Design and Semantics of Form and Movement, XI edition
MIT Design Lab
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA
October 9-11, 2019

In recent decades, design has faced great challenges and profound transformations. Its traditional approach to crafting and shaping the tangible world has been revolutionized by the way this very world has changed, becoming infused with digital technologies that have made it smarter, more interactive, and more connected.

Recent technological developments have generated even more rapid and extreme changes. The emergence of AI, machine learning, flexible electronics, miniaturized and implantable sensors, and hybrid synthetic- biological materials have not only provided designers with new design ingredients, but also generated new cultural and social landscapes in which they must design.

This edition of the DeSForM conference will explore the implications of these recent and emerging technological transformations in the practice of design, with a particular focus on the aesthetics and human experience of these new systems.

Designing beyond intelligence means that the design of such advanced and smart ecosystems should consider issues beyond mere algorithmic thinking and functionality. Scholars in the design field should start reflecting on the connections and mutual relations between the performance of these intelligent ecosystems and their physical appearances, aesthetics, interaction modalities, and personalities. In doing so, they will be able to address the design of ecosystemic user experiences.

Call for Papers
Designing for connected and expressive artificial ecosystems

DeSForM has traditionally dealt with the design of new, dynamic and interactive artifacts supported by the rise of intelligent systems (sensors, processors, algorithms, actuators, smart materials, etc.). Such systems are becoming more and more complex and sophisticated, giving birth to new forms of digital-physical hybridizations, i.e. dynamic ecosystems where advanced materials, sensing technologies, artificial intelligences, data, and humans are deeply interconnected and mutually shaped. These emerging hybrid ecosystems have already reached a point where their understanding, design, and evaluation ask for the development of new approaches and tools, as the experiences they create are far more complex to foresee and assess.

In this edition, we challenge scholars in this field to start thinking beyond designing for and with intelligence embedded into single artifacts, to broaden their focus and start addressing designing for distributed, hyperconnected, and complex intelligent ecosystems, and how their meaning, experience, and ethics can be approached in this new landscape.

This evolving context of design calls for new design skills and ways of thinking that go beyond the traditional field of design, as well as the creation of multi-disciplinary and adaptable teams able to envision new interactive, interconnected and even unpredictable systems.

The emergence of AI, robotic solutions, and big data connected with the spaces, objects and people we interact with everyday, will create new landscapes for future generations of designers. This will require designers to adopt new lenses in the design and evaluation of emerging technology, and it will necessitate that designers equip themselves with new ethical paradigms.

This conference will face the need to explore new frontiers for design, where emerging forms of distributed intelligence become design material. This material should be fully investigated in terms of tangible manifestations, implications and impact on the design process, user experience, and social consequences. The conference will be structured around four main topics: Experiencing Complexity, Interacting with New Intelligences, Societal Impacts & Design Ethics, and Future Roles of Designers.

Conference topics
Submissions should be focused on one or more of the following themes. In addition to these topics, contributions addressing the general conference interests (i.e. designing meanings, semantics and aesthetics of smart, dynamic and interactive artifacts) are also accepted.

Experiencing Complexity
  • The role of aesthetics in dynamic digital-physical ecosystems
  • Designing and evaluating user experience in complex digital-physical ecosystems
  • Systemic design
  • Design tools to tackle complexity in technology-enriched systems
Societal Impacts & Design Ethics
  • Algorithmic decision making, autonomous systems and their impact on user experience and behavior
  • Designing for transparency and reliability
  • Emerging technologies and their effects on society
  • Design tools for ethics
  • Future challenges for design
Interacting with New Intelligences
  • How artificial intelligence transforms artifacts (objects, spaces) and their interaction modalities
  • Embodying artificial intelligence through design; tangible forms and appearances of AI
  • How products’ aesthetics and user experience will change through AI:
    • At home, living experience in the private domain
    • At work, working experience in the semi-public domain
    • In society, connected experience in the public domain
Future Roles of Designers
  • In designing for complexity
  • In creating new forms of artificial intelligence and interactions with them
  • In designing for society
  • In designing with technology for social innovation

We invite authors to submit high-quality, previously unpublished, original contributions that explore one or more conference topics. Submitted papers (both full and short) will be assessed through a double-blind review process and accepted papers will be published in the conference proceedings. Contributions can fall into one of the following categories:

Full papers (Oral presentation)

Full papers should be up to twelve pages (including references). Submissions should be anonymized for double-blind review. Accepted papers will be given a 20 minute presentation slot at the conference and will be included in the proceedings.

Short papers (Demonstration + Poster)

Short papers should be up to six pages (including references). Submissions should be anonymized for double-blind review. Short papers should describe actual design or art projects, which will be presented through live demos and posters during the conference. Submitters of short papers are also encouraged to provide in their papers a link to download media demonstrating their results, whether images, videos, or other media types. All content should be anonymized for double-blind review. Short papers will be included in the proceedings.

How to submit your paper

Please submit your proposal through the Easy-Chair platform. If you are a new user of Easy-Chair, you will be required to create an account. Once you are logged in, click again on the below link to ensure that you are visualizing the DeSForM 2019 page. The uploaded file must be in PDF format and should not exceed 20 MB.

Paper Template (Word format)

Submit Here

Key Dates
Nov 15, 2018
Submission opening

March 1, 2019
Full/Short paper submission deadline

May 1, 2019
Notification of acceptance
May 1, 2019
Conference registration opening

May 31, 2019
Camera ready paper deadline
May 31, 2019
Early bird registration closing

Sept 15, 2019
Conference registration closing
Sept 30, 2019
Seminar/Workshop registration closing

Oct 9, 2019
Conference starts
Program & Attending

DeSForM 2019 features paper presentations and poster-demonstration sessions, as well as panel discussions with invited academics and industry professionals on selected conference topics. Registration includes conference reception following the panel discussion, refreshment breaks between paper sessions, as well as lunch on both days of the conference.

Detailed information to follow.


In order for a paper to be included in the conference program and appear in the proceedings, at least one author must register for the conference by May 31, 2019.

Early Bird




*Printed proceedings and conference dinner are not included in the registration fee.

**Link to registration will be provided on May 1, 2019.

Scientific Committee
Conference Chairs
Yihyun Lim
MIT Design Lab
Sara Colombo
MIT Design Lab
Special Advisor
Federico Casalegno
MIT Design Lab
Program Committee
Azra Aksamija
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Galo Canizares
Ohio State University
Jonathan Crisman
University of California Los Angeles
Dina El-Zanfaly
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Lois Frankel
Carleton University Ottawa
Antonio Furgiuele
Wentworth Institute of Technology
Markus Funk
Technische Universität Darmstadt
Grace Jun
Parsons School of Design
Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao
Cornell University
Sotirios Kotsopoulos
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
James Paradis
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Eduardo Pellanda
Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul
Harpreet Sareen
Parsons School of Design
Davide Spallazzo
Politecnico di Milano
Orkan Telhan
University of Pennsylvania
Secil Ugur
Free University of Bozen
Paolo Volontè
Politecnico di Milano
Workshop Chair
Scott Penman
MIT Design Lab
Local Committee
Lizzie Bundy
MIT Design Lab
Farah Abu-Arja
MIT Design Lab
Desform Steering Committee
Miguel Bruns Alonso
TU Eindhoven,
The Netherlands
Lin-Lin Chen
National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, Taiwan and TU Eindhoven,
The Netherlands
Tom Djajadiningrat
Philips Design Eindhoven,
The Netherlands
Loe Feijs
TU Eindhoven,
The Netherlands
Jun Hu
TU Eindhoven,
The Netherlands
Steven Kyffin
Northumbria University,
United Kingdom
Elif Özcan
TU Delft,
The Netherlands
Lucia Rampino
Politecnico di Milano,
Edgar Rodriguez Ramirez
Victoria University of Wellington,
New Zealand
Dagmar Steffen
Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts,
MIT Design Lab

At MIT, the Design Laboratory exists within a context of broad-based technological innovation and builds upon the unique advantages offered by this setting. It pursues research, executes practical design and art projects, and engages in scholarship and criticism. The Laboratory is organized as a collection of multidisciplinary research and project teams unconstrained by the traditional boundaries between the design, planning, and engineering professions and disciplines.

The Design Lab, previously part of School of Architecture and Planning, is today within Comparative Media Studies and Writing (CMS/W) Department of School of Humanities and Social Sciences at MIT.

About DeSForM

DeSForM seeks to present current research into the nature, character and behavior of emerging typologies of connected and intelligent objects within adaptive systems. It aims to bring together researchers in the many related fields of design to assess the outcomes of this research and begin to identify issues and territories for future investigation and exploration.

Our original working premise for this research was that forms, either concrete or abstract, always carry or mediate meanings. It is the responsibility of designers to make good use of these meanings, for example, to make products beautiful, to stress the importance of certain values, or to improve a product’s ease of use. Further, it should promote or negotiate enriched experiences between people and people, people and objects, and in time between objects (systems of objects) and objects. Design uses its own languages for this purpose, just as poets, painters, journalists, sculptures, filmmakers and other artists do. The role of multi-sensory perception should also be explored as a channel to convey meaning.

We believe that our current conceptions of objects, things and artifacts need to be shattered once and for all so that we can be truly creative in how we contribute to the conceiving of the “new things.” This becomes even more important as emerging technologies and new forms of intelligence enrich and transform the nature of traditional objects and artifacts.

DeSForM does this by inviting creative people from very different practicing contexts and representing somewhat different aspects of the design disciplinary spectrum. If we succeed in accumulating the views and the abilities each brings in the conceiving of ideas and things, then surely the results would be very, very different, and might even be important in driving the practice and discipline of Design forward in some way.

Read more about DeSForM Conference