Design Swarms Workshop

Be part of an impactful competition that provides a potential solution
to a pressing challenge for the Global Humanitarian Lab!

This year, DigiFabCon is taking social innovation that will change the world to another level. Utilizing a breakthrough tool for modeling and visualization from Autodesk called Fusion360, the high-energy Design Swarms technique from Authentic Design will create breakthrough approaches to a pressing global challenge.

Drawing from the needs of the Global Humanitarian Lab, Design Swarms will be led by this design thinking method’s developer Surya Vanka to address the challenge of empowering local communities and humanitarian field workers to develop rapid solutions to the many problems faced in disaster affected locations using fab lab tools.

The Design Swarms – teams of passionate individuals from varied backgrounds who come together for the day – will demonstrate how purposeful applications of design and engineering can change the world in a Peace Engineering model. Says Surya, “Design Swarms are Radical Collaboration, changing the notion of how people work together for good in the 21st century.”

David Ott, formerly with the International Committee of the Red Cross and co-founder of the Global Humanitarian Lab, will be on hand to ensure that the real-world needs of projects ranging from natural disasters to refugee camps are accurate. The winning team will have the opportunity to visit Autodesk and receive 1-on-1 coaching in building the prototype or model of the winning design. DigiFabCon would then facilitate sharing the solution with the Global Humanitarian Lab team in Geneva.

Design Swarms at DigiFabCon will take place on April 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Roxbury Innovation Center in Boston. No previous experience is required and experts in Fusion360 will be assisting as Surya facilitates the Design Swarms.

Design and fabrication tools are but a means to give mankind the capability to make the world a better place. Won’t you join us in a short term but meaningful outpouring of human ingenuity to help our fellow man?

Seats at the Roxbury Innovation Center are strictly limited for the 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. workshop.  Full price is $99 per person, but we are offering early bird pricing of $49 till March 24. Don’t delay, this will sell out quickly.

What is a Design Swarms Workshop?

Design Swarms Workshops are a facilitated hackathon-like innovation process in which agile teams work to solve an important social challenge in a very short time. Teams are led through a series of design thinking sprints over the course of a few hours, and they learn and practice a variety cutting-edge design techniques. Participants also learn how to pitch and convince others to support or fund a creative idea. Design Swarms Workshops are fun, high-energy experiences in which participants make new connections, and learn to think and design in new ways.

These workshops have become popular around the word in business, non-profit and education — in recent months, Amazon, Autodesk, Microsoft, T-Mobile, Net Impact, MSR, Nippon Foundation, Clinton Global Initiative the University of Washington, the Industrial Design Society of America, and AIGA have participated in Design Swarms Workshops in the US, as have people and organizations in Hong Kong, China, Australia, and Europe. Design Swarms Workshops have resulted in innovations in hard challenges like aging with independence, homelessness, refugee crises, water borne diseases, ocean pollution, aging, and disaster relief.

Workshop Leader

We are fortunate that this workshop will be personally led by Surya Vanka the creator of Design Swarms Workshop technique! Surya is founder and principal of AUTHENTIC, a cutting-edge design consultancy in Seattle. He is designer, corporate leader, educator and author who has worked at the leading edge of designing physical and digital experiences for over twenty-five years. He was previously director of user experience at Microsoft, a tenured professor of industrial design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a fellow at the prestigious Center for Advanced Study. He is president-elect of Design in Public, and sits on advisory board of the Design Management Institute and of Seattle Interactive. Vanka has been keynote speaker at the most prestigious conferences, and has won top speaker awards three times. His work has appeared in numerous publications and news programs, including TEDx Talks, Form, I.D., Design Council, WIRED, Interactions, the BBC and National Public Radio. Watch this fascinating TED talk where Surya shares his mission to create a Design Powered Planet – Design Swarms Workshops grew out of these ideas.



“The best interactive workshop I have ever attended”

“It’s a rare treasure to find a shared visioning and outcome-driven process that crosses the divides of political and social lines so effectively’.

“A great reminder of how a well-orchestrated process can lift a team”

“I walked out of there with the best design buzz”

“Great insight into how to work with others to develop disruptive ideas”

“I learned how to generate creative solutions to user-centered problems”

“The power of lateral thinking and collaborative creative process backed by user research”

“I learned a lot and had a very enjoyable time. I also felt it was very applicable to everything that I have been learning in the Design and Innovation Club at the Yale”.

“Every aspect of the workshop was hosted excellently. Our team worked well together. While fatiguing, I found the overall experience tremendously rewarding.

“I loved the collaboration with other team members, and other teams, networking. Facing an interesting new challenge with a bunch of strangers’.

“I loved the Swarms process, the ability to work with people from different companies, the facilitation throughout the process and the ability to work on a problem for social good’.

My favorite part was getting to swap ideas with the other teams and collaborate intra-team’.

“It was my first design swarms workshop and wasn’t sure what to expect. Loved working and meeting new people in solving important issues that make an impact for those most in need’.

“I loved the opportunity to work with folks from various industries. Also, loved the stealing of ideas.”

“The collaboration among peers, navigating the needs of each person in the group, and eventually understanding a solution to work toward. Team work with strangers, intense sense of competition and focus on real life situations”.

“I had several favorites: Coming together as a team to develop a solution with a real, potential impact for people in deep need. Seeing the brilliance of each person as they worked in teams. Observing a community just embrace working together. Following Surya’s guidance as he led us through the Design Swarms process. Really learning a new approach to a process I’ve been through before with a lot better effectiveness and outcomes. Love of our community to work together.”