Simona Maschi

Written by Erin Malone

Born and raised in Italy, Simona Maschi started out with degrees in Architecture (MA, 1996) and Industrial Design and Multimedia Communication (PhD, 2002) both from the Polytechnic University of Milan, Italy. She was one of the original faculty and researchers at the Interaction Design Institute of IVREA, working there from 2001 to 2006. Over the ensuing years, Maschi has been a guest lecturer, visiting scholar, board member and juror for various universities and industry associations.

When Ivrea folded, she and her husband (who is Danish) relocated to Copenhagen. Maschi co-founded, with Heather Martin, another Ivrea alumni, the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design with a very different business model and vision than Ivrea. Created in 2006, their master’s program launched in 2007 in collaboration with the Danish Design School. The school’s vision, that interaction design should be “used to create a better future for people through digital technology”[1] was the underpinning of both the program as well as the consulting projects they have undertaken. The announcement for the school seeking students read in part, “At CIID, students will learn to apply design and technology to people’s lives and needs through an intense one-year interaction design education led by experts in the field. This is an opportunity to meet an international network of like-minded people, acquire skills, create a body of design work, and help establish a new educational programme.”[2]

Part school, part consultancy and part research lab, the school cultivates academic and industry partnerships across topics like public transit, health, sustainable housing, and smart cities with a specific mission to bridge the gaps between these different design activities all housed in the same building to encourage cross-pollination and experimentation.

Students come from all over the world in an intentional effort to create a diverse environment. Several alumni and former staff from Ivrea have been involved in the creation and running of CIID and guest lecturers and visiting faculty read like a who’s who of the interaction design, game design and user experience design world. Visiting faculty from around the world have included Amy Bickerton, Erin Hoffman, Gillian Crampton Smith, Bill Verplank, Shelly Evenson, Christina Wodtke, Anna Hartley, Adam Greenfield, Exio Manzini, Philip Tabor, David Rose, Marc Rettig, Vanessa Julia Carpenter, Genevieve Hoffman, Priyanka Pathak, Jan-Christoph Zoels, Taylor Hamilton, and Michele Chang as just a sampling.

Embedded in the institute was Nest, their internal research lab and incubator which ran from 2014-2017. Nest incubated new ideas, which gave designers, many graduates from the school, the opportunity to take their ideas into their next phases of becoming actual businesses or products with mentorship and support from industry and the school. A previous collaboration with the Danish Design Center—Innofounder—provided a year-long course for entrepreneurs to develop an idea into a financially viable product and was housed in the Nest. The institute is looking to replicate the incubator in its new Costa Rica location.

BergamoCampus-CIID

Pop-up School participants in the studio garden in Bergamo, Italy. Image from the CIID website. (https://www.ciid.dk/idp-locations)

Over the years, the school’s program has evolved and in 2019 created a new program in Costa Rica. Opened in 2020, the first graduates from the relocated program graduated in February 2021. In a Wired Magazine Japan interview Maschi says of the move, “Climate change is just around the corner. CIID's responsibility is to move the innovation step from a human-centric approach to a life-centric approach. By creating CIID in Costa Rica, we will be more conscious of how to create a better future for "human beings and the earth" by design, instead of the better future for "human beings" which was the original vision.”[3]

Maschi has honed the school’s vision and curriculum from designing for humans to encouraging designers to save the planet—Life Centered Design—bringing new focus to the planet, to ecosystems and using digital technology to encourage new ways of thinking about design for life instead of for products and material goods. She has brought this vision to the offerings in Costa Rica, and pop-up workshops in Copenhagen, Italy and India.

After teaching two cohorts through the Costa Rica location, the school opened a new campus in Bergamo, Italy in the Astino complex in 2022. Bergamo’s focus is to create a sustainable city using both technology and innovation, and the CIID’s approach and vision around sustainable design was a perfect fit for this location. The school is hoping to bridge the two locations, Costa Rica and Italy, together through shared curriculum and projects. 

Footnotes

[1] Michiaki Matsushima, “From a Human-Centered Approach to a Life-Centered Approach: The Future That CIID Will Change with Interaction Design,” WIRED.jp, January 19, 2020, https://wired.jp/2020/01/19/ciid-simona-maschi-interview/.
[2] Mark Vanderbeeken, “Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design,” Core77, July 17, 2007, https://www.core77.com/posts/6886/Copenhagen-Institute-of-Interaction-Design.
[3] Michiaki Matsushima, “From a Human-Centered Approach to a Life-Centered Approach: The Future That CIID Will Change with Interaction Design,” WIRED.jp, January 19, 2020, https://wired.jp/2020/01/19/ciid-simona-maschi-interview/.  (The quote is from a translated version of the article which was originally in Japanese. It is unknown if Maschi’s original conversation was in English, Italian, Danish or some combination with a translator)

Thumbnail image for the homepage from the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design website, showing students working in the gardens at the Costa Rica campus.

Simona Maschi Bibliography

Selected Stories

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© 2023 erin malone 

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