GIDE- the Group for International Design Education is a unique network of eight higher education partners which was established in 2003 but which evolved from an earlier inter-cultural network in the nineties.

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The GIDE network delivers annual inter-cultural design experiences in collaboration with local sponsors, industry, researchers and creative and cultural organisations in an EU city. The network operates on a February to February cycle and uses an interdisciplinary workshop week to bring students, academics and researchers together to explore the cultural, social and/or ethical dimensions of design. This workshop week also combines a symposia, an exhibition and culminates in a later research publication. Workshop outcomes sets the critical and creative parameters of a formal ‘shared project’ delivered by each partner school from September to December. GIDE exists to enrich students’ intercultural experiences and provides dynamic opportunties for institutional knowledge exchange and provides a more inclusive and integrated alternative to existing ERASMUS+ / Study Abroad exchange schemes. GIDE currently consists of eight higher education partners institutions from leading schools in;

  • Dundee, (Scotland/UK)
  • Wuxi, (China)
  • Ljubljana, (Slovenia)
  • Funchal, Madeira, (Portugal )
  • Mechelen, (Belgium)
  • Magdeburg, (Germany)
  • Milano, (Italy)
  • Lugano, (Switzerland)

GIDE is organised by nominated International Coordinators in each nation and this core-team contributes to the strategic planning, events, exchanges and co-editorial responsibilities of annual design research publications. A key part of the network involves inviting visiting professors as guest participants at annual workshops on regular basis. In the recent past GIDE has welcomed visiting professors from the following institutions:

  • UNTexas, College of Visual Arts (USA)
  • Ryerson, School of Interior Design, Toronto, (Canada)

In addition, the GIDE network has also benefited from the creative and critical input of other schools in Europe with past GIDE members including:

  • AKV|St.Joost, School of Fine Art and Design, Breda, (Netherlands).


The scale of each workshop has been impressive with up to 200+ participants – many of whom self-fund their experience. During the workshop week student work in interdisciplinary teams to co-produce design responses to a set regional issue, context and theme in an intensive ‘deep-dive’ experience. The initial element of this week begins with a student led symposium with invited keynotes.


The February workshops weeks tend to be exploratory in nature, allows students and academics opportunties to share best practice and engage with contemporary research themes, projects and issues. Invited keynotes provide the critical impetus to creative action and during this intensive deep-dive experience, students can view a parallel exhibition showing 56 winning submissions from a previous ‘completed’ shared project whose theme was set in the previous year’s experimental workshop. Client presentations are required at the end of the week, followed by a closing event in semester two.


Emerging ideas from the semester two workshop week sets the tone for a subsequent shared project delivered across all GIDE schools. This takes place in semester one of the new academic session and allows for considerable flexibility in terms of interpretation and in the chosen mode of delivery, timeframe, approach and staffing that best reflects the curriculum and autonomy of each GIDE partner school.

Outcomes from this formal shared project then provides new content for the next cycle of exhibitions in the following Feb workshop; and the cycle repeats. GIDE schools select the best six submissions providing 48 student proposals that follows a strict large-format template echoing similar competition format constraints faced regularly by industry.

GIDE’s strategy here is to provide an important public event in a host city which raises awareness of the collective energy, imagination and intercultural perspectives the group brings to an EU city. This also demonstrates the value of design thinking in contributing a to the economic and cultural capital of a region. Successful student outcomes are also ‘published’ in yearly GIDE publications (in August), alongside keynotes and researcher  insights alongside descriptive and didactic texts. Increasingly, these are e-publications which allow students access to the works of their peers and acknowldges students as co-producers and authors.


GIDE’s origins emerged from an earlier ERASMUS collaboration, begun in 1993 by Nansi Van Geetsom [Mechelen, Belgium] and Graham Savage [Leeds, England]. Graham was a graduate of the  RCA, London and came to Leeds in the early seventies to take on the role of Course Leader for Product Design, and later, Interior Design at Leeds College of Art. Both sought to expand on quite limited access students had to ERASMUS experiences at that time, and in doing so, developed a far more dynamic, inclusive and democratic intercultural experience which travelled between European campuses on a rotational basis.

Today, as student cohorts diversify and financial realities kick-in, this idea, championed by GIDE, of offering inclusive intercultural opportunities to students, is more relevant than it has ever been. At its core has always been the sharing of creative insight, best practice, skills, and developing collaborative insight focused onto an ethical and social issue in a city or region. This remains central to the GIDE experience. During those early years original partnerships were established between French, Spanish and Italian design schools

GIDE was formally established in 2003 to deliver dynamic intercultural experiences to a wider range of participants; in essence bringing an ERASMUS experience directly to an institution. In 2013 GIDE celebrated its 10th anniversary at the Ljubljana ‘Celebration’ event in the cities renovated castle.

Though emerging from Interior Design / Interior Architectural initially, GIDE is increasingly interdisciplinary in character and outlook. The main disciplines currently involved are interior design, interior architecture, industrial & interaction design, visual communication and Masters in Interiors (Service Design). In the recent past disciplines have also included Art, Design & Interdisciplinary Practice, Furniture & 3D Design.

Increasingly GIDE students are also collaborating with the vocal support of established organisations (V&A Dundee), PhD students, funded researchers, live clients and Masters students’  [Wuxi, China]. At a time when the old disciplinary boundaries are increasingly blurring, and new hybrid practices are emerging, such interdisciplinary experiences are essential if we are to prepare  graduates for global markets.


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GIDE aims to provide students’ with critical and transformative inter cultural learning experiences with peers and professionals from the European Union and beyond. Advantages for institutions include:

  • opportunities for ERASMUS exchanges [staff & students];
  • informal academic benchmarking; sharing of best practice (for academies, for students and for staff);
  • research collaboration
  • peer support
  • embracing international collaboration as a dynamic and consistent component of ones curriculum

The GIDE experience provides a foundation in which students’ can build future professional networks and, generally, become more informed of their potential through exposure and engagement with others. This is further tested in smaller informal workshops in Oct / Nov during interim gatherings of GIDE International Co-ordinator meetings.


The workshop week, in particular, allows interdisciplinary groups opportunities to experience some of the dynamics of team-projects, discover new ways of generating ideas, negotiate roles and responsibilities, and discover collective ways of communicating design solutions to clients and practitioners using low-fidelity materials to convey hi-fidelity thinking.

What this provides are new ways of thinking beyond ones everyday creative processes, discipline and formalised practice. Student teams are supported by tutors offering guidance and encouraging teams to embrace risk and risk failure in the developing of new scenarios for contemporary living, working and enterprise.



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