Imaginary Life

Institute of Advanced Design Studies to launch in Budapest

We are very excited and proud to announce that The Institute of Advanced Design Studies (IADS), a new educational platform set to launch this October in Budapest, Hungary, co-founded by Karina Vissonova, PhD and Róbert Héjja, PhD.

Some of you may remember the article on Karina we published a while back. Well, she has been busy again! Her partner in this new venture, Róbert Héjja, is a well-known financial investor with a strong interest in green investments.

The Institute’s vision is to create a new wave of multidisciplinary design thinkers who will bring new sets of skills to their respective fields for radically increased sustainability. Ethics is at the heart of the venture; an idea that it is time for design to solve global challenges and that technology should be harnessed for the benefit of humanity and the environment.

The Institute’s manifesto is a summary of their values and learning objectives: Radically Sustainable, Deeply Ethical, Practically Resourceful, Respectfully Challenging and Openly Interconnected.

The highly integrated and interdisciplinary nature of the programmes is designed to complement well-established academic courses. The programmes are modular and combine the latest co-creative tools and processes used at leading organisations and consultancies with the Philosophy of Design and Ethics. As an independent, not-for-profit educational platform, all profits will be redirected to creating new educational and research opportunities and scholarships aligned with their values.

A One-Year Postgraduate Course for a select group of peers
Every year, the Institute will select a complementary group of 25 postgraduate students to work intensively together with some of the world’s leading names in sustainability, design, product and service development and technology. These visiting lecturers replace a traditional faculty, allowing students gain access to an immersive learning experience with experts active in their field. Both the tutors and the students explore subjects in depth, with the shared ambition of shaping more comprehensive solutions that consider the potential impact of design manifestations, whether those outcomes are intentional or not.

Students leave the course armed with the latest knowledge on current developments in design, such as Design Thinking, new approaches such as Circular Economy, and how to organise around the continuous change. At the end of the one year course, the students publish their process and findings and are issued a diploma in Advanced Design Studies for Sustainability acknowledging their attendance and accomplishments.

In parallel to the postgraduate programme, the Institute will host extra-curriculum short courses and lectures in collaboration with the Arts Quarter Budapest. These courses also are open to external students.

art quarter pic

Venue and Collaborative Partner: Art Quarter Budapest
The Institute’s activities will be based at Art Quarter Budapest, an international contemporary art centre dedicated to the development of art and new media. Located in the vibrant city of Budapest, it consists of several buildings with indoor and outdoor exhibition space, workshop studios, residencies and common rooms.
The Institute began its collaboration with Art Quarter Budapest in 2018 with a common goal of advancing knowledge in the fields of Art and Design. Our extra-curriculum workshops and short interdisciplinary courses are run in collaboration with Art Quarter.

Launching during Design Week Budapest 2018
The two founders, Karina and Róbert will present their vision at a launch party and 3-day seminar and workshop during Design Week Budapest this October. Between the 10th and 12th October, there will be a series of seminars and workshop activities on biomimicry, where artists, designers and participants from other backgrounds such as ecology, technology, or engineering will work with each other to generate ideas applicable in arts and design inspired by nature.

Bookmark to follow!

Seeing things differently. Design Thinking needs Critical Thinking.

Every design process is multi-disciplinary, with a process that aims to take into account multiple perspectives. But how much do our design decisions create negative impacts and outcomes that we would, normally, horrify us – if we consciously designed them?

This is the challenge Design Thinking faces. To go deeper to create zero negative impact on the world around us. Visualizing complexity is a design approach that has always been used to handle multi-layered facts and perspectives. But how can we challenge the assumptions and preconcieved ideas we don’t even know we have?

By using creative methods to visualize dry data, diverse people in an organization can be engaged in critical decision-making, from the outset of a project, but most importantly, when our design is out there in the world. We need to design continuous improvement out on the marketplace into our products, services and systems.

Turning dry facts into deep insights enables rapid and relevant decision-making. And it is only the people within a company who can know what relevant steps are needed for innovation. Doing the right things based on the wrong assumptions is not innovation.

An easy to understand example we can all understand are maps. Maps have to be ‘designed’ correctly for the specific task at hand. Take the world map as we know it today. The Gerardus Mercator’s projection was first published in 1569, and became widespread because it depicts a line of constant bearing as a straight line, which was relevant at the time for marine navigation. But the drawback of using that map today, to visualize new and existing business markets, is that it distorts the shapes and relative sizes of all the countries. The map distorts our perception of the world and how we view people from various parts of the world.

The map of True Africa created by Kai Krause, shows that Africa is far larger than we think. Then see the maps on land area to population, or amount of money per head spent on healthcare, and we instantly gain a more informed picture on which to base our innovation strategies.

The True Africa map by Kai Krause shows the size of the continent in relation to European counties.

The True Africa map by Kai Krause shows the size of the continent in relation to European counties.

The Gerardus Mercator’s projection was made for marine navigation.

The Gerardus Mercator’s projection was made for marine navigation.

Map from shows public health spending to population

Map from shows public health spending to population

Innovation is not so much of an outcome, as a process of asking the right questions at the right time, and asking them again and again, reiteratively. Since a company’s offering exists in real-time, across connected or digitally enabled networks, so too do the insights and information that continuous questioning and decision making are based on need to be in real-time. Innovation means never being satisfied with the obvious assumptions. And to break preconceived ideas we now have big data and data visualization.

Although a company cannot map all the potential outcomes of its activities, visual mapping can play a large part in nurturing breakthrough thinking so that a company can focus on what it does best – and partner for the rest to bring in more critical thinking. Critical thinking is what is lacking in Design Thinking.

Data visualization has yet to find its role in delivering real-time information for communications within a company, for critical decision making, or for real time communications between a company and its network, who, in a connected world, should be more deeply engaged in the ongoing strategies, activities and outcomes that bring to life a brand’s vision of innovation without negative impact on environment, communities, nature…existing economies and cultures, and of course, health.

Maps don’t always make good online interfaces, but they do help us understand data in an intuitive way. Moving into a service-driven world, a company’s offering is continuously evolving and data visualization can be used to engage different types of stakeholders in the ongoing process of value generation.

Imagine, for example, a call to action to developers to test and hack a beta digital service “pre-launch”. Or real time, localized invitations for users to swarm around an open innovation event, on and offline. Or adding services by using data collected from the public realm, such as traffic or weather reports, or national averages on life expectancy in relation to lifestyle choices. Innovation as continuous improvement should be continuous rather than be an occasional manned mission to Mars.

Visual maps in themselves do not tell us what to do, but they can help us harness knowledge and creativity to solve critical issues and problems. No market research report or marketing message can compete with factual, real time information. We need to use technology and its designs to help us question all the assumptions that we take for granted- and make sure our good intentions result in meaningful and even destructive activities.


Mesh cities app

A new app called MESHcities is about to be released to discover and/or share best practices for smart and sustainable cites. Until it’s out, follow them on Twitter @meshcities, or their website. And here is an intresting blog post on the future city by meshcities founder Robert Ouellete.


radioshenyen: another girl

feb 2011 Birmingham, UK

“There is a fine line between what we like and what affects us. There is a fine line between what we can manipulate and what is close to us. There is a fine line between using technique and making music. We must be open to the spaces (silence) in order to fill them just right. We must see the spaces, inhabit them, live them. Then the next note, the next move, becomes apparent because it is needed. Until it is apparent, nothing should be played. Until it is known, nothing should be anticipated. Until the whole appears, the parts should not be criticised. Until — ”
— (source unknown) (IL: Keith Jarrett, we think)

“Another picture was of two girls with their arms around each other’s shoulders, their heads tilted to the left, gazing at the camera with similar expressions and an incredible assurance, as if they had just set foot on this planet or their suitcases were already packed to leave.”
 Roberto Bolano, ‘2666’

In Colombo a man lies sprawled out along a bus shelter bench, holding his head. beneath a poster of a smiling vibrant female boxer.

A girl steps onto the bus wearing a t-shirt that says ‘another girl’.

A shop selling bird cages and weighing scales, examples of both hanging in the window, each of them empty in their own way.

An 87 year old blind woman becomes president of Egypt. The ghost of a 9 year old girl wanders the Midosuji line singing her grandmother’s favourite enka song.

A traffic accident victim lies dead in the middle of the road covered by a plastic sheet with only his feet sticking out, next to his smashed motorbike which has only one wheel. In the twenty minutes it takes for the police to arrive and sort out the traffic jam that my bus is caught in I watch people get out of cars and off the bus to go forward to have a look. I cannot understand anything they are saying but I know its a death scene. As the bus finally drives past the body the image of the victim lying there with just his feet sticking out of the sheet strikes me very strongly and I start saying vajrasattva mantras for him.

The bus driver is driving like a maniac but I dont mind, wrapped as i am in a cocoon of silence and faith, inside the formlessness of my life’s direction. The bus radio is playing Indian pop, the kind where the male singer sounds like he’s singing in front of a mirror and is profoundly moved by the beauty he’s seeing there, and the female singer sounds like an angel who made it to heaven on the strength of her housework. And then Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’ mixed to a techno beat starts and suddenly I realise there’s no such thing as a ‘buddhist country’, there are only buddhist moments: buddhist bus journeys, buddhist convenience store car parks, buddhist playlists.

Outside departure gate 7 an airport worker walks past pushing a cart stacked with a pyramid of different coloured plastic bins. As she passes beneath a structure hanging from the ceiling – a crown of little golden lights – her gaze meets mine and we smile. And I say to myself: all tools, all technologies, are essentially extensions of the body: pencils, shopping bags, aeroplanes, tantric sadhanas. I make no distinctions.

Secrets, when combined with love and selflessness, are the greenhouse of language.

On the plane during take-off, listening to favourite songs, I can still see vividly the image of the road accident victim, and the songs become prayers that the dead man’s universe reappears as a white limousine with 17,000 wheels to make up for the one he lost yesterday, a century ago, just now.

Until next time


Nokia imagining the future

This concept allows to you to experience immersion and effortless navigation in new ways. New types of interactions involving near-to-eye displays, gaze direction tracking, 3D audio, 3D video, gesture and touch. Through these new types of social linkages people will be connected in innovative ways between the physical and digital worlds.

radioshenyen november 2008

november 2008
london, just before leaving for spain.

“People on distant streets seemed to be moving gently over my own remote periphery…”
– paramahansa yogananda, “autobiography of a yogi”

“we pass on merely from village to town, and from town to desert… but we are also passing from century to century…”
– holman hunt

she walks right past me, one of thousands drifting across the floor of this crowded afternoon train-station in japan, doesn’t even catch my eye and doesn’t need to, she just needs to be the person she has always been, living at a pace that allows me to read those two amazing words on her t-shirt, those two words that stop the world: “incense planet”.

at the airport a few hours later i’m reading a 15th century zen poet sing of his blind lover’s name: “your name Mori means ‘forest’ like the infinite green distances of your blindness”.

back in london i’m reading an essay on partial and complete orderings in mathematical sets. the thoughts and pre-ceptions it is triggering are really beautiful: “… the mathematical structure known as a partial ordering better describes most humanly interesting phenomena than do other orderings. a partial ordering is any set with an ordering (ie some elements of the set are greater than others) that allows for some pairs of elements to be incomparable. it is to be contrasted with a linear or total ordering where everything has its place in the order… in fact, trying to convert a partial ordering into a total one is, i think, at the root of many problems. for example, reducing intelligence to a linear ordering – a number on an IQ scale – does violence to the complexity and incomparabilities of people’s gifts. likewise with a beauty or wealth index… when we must compare things, a tree is often a better model than a pole. a tree allows for incomparable elements (on different branches) as well as for comparable ones (along a single branch), while poles collapse everything into one dimension…”

buddhism favours partial orderings, including the radical one of seeing oneself as an emerging pattern that one ‘recognises’ more and more creatively, at one and the same time more and more expansively and microscopically. not knowing exactly what you are doing is a partial ordering. just walking through your culture, paying attention to the tiniest things, a kind of music that never repeats. and being kind along the way. its a dizzy sweet simple thing. i wish i could tell you what i am sensing more and more right now – the lack of any need to know where one is going, the lack of a need for a storyline, an explanation, an identity or even something as modest as a desire to pin one’s trajectory to.

just listened to another sweet talk about how molecular biologists are using principles from the ancient japanese art of origami to design structures that can travel, enfolded, down arteries to blocked or collapsing sections and then open out to push out and support the artery wall. right now imagining some such biologist working in immunology or something, reading ‘the tale of genji’ and getting fascinated by those court nobles wearing their twelve layers of kimono with the edges of the individual sleeves showing…

you know, you are surrounded by partners, by landscapes. they come into focus as you partially order your life.

a designer is offering people who have recently lost a loved one the chance to have batteries that use the gastric juices of the recently deceased person. the batteries are capable of running a torch or radio for several weeks. he intends them as a gift for people facng the death of their loved ones and with no belief in an afterlife. we shouldnt be too quick to judge him, not before we’ve turned on the radio, felt the deep love.

on a street in london a man who seems a bit uncomfortable by a flock of pigeons scurrying about just behind him utters aloud the single word ‘imagination’.

a japanese painter from two hundred years ago was known to have had 93 different addresses in his lifetime. i used to marvel at this fact, probably knew it was a song from the future coming my way in some way. it made its way into a thousand pages of notebook entries which i destroyed ten years ago, just before leaving japan. and tonight on my way to spain, at stansted airport, i will be sleeping in my 93rd different place this year. i know i will never paint a wave in stillness like him, but i will live at the same speed in some incomparable way..

in spain i have the blessed opportunity to be stable and silent and in retreat for several months. a retreat which is buddhist in a partially ordered way – doing my 100,000 prostrations, getting shantideva’s bodhicaryavatara encoded in my unconscious as a series of meditations and visualisations, visiting lama yeshe’s stupa, talking to the centuries, studying mathematics, listening to bach and waiting for my karma to unfold into 2009 and beyond.

i may not have much email contact – not sure right now – but will be in touch further down the line.

love to you all


All the world’s a stage…to be tracked and visualized

Online data tracking and cool vizualisation of emotional/ personal life data is the wave of added value communications services spreading the branding world and turning one way campaign sites into clusters of useful personal tools. Probably the best known is, of course, Nike +, that brings together lovemarks Nike and iPod to encourage everyone to be an athlete, letting the user track their runs, set goals, participate in challenges, challenge friends and join the largest running club in the world.

Pulse (below) is a live visualization of the recent emotional expressions written on the private weblogs of these emotional expressions are parsed according to a list of synonyms and transform a physical shape-shifting object, which was created analogous to robert plutchik’s psychoevolutionary theory of emotion.

The possibilities for online data tracking are indeeed endless. in the States predicts the arrival of your next bus, whilst this service has been in place a while in Sweden, although neither visualise the data on an online map which would be more fascinating. Other data tracking tools have been around for a long while, such as environmental data tracking tools that let organisations prioritize goals for waste minimization and justify addressing the specific contracts that contribute to particular waste streams.
So all in all its nothing new. Flowing Data lists 23 tools for personal data tracking that can inspire marketing creatives to design something more than a one way ad campaign shoved into digital. Unfortunately, most agencies are still missing the big digital point, and spending their clients money on Hollywood production level branded films following the one of BMW films success some years ago.
We expect to see more Nike+ type integrated product/ communications campaigns, and even more fun as creative mobile content developers see the potential of GSM to add additional personal “here and now” relevance to online worlds.

On a more serious note, Swedish doctor and researcher, Hans Rosling has helped increasing our understanding of the major – and locally specific chanllenges to social and economic development with the remarkable trend-revealing data tracking software he created. (below on

More from the excellent Brooklyn-based artist Jonathan Harris’ work celebrates the world’s diversity even as it illustrates the universal concerns of its occupants. His computer programs scour the Internet for unfiltered content, which his beautiful interfaces then organize to create coherence from the chaos.

So if you are feeling depressed about the state of the world, we suggest for some true bedtime stories. It’s also an amazing time to be alive. Thanks always to our on the pulse for the links. Drop her a line, she’s hot.