The Photo Studio provides the space and tools for photographic experimentations, but also for students to professionally document prototypes and final designs for presentation. Photographic documentation is a central method of design research and allows reflection both on the final outcome and the processes which have preceded it. Equally important is making one’s work and findings understandable and relatable for others; students are encouraged to reflect on culturally and socially shaped perceptions and concepts of design and to render them visible in their pictures.
The Photo Studio provides professional cameras (among them a Canon 5D DSLR full format and a Hasselblad medium format) and studio equipment, including a table for shooting products, a static background system and an infinity cove. There is also a dark room for processes of developing analogue and black and white photographs, from film development to creating prints.
Photo Studio: Patrick Schwarz
In the Computer Studio, students can experiment, draft, and produce designs digitally. It offers a variety of possibilities for the application of computer, audio, video, and media technology as part of design and is thus a central part of KISD. Students can work individually at one of the many computer workspaces, take advantage of the five-meter infinity cove for photo- or video-productions, or record and edit audio in a two-room booth. A student tutor is present at all times to support students in their endeavors.
The Equipment Service supports the teaching and research areas at KISD and enables creative thinking and designing at all stages of the process – from the work on projects, to the exhibition of outcomes, to their presentation and documentation – by providing the necessary tools, devices, and equipment for rent.
In the Digital Open Learning Lab, innovative concepts and formats are developed for teaching and learning in digital scenarios. The student-centered social learning environment “Spaces”, which is used at KISD and the TH Köln for communication, independent organization of learning, presentation of project, seminar or research work, sharing and discussion of research results, and general community-support, has been developed in the Digital Open Learning Lab. With the help of students, applications are developed iteratively, explored in real-world learning situations, evaluated, improved and reimplemented.
Students have the opportunity to print on a risograph in the RISO Lab at KISD. This special printer allows, on the one hand, the relatively inexpensive printing of a motif in a very large print run and, on the other hand, the use of pre-mixed special colours that cannot be imitated with a digital printer. For example, fluorescent special colours in green, orange or pink can be printed there. In addition, the RISO has some environmentally friendly advantages: The inks are soy-based, so they do not contain silicates or petroleum, and they also do not need to be heated during printing, which saves electricity with every print. The paper offered at RISO-Lab is of course also made of 100% recycled material.
The Risograph is technically on the threshold between analogue screen printing and digital offset printing. It prints from a digital file, but creates a physical “master” from it. Through this he presses the ink from a roll onto the paper. This process means that each print also contains small inaccuracies, inconsistencies and textures. Through the choice of colours and technical features, the RISO creates a very personal aesthetic that makes it a unique printing tool. Students can experiment with the interactions of colours and paper in the RISO Lab and print posters, brochures, flyers or even entire magazines.
In the Writing Lab, the focus is on intensive work on one’s own texts, by which design research processes and outcomes are theoretically reflected, knowledge is generated, design ideas are developed, and transdisciplinary relation and understanding is made possible. The Writing Lab assists students in their writing endeavors, providing individual support in one-on-one and group sessions. Participants test and develop concepts, tools and techniques of scientific and creative writing – be it in regards to free drafting, scientific questions and research methods, perspectives of design research and their evaluations, or literary structures and innovative forms of communication.
Writing Lab: Daniela Meinhardt
Design and exploration in the Print Studio provide a fundamental understanding of the processes of digital print production, as well as of the technical requirements and framework conditions. Students gain insights into the particularities of prepress and experiment with different output media. A student tutor is present at all times to operate the printers with the students. A selection of output materials is available.
Print Studio: Clemens Wahlig
The Service Design Lab is a space for the application of service design principles and methods within KISD. It offers students an ideal environment for interdisciplinary collaboration and the exchange of ideas with fellow students, with experts from other departments or with users in various formats and settings. The Lab allows students to learn the service design process, implement it in real projects, and thus gain hands-on experience in designing solutions that meet the needs of different stakeholders. The lab is equipped with various tools, methods, templates, and resources that allow students to design innovative solutions and create initial prototypes.
An important component of the Service Design Lab is research, where service design is further developed as a discipline. In different contexts, new topics and initiatives are identified, methodologies and processes are adapted, and thus new opportunities for service designers are explored.
Service Design Lab:
Prof. Birgit Mager