In this digital age, cities are faced with fundamental challenges. The need to improve urban environments is growing, and this means drawing on their human and experiential value, connecting them to the cultural and financial fabric and placing technology at their disposal. 

With a challenge like this, design plays a crucial role in linking innovation to quality of life, and this philosophy is catching on among the latest generations of designers. So, exactly how can design rise to the occasion? 

This is where one of the most prestigious colleges on the international scene, IED Barcelona Advanced Design School, comes in. There, one can find out how the urban ecosystem will be redefined, thanks to a series of projects to improve healthy living, leisure, health, and mobility. 

Students from the Product Design and Interior Design courses taught at the school have been working on a variety of ideas to encourage healthy living and a sense of community in the city of Barcelona, Spain, a clear example of a 21st-century metropolis. These ideas have been presented to the Barcelona Sports Institute (IBE) and include projects such as seawater swimming pools to connect the mind and body through sound waves, and urban sculptures that combine art and sports like skateboarding or produce melodious music powered by the user’s exercise. 

In terms of mobility, one of the most recent experiences introduced by IED Barcelona’s Transport Design students is Toyota We. This device intends to solve the mobility issues linked to a population that is steadily aging and gathering in large urban areas, as well as addressing the need to create more inclusive cities. The idea comprises two elements: a device conceived for everyday convenience in the homes of people with functional diversity and a shared transportation platform for urban environments. 

Students also came up with another mobility project that is closely linked to this scenario and to the technological possibilities of the future -- to design the urban trains of 2035, in collaboration with railway company Talgo. As a result of the Off the Rails challenge, students have designed trains that take the user experience to the next level with interactive surfaces, air filtering systems using photocatalysis, and the ability to travel while horizontal or vertical depending on the user’s preference.

In the field of health, students in their final year of Product Design and Interior Design studies focused their theses on developing solutions to enhance the hospital experience, especially for paediatric patients. After conducting several interviews and carefully analysing Barcelona’s hospitals, a variety of projects were presented, including wireless electrocardiographs for easier and less disruptive diagnosis, a tainted lighting system to create warmer, more creative atmospheres on children’s wards, or a virtual reality culinary experience for patients who lose their sense of taste due to treatment. 

On its constant quest to foster good communication between citizens and their surroundings in big cities, IED Barcelona is also creating courses to address issues such as sustainability, social inclusion, governance, e-democracy, open data and urban mobility, offering a full theoretical and practical immersion in the urban context of Barcelona through the Masters in Design for Urban Environment. Students can also take the Masters in Interior Space Design Methodology to learn about interior design using certain unique materials. Another noteworthy course is the Masters in Service Design, which explores services from every angle including specific methodologies and tools, all the way from the research stage to conception, prototyping and producing a pilot version. 

So if you are looking to design a better world, for this generation and the next, IED is the place to be!

Article written in association with IED Barcelona.