fbpx MDES 06 – Field Exploration, Motivation Discussions, and a Chair — PCA

MDES 06 - Field Exploration, Motivation Discussions, and a Chair

The fun photoshoot - Florian Hubertus

Every week, we bring you Masters in Design for Social Impact (MDES) happenings. This is MDES 06 by Rica Amaral.


The number six is the first perfect number in mathematics (a perfect number is when all the number’s divisors are added the sum equals the number itself) and it has fascinated mathematicians since ancient Greece for its rarity; coinciding with its meaning, our week number 6 at PCA was as unique.

The week started with a change in classes: we had a make-up class for Design Studio instead of Research & Methodology. We continued learning the potentials of Rhino software and 3D modelling by making our first object, a copy of a simple IKEA chair. It was fun to finally start with our hands-on activities. We were even able to play a bit with textures and some of us made grass tops. Monday afternoons I went to my Semiotics class for the last time, as I had to rearrange my schedule to get a more balanced school/work/life relationship. That said, I’m definitely taking with me new tools of finding meaning in everything that surrounds us, something that is very important in any kind of social communication. If you are interested in learning more about this, you should check the website that was turned into a book (in its 3rd edition already): Semiotics for Beginners by Daniel Chandler. It’s an introductory book to how the science of signs helps us find (and give) meaning to things.

The next day was our first full day with Sabine our Design for Social Impact mentor from MakeSense at PCA. First, we had our leadership development class in which we discussed the content from the first week of our online course. We all chose one of three tracks: People, Ecosystem or Innovation & Tools. This course is a dive into MakeSense’s best practices in the design process and in leading projects. After all, to be successful in making an impact in any community, we need the skills to gather people around a cause; we need to acknowledge and understand our local ecosystem for ideating an assertive solution; and the practical tools to make everything happen. It has been interesting to see videos from people all around the world in the MakeSense community sharing their expertise and experiences – we’re all excited to see how everything unfolds during the next months.


In the afternoon, we had our Design Thinking class where Sabine facilitated the discussion around field immersion and its process and methodologies. For us to go any further in developing Design for Social Impact, we need to have an emphatic and curious mindset. It’s all about asking the people of interest their opinions and experiences to be able to come up with relevant insights. All good design projects start with a good field study: ask, listen, listen a bit more and observe. It’s through understanding and analysis that a social project thrives. One way that we are trying as MDES students to make an impact here in our school community is engaging with others: I participated in a photo shoot for my friend and fellow PCA student Cameron – an excellent way of decompressing a long and busy day with friends.

Wednesday arrived, and it was time to play with the machines at Draft Studios! YAY! I was so looking forward to it! The plan was to play with the 3D printers, but we did Laser Cut instead. As I only planned a project for the 3D printer, I had to adapt it to a different format. I had some problems finalizing my adaptation as my skills in Adobe Illustrator are similar to my skills in table tennis: I comprehend the concept and tools, but that doesn’t translate into success without a lot of practice beforehand. I was happy in tagging along with my fellow students and their superfine projects, like Vaila, who laser-cut a Paris city map onto a piece of red leather.

For lunch, we had a really special gathering back at PCA with Jeanne Granger, the founder of La Reserve des Arts, and Sabine from MakeSense. We enjoyed delicious vegan food and snacks (UHU Sara!) while discussing the things that drive us and how to approach social change in our society today. It was inspiring to hear a bit more about what drives everyone that is studying in our program and it was a particularly good exercise for me to think, rethink, put in check and reassure the reasons I moved from Berlin to Paris to pursue this master degree. Mind challenging discussions, I like that.

As we didn’t have classes on Thursday afternoon, I had to go to PCA for my Art of Code class: one of the electives I take. It’s a great place to learn a bit about coding and play with it artistically. If you enjoy this as much as I do, I suggest checking out the website we use in class, Open Processing.Org, where you can see many amazing art code projects and learn how to do your own.

That was it for the week. Time is passing by fast, and there’s no time to lose!

We are looking forward to what this week will bring! :)