Discovery Conference No. 3

Date & Venue

Friday, October 29, 2021

The conference is held online.


Can a machine design?
Implications of artificial intelligence for the future of art and design universities


The digital transformation is rapidly advancing. Increasingly, Artificial intelligence plays a defining role in the lasting changes that living and working environments are undergoing. In the private sector, in the sciences, in public institutions, and in design and art, self-learning systems are used to optimise the analysis of unfathomable amounts of data, to automate processes, and to develop and design solutions. On the one hand, this development is driven by an optimistic hope of having found a new path to overcoming the complex problems of this world; on the other hand, advocates of technological singularity stoke old fears of a super-intelligence that could outstrip the creative genius of humanity and assume power over it. AI raises ethical and legal questions: when algorithms make decisions that affect society, such as when personal data is collected unnoticed for economic or political purposes; or when facial recognition software makes false assumptions based on having assigned an ethnicity to a face, not only reproducing but reinforcing prejudices. The behaviour of self-learning systems speaks volumes about those who programme them, reveals their ways of thinking and acting.


What are the implications of AI for the creative industries and the arts? What new design possibilities does AI open up and what challenges does it bring? Here, too, questions of principle arise. AI is no longer just a common narrative in cultural history; it is used by designers and artists as a matter of course, a tool in the design process. At the same time, algorithms learn to paint pictures or design products on their own; they can compose symphonies or write screenplays. This raises far-reaching, recurring questions: Is creativity a purely human characteristic or can algorithms also be creative? In the case of works created jointly by humans and AI, who should the creative originality and authorship be credited to? Finally, how is the problem of “algorithmic bias” dealt with in the design process, for example when music production software has been developed exclusively according to the principles of European classical music


Artists and designers are increasingly working at the interfaces of design, information technology and technology. Not only are professional profiles and fields of work changing, but also the demand for professional expertise. Numerous reports, such as the WEF’s Future of Jobs Report attempt to describe what the professional world of the future will look like and how skill profiles will have to develop in order to survive in the labour market. Some of the future competencies propagated, such as creative thinking or problem-solving skills, correspond to those transversal competencies that have always been taught in design and art education. In light of which, the question for universities is not only what a competency profile in the context of AI should look like, but also the reverse: what and to what extent can design and art universities contribute to the further development of other disciplines and professional profiles within the framework of their social mandate. For design and art colleges, the question arises as to how their institutional mandate should be fulfilled in the context of digital change and AI, and, furthermore, what this means for education, especially for the third cycle and research. Which curricula and institutional structures are required to comprehensively prepare budding artists, designers and researchers for a working life shaped by AI at disciplinary interfaces? What are the professional world’s expectations of universities? Which visions need to be developed, which paths taken?


The third SwissGradNet Discovery Conference will focus on the implications of a future shaped by AI for higher education institutions. Together with exponents from the creative industries, the arts and universities, relevant fields of action for the successful further development of teaching and research at art and design universities are to be outlined.



Martin Wiedmer, Head of SwissGradNet, Vice Dean Head of Research of the Lucerne School of Art and Design, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts

Rachel Mader, Head of the Competence Centre for Art and Design in Public Space, Lucerne School of Art and Design, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts

Orlando Budelacci, Vice Dean, Head of Bachelor’s and Master’s Programmes of the Lucerne School of Art and Design, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts

Jacqueline Holzer, Vice Dean, Head of Interdisciplinarity and Transformation of the Lucerne School of Art and Design, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts

Massimo Botta, Head of the Interaction Design Lab, University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland, SUPSI

Shilpa Das, Head of the PhD Research Programme and Interdisciplinary Design Studies, Discipline Lead of Science and Liberal Arts, National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad

Federica Martini, Head of the Visual Arts Department, Valais School of Art, édhéa

Hans-Joachim Neubauer, Professor Filmuniversität Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF

Gesa Ziemer, Director City Science Lab, Academic Lead UNITAC (United Nations), HafenCity University Hamburg.

Claudia Ramseier, Research Associate, Coordinator SwissGradNet, Lucerne School of Art and Design, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts

Registration &

The details of the programme as well as information on the registration will be published from July on this website and by invitation.


For all questions, please contact Claudia Ramseier.


Discovery Conference No. 2 – October 2019

“Dissemination as Knowledge Production in Use-inspired Research.”


Discovery Conference No. 1 – September 2018

“What is the practice in use-inspired research in design, film and art?”