Research Week 2023: Design conference calls for creative solutions to unemployment

The Department of Art and Design hosted the Design methodologies for job creation in Afrika on Tuesday, October 24th, 2023. The conference was part of the 6th edition of the Annual Research Week, which ran from October 23rd to 27th. The theme for this year’s research week was “Harnessing Research for Resilience and Sustainability of Communities.”

The conference aimed to address the pressing issue of unemployment in Africa through innovative design solutions for sustainable employment opportunities. It attracted a diverse audience of enthusiastic art and design students, the esteemed academic staff of the Department of Art and Design, and distinguished design experts from the Technical University of Kenya.

The conference, officially opened by Prof. Justus Munyoki, the Director of Research and Enterprise, served as a platform for interdisciplinary discussions and innovative ideas to tackle one of Africa's most pressing issues: unemployment. Prof. Munyoki emphasized the critical role research plays in economic development, stating, “Research solves problems. This theme is loaded; unemployment is a big problem across the African continent, and designers can help us address this problem."

The Dean of the Faculty, Prof. Lilac Osanjo, underscored the necessity of a multidisciplinary approach to solving contemporary problems. She urged attendees to engage in various discussions and research findings presented during Research Week, emphasizing that today's challenges demand innovative solutions.

The Chairman of the Department of Art and Design, Dr. Samuel Maina said “We gather to address one of the most contentious issues- unemployment. This conference will delve into the application of design to create new avenues for job creation.” He highlighted the need for sustainable job creation and encouraged practical applications of design ideas in real-world settings, especially in rural areas.

The conference covered a myriad of topical issues under three sub-themes:

Subtheme 1: Design Thinking Applied in Identification and Solving Problems for Afrika

Under this sub-theme, discussions delved into innovative solutions such as the potential of mobile augmented reality in interior design education, creating a sense of pride and ownership in sustainable building practices within local communities, and the innovative use of natural waste to encourage clean energy production in African societies. Design-led social media advertising and computer applications in visualization design were also explored.

Subtheme 2: Jumpstarting Enterprises for Rural Communities

Prof. Lilac Osanjo, the Faculty Dean, presented a compelling session on ambitious and compassionate youth start-ups for Africa. The sub-theme also examined the adoption of green building standards for sustainable interiors in Nairobi and the impact of telecommuting and working from home in the design marketplace.

Subtheme 3: Innovations Towards Sustainable African Landscape

This sub-theme explored the design of socially and culturally accessible sanitation facilities for the elderly in rural Gusii, Kenya. Additionally, there were discussions on co-designing communities and developing a Kenyan national dress inspired by Joy Adamson’s paintings.

The conference resonated with insightful quotes from the key speakers, sparking inspiration among attendees. As the conference came to a close, it left a trail of innovative ideas and fresh perspectives on how design methodologies can be harnessed to create sustainable employment opportunities in Africa. With the active participation of art and design students, academic staff, and industry experts, the event truly encapsulated the spirit of collaboration and innovation essential for addressing the continent's employment challenges.

The papers presented during this conference will be published in the next edition of the Africa Design Review-Journal.