Ciuccarelli brings ‘meta design’ research to CAMD

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Ciuccarelli brings ‘meta design’ research to CAMD

Paolo Ciuccarelli will be the founding director of the Center for Design in CAMD.

Paolo Ciuccarelli will be the founding director of the Center for Design in CAMD.

Elisa Figueras

Paolo Ciuccarelli will be the founding director of the Center for Design in CAMD.

Elisa Figueras

Elisa Figueras

Paolo Ciuccarelli will be the founding director of the Center for Design in CAMD.

Sofie Kato, managing editor

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After 20 years of teaching at the Polytechnic University of Milan, one professor found that he was ready for a new challenge to expand on what he calls “the complexities of the world of design.”

Paolo Ciuccarelli, originally from Italy, is a design professor who taught at the faculty of design in the communication design master degree program at the Polytechnic University of Milan. He recently took a job as a full-time professor at Northeastern in the College of Arts, Media and Design, or CAMD.

“I felt I did what I could do in my previous position,” Ciuccarelli said. “And so I think I had two options, I mean, in order to innovate, [I could] sit down, continue on the same page, or accept a new challenge and that’s what I did.”

With a degree in architecture from the Polytechnic University of Milan, Ciuccarelli began exploring other integrative design methods including communication design and information design and eventually incorporated his passion for data and computer science into his work.

“When I started to teach in communication design, I had discovered by chance this idea of applying visual languages to represent complexity,” Ciuccarelli said. “And so when within the communication design program, they asked me to lead a studio-based course in the last year of the master program, I decided to challenge students with this idea.”

This discovery and work further fueled his interests in design, which led him to create the Density Design Research Lab at the Polytechnic University of Milan. Working alongside his students, Ciuccarelli cultivated an interdisciplinary method of explaining social phenomena.

“I realized that visualization and visual languages could be used to try to represent the complexity of social and mental problems and issues,” Ciuccarelli said. “I started teaching that, then when I was teaching that I realized that there was a potential for research.”

Ciuccarelli will start teaching at Northeastern in the fall, where he will also be the founding director of the Center for Design, which aims to bring design to more research disciplines around campus.

The Center for Design will combine his work from Italy with new ideas of data and research within the scope of design.

“I hope that the Center for Design can also do something to establish itself as a design presence,” Ciuccarelli said. “But with the capacity to reflect on the semester and what you do in the future.”

While teaching in Italy, Ciuccarelli also guest-lectured at esteemed universities around the world, including the Glasgow School of Art and Stanford University. He is also on the committee of DataShack, a joint computer science and communication design collaboration between Stanford University and Harvard University.

Ciuccarelli also conjured the idea of “meta design,” which he describes as “designing design.” Design is rapidly growing and expanding, and being able to lay out maps for this ever-growing process is something he wants to explore.

He also hopes to encourage designers to bring data to their work and not be afraid of what this data can enhance.

“I mean, you couldn’t find designers in many industries, but then there is no industry where you don’t find design,” Ciuccarelli said.

With the constant expansion of design, he said he found some of his students to be worried about copyright issues and wants them to be open with their ideas.

“If you think you’re a good designer, you shouldn’t be worried about your idea. I mean, you’re not a good designer because you have this one wonderful idea,” Ciuccarelli said. “You are a good designer when you are able to produce continuously wonderful ideas.”

As an incoming full-time professor at Northeastern, Ciuccarelli said he hopes to continue to expand his idea of “meta design” and bring it to as many platforms as possible.

“I think I need to start from where I was. So it should start as a continuation,” Ciuccarelli said. “That’s what I hope. To build design as a kind of an interdisciplinary competence that can be integrated with all the rest of the university.”