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…is a pivotal gathering of minds in the Algarve …

… dedicated to exploring design’s profound impact and potential in addressing today’s multifaceted challenges

Ezio Manzini, William Myers, Normals, Mauricio Mejìa, Luca Simeone, Sabine Junginger, Thora Arnardottir, Emma van der Leest, Paola Lepori, Lorenzo Imbesi, Mugendi M’Rithaa, Paulo Palha (waiting conformation)


“What’s Around Design?” is a pivotal gathering of minds in the Algarve dedicated to exploring Design’s profound impact and potential in addressing today’s multifaceted challenges. 

Extreme climate changes, mass migrations, housing shortages, waste, pollution, deforestation – there is a pressing need to promote a rethinking of traditional design paradigms, aiming for strategies to mitigate these problems and promote a more sustainable and equitable future.

Approaches like nature-based solutions, circular economy, nature-inspired design, speculative design, and green transition allow designers to anticipate and prepare for various scenarios, creating proactive, adaptable solutions that harmonize with the environment.


Experts and thought leaders will share insights and inspire discussions, workshops, and exhibitions, all highlighting the pivotal role of Design in addressing global challenges and shaping a better world.

Join us as we embark on this journey to harness the power of Design to create a sustainable, resilient, and equitable future. Together, we can transform today’s challenges into tomorrow’s opportunities. 

Welcome to “What’s Around Design?” 2024 — where the future is designed.


What’s Around Design?” is about the expanded fields of Design around critical issues that will be explored along five tracks: 

Track 01_Nature-based Solutions




Track 02_Circular-based Territories




Track 03_Biodesign




Track 04_Speculative Biofutures




Track 05_Strategic Design for Green Transition




Keynote Speakers

Emeritus Professor at the Polytechnic of Milan

For more than two decades, Ezio Manzini has been working in the field of design for sustainability. Most recently, his interests have focused on social innovation—considered a major driver of sustainable changes. In this perspective, he started DESIS: an international network of schools of design specifically active in the field of design for social innovation and sustainability. Ezio is currently working at Desislab Elisava Barcelona leading the flag ship initiative “Design for City Making” within Desis Network. Presently, Ezio Manzini is Distinguished Professor on Design for Social Innovation a ELISAVA Barcelona School of Design and Engineering, Barcelona, Spain; Honorary Professor at the Polytechnic University of Milan, Italy; and Guest Professor at Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China.

William Myers Biodesign Book Author, Writer, Curator and Lecturer

William Myers is a curator, writer, and teacher based in Amsterdam. He has organized several international exhibitions highlighting how scientific advances and emerging technologies influence culture. His work has been profiled in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian Magazine, the journal Science, de Volkskrant, and Folha de S.Paulo, among others. Myers is the author of the books Biodesign (MoMA), Bioart (Thames & Hudson), and several print and digital publications. His exhibitions and educational programs have been staged in venues in the US, China, Brazil, Ireland, the Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Poland, Turkey, and Australia. Myers works on curatorial teams, non-profit boards, and as a consultant for a variety of creative and educational projects.

Design for Change DRS ConvenorAalborg University

I currently serve as an Associate Professor at Aalborg University, where my core focus is on how design and arts can support personal, organizational and community resilience, innovation, transition thinking, long-term strategic orientation and positive and impactful change. I have carried out research, teaching and consulting activities at various universities (Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Polytechnic University of Milan, Malmö University and University of the Arts London), (co)authoring and (co)editing 5 books and other 80+ publications. I have founded and managed successful companies and award-winning design-driven firms operating in more than 30 countries and with commercial hubs in Milan, Singapore, Toronto and Doha (key Clients include Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Dior, Sony). I also help private and public organizations (e.g. the European Commission, the World Bank, UNICEF and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research) to define strategies, policies, and funding schemes to foster innovation. As a certified yoga instructor (RYT-500 Yoga Alliance), I offer experiential sessions that anchor breath-based movement to creativity and that leverage science-based insights on mindfulness

Full Professor of Design & Vice Chancellor’s Fellow – Northumbria School of Design

Sabine Junginger, PhD is Professor of Design and Vice Chancellor’s Fellow at Northumbria University, UK. For over a decade now, The Hertie School Berlin has embraced her as Research Fellow for her work on design, policy and public management. She is the former Head of the Competence Center for Research into Design and Management at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts where she also led the MA Service Design. Sabine holds an MDes. in Communication Planning and Information Design and a PhD in Design, both from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She currently works with WHO’s Global Initiative for AI for Health and others on emerging issues in policy-making and policy implementation through human-centered design. Together with Rachel Cooper, she is editing the 2nd Edition of the Handbook of Design Management.

Policy Officer for Nature-based Solutions at the European Commission, DG R&I

Paola Lepori is a Policy Officer for Nature-based Solutions at the European Commission, DG Research & Innovation. Her core professional objective is building alliances to trigger transformative change towards an inclusive nature-positive future. Before joining the Biodiversity and Nature-based Solutions team in 2022, she had been working in the field of environment for several years, including in DG Maritime Affairs & Fisheries, as a communication officer. In Italy, Paola worked as desk news and writer for newspapers focusing on international affairs, writing in-depth analyses on current and environmental affairs. Her academic background is international relations, and international cooperation with a focus on the Middle East. Her academic research brought her from Italy to the UK, Jordan, Syria and Australia.

Paulo Palha CEO Neoturf President of EFB

Paulo Palha works to promote vegetation as a mandatory building material: Green roofs, green walls, gardens, and parks, along with all nature-based and nature-promoting solutions, are his areas of expertise. He has always worked in landscaping and nature-based solutions for cities, currently CEO of Neoturf, and president of the Portuguese Green Roofs National Association. He has been involved in hundreds of landscaping, green roof, and vertical garden projects in Portugal and abroad. President of EFB European Federation of Green Roof Associations


N O R M A L S is a Berlin-based studio for design, fiction, and futures. Their pieces aim to open critical conversations around social, cultural, and technical change, with the goal to provide valuable insights for the implementation of long-term strategies. They help public and private organisations including research institutes, cultural institutions, and governments envision and communicate futures, with clients including the European Commission, the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Evonik, Deutsche Bahn, Space10, Fundación Telefónica, or the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Their work has been shown internationally at the NY Fashion Week, the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, MoMA, and more.

Northumbria University Founder Unruly Matters Ltd

Dr. Thora Arnardottir is an architect and designer, a postdoctoral researcher at Northumbria University within Living Construction and an Associate Lecturer on the MA Biodesign course at Central Saint Martins, UAL, UK. She specialises in bacterial biomineralisation and integrates innovative fabrication techniques with biological systems, leveraging the synergy between biotic elements and design. Her work has earned international recognition, including the Global Women Innovators & Inventors Network Award, Icelandic Design Council grant, EU partnerships, and a UKRI grant. Thora is the founder of Unruly Matters Ltd, exploring biomaterials and biofabrication. Her projects focus on the transformative potential of living materials in architecture and design.

Design for Change DRS Convenor Transformation LAB Diretor

G. Mauricio Mejía is a strategic design practitioner and scholar. He currently is Associate Professor of Design and Assistant Director of Research and Knowledge Enterprise for The Design School at Arizona State University. His current work is about strategic design and theories of change. He often collaborates with practitioners and researchers in other fields such as health, sustainability, business, and education. Dr. Mejía studies and works with diverse current and emergent design practices and approaches such as design research, visual sense-making, service design, experience design, co-design, and design futures. He received a PhD in Design from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and a Master of Design degree from the University of Cincinnati.

Biodesigner | Founder of BlueCity LAB

Emma is an award-winning biodesigner, researcher, teacher and author based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. She has experience in the field of biodesign for more than 8 years where she collaborated with disciplines, including international scientists, physicists, artists and designers. Emma is tutor and (former) interim pathway leader at Ecology Futures Master program at Master Institute of Visual Cultures from St. Joost Academy (Avans) and is guest lecture at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China. Previously she taught at Central Saint Martins London, Design Academy Eindhoven and had a research position at the Willem de Kooning where she also started to develop a biolab. Together with curator William Myers and team she curates exhibitions under the name of Museum of 21st Century Design. In 2022 for the Dutch Innovation Pavilion at the Floriade and in 2023 an exhibition at Boijmans van Beuningen Depot in Rotterdam. Emma is the founder and ambassador-in-the-field of BlueCity Lab. A biocircular playground for bioneers in Rotterdam. They support the transition towards a biocircular economy by facilitating a platform & labspace for a growing community of bioneers that establish examples for a regenerative economy within the planetary boundaries by doing and experimenting.

Sapienza Roma | CUMULUS President

Dr. Lorenzo Imbesi, current President of Cumulus Association, is an architect with a PhD in Environmental Design, is a Professor at Sapienza University of Rome. Previously, he held the position of Associate Professor at Carleton University’s School of Industrial Design in Ottawa, Canada. His interests span design culture, critical expressions, and theoretical implications related to new technologies. Dr. Imbesi has also served as a keynote speaker, coordinator for international conferences, and curator of design exhibitions. He is actively involved in various associations, including Cumulus, European Academy of Design, and European University Association. His extensive career includes teaching and organizing workshops at international universities, and he has authored several papers and books on design.

Machakos University; Former ICSID/WDO President

Mugendi Kanampiu M’Rithaa is a transdisciplinary industrial designer, educator, researcher, and consultant at Machakos University, Kenya. His academic journey spans Kenya, the USA, India, and South Africa, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Design, a Master’s degree in Industrial Design, a Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education and Training, and a Doctorate in Universal Design. He has taught in several countries, including Kenya, Botswana, Canada, India, Norway, South Africa, and Sweden, focusing on socially conscious design practices such as Advanced Ergonomics, Human-Centred Design, Climate Change Mitigation, Social Innovation, Renewable Energy, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Co-Design, Sustainable Development, Transportation, and Universal Design. He is a founding member of the Pan-Afrikan Design Institute (PADI) and is involved with numerous international design networks, including the Association of Designers of India (ADI). He is also the Founding Patron of the Interior Designers’ Association of Kenya (IDAK), a Board Member of Open Design Afrika (ODA), and a Special Advisor to both the Hasso Plattner School of Design Thinking at the University of Cape Town and Nairobi Design Week. Additionally, he is a Founding Professional Member of the Design Kenya Society (DKS) and serves on the Advisory Committee of UNESCO’s International Center for Creativity and Sustainable Development (ICCSD). Mugendi is President Emeritus and Senator of the World Design Organization (WDO), where he made history as its first African President from 2015 to 2017. His work with the WDO emphasizes supporting designers globally in addressing complex challenges across diverse contexts.