School as Playground: Discussing a Play Structure for Higher Design Education


In this paper we intend to discuss the main elements of play – rules, order, freedom, pleasure, competition, representation, separation and uncertainty – as key elements of a new alternative learning structure in higher design education centered on ludic thinking. From the assumption that play is a free movement within a more rigid structure and that playful thinking is intrinsic to us, we draw on Aldo van Eyck and the City as Playground text by Merijn Oudenampsen (2011) and make an analogy between school and playground to discuss play process as learning process and study alternative pedagogies to traditional teaching which seek to foster self-learning through the work Homo ludens. School is observed as a playground where learning takes place through the transgression that results from the strong engagement with the context, the free exploration of space and matter and the ongoing dialogic interactions of the participants. This work is developed by cross-referencing data from different sociologists, educators, designers, and game theorists in connection with the data collected from an open talk with the author and four guests: Luís Alegre da Silva (designer, researcher, and lecturer in the field of communication design), Miguel Vieira Baptista (designer and lecturer in the field of product design), Filipe Luz (researcher and lecturer in the field of Multimedia and Videogames) and Ana Jotta (Visual artist) – that took place in the 1st Games and Social Impact Media Research Lab Conference (Glow2021) hosted by Lusófona University as a joint initiative between the CICANT and HEI-Lab research centers.


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Author Biography

Marta Guerra Belo, University Lusófona

Marta Guerra Belo is a graphic designer and PhD researcher based in Lisbon. Graduated in Education, learnt illustration at Ar.Co, and investigated the concept of the Designer as Player in her master’s project in Graphic Design at School of Arts and Design Caldas da Rainha. She works mainly in commissioned and self-initiated projects in book and editorial design, identity design, visual arts and design research. She enjoys doing speculative visual research and learning through exploratory projects that allow her to experiment the practice of design with other fields of knowledge, especially art, science and pedagogy.
She is currently developing a PhD research in design about alternative design pedagogies and play at Lisbon University, funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology. She is a lecturer in the Design Department of Lusófona University.