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  • Lara Penin

    Professor of Transdisciplinary Design


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    D - 79 Fifth Avenue

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    Lara Penin


    Lara De Sousa Penin (she/her/ela) is a Professor of Transdisciplinary Design at Parsons School of Design, The New School since 2008.

    Her work centers on service design, strategic design, participatory design, design studies and social justice, seeking to explore the agency of design to effect positive social change, while bridging the gap between the innovation of design pedagogy and practice to equip designers to play a more transformative role, involving both civil society and the public sector.

    Lara is co-founder of the Parsons DESIS Lab (Parsons Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability Lab), an action research laboratory founded in 2009 at The New School in New York City, working at the intersection of design and social theory, applying interdisciplinary expertise to sustainable practices and social innovation (https://www.newschool.edu/desis/)

    She has been director of the Transdisciplinary Design graduate program from 2015 to 2019. A full-time faculty in the School of Design Strategies since joining The New School in 2008, she has taught in the Transdisciplinary Design MFA, the Integrated Design BFA and the Strategic Design and Management BBA programs teaching studios, intensive and elective courses involving service design for public interest, systems thinking and participatory methods as well as advising master degree theses.

    Lara currently co-leads the Graduate Minor in Civic Service Design, which draws upon a practice and subfield of research and theory that connect to design, social theory, and public policy and management frameworks, methods, and tools to reformulate participation and decision-making in the creation of public policies, programs, and services, aiming at fostering more just and equitable cities and societies.

    Lara is the author of An Introduction to Service Design. Designing the Invisible (Bloomsbury, 2018) and the editor of The Disobedience of Design, a Gui Bonsiepe Reader (Bloomsbury, 2021). Recent work includes the development of a tool for service designer-service worker solidarity and the development of a critical research agenda for service design (http://workerstarot.com/). 

    Highlights of her several externally funded projects, she has been the principal investigator of “Amplifying Creative Communities” and more recently, she is the PI of a project for the Brooklyn Public Library related to improving community and outreach services offered at the library branches. She received grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the São Paulo Architecture Biennale. 

    Lara serves the professional and academic community as a jury in service design awards, institutional review committees, Ph.D. panels and editorial boards nationally and internationally and is a speaker at design conferences worldwide. Lara was the chair of the Service Design Network Global Conference in 2015. She served as Parsons representative at the University Faculty Senate for two terms and served in the School Leadership Council at the School of Design Strategies, among several other leadership roles. She currently co-chairs the university’s Strategic Planning.

    Lara has a bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Urbanism (University of São Paulo, Brazil) and a Ph.D. in Design (Milan Polytechnic University, Italy). 

    Degrees Held

    PhD in Design, Milan Polytechnic University, Italy

    Bachelor in Architecture and Urbanism, School of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo, Brazil

    Professional Affiliation

    Member of FICA International Advisory Council. FICA is a non-profit real estate fund, the first of its kind in Brazil, created to ensure social justice in the use of property and land.

    DESIS Network https://www.desisnetwork.org

    Service Design Network https://www.service-design-network.org

    Winterhouse Institute http://www.winterhouseinstitute.org

    Advisory board member of Master program in Service Design at Politecnico di Milano/POLIDESIGN

    Advisory Board “Designing in Dark Times” book series Bloomsbury

    Editorial Board Magazine/Revista I+Diseño online  (in Spanish)

    Recent Publications


    Penin L. (2023, 2nd ed) An Introduction to Service Design. Designing the Invisible. Bloomsbury.  London, New York (Second edition in contract).

    Sangiorgi, D.; Prendville, A., Penin, L (eds) (2023). Service Design Handbook: A Critical Agenda (provisional title). Bloomsbury (in contract)

    Penin, L (ed) (2021) The Disobedience of Design. A Gui Bonsiepe Reader. Bloomsbury. London, New York

    Penin L. (2018) An Introduction to Service Design. Designing the Invisible. Bloomsbury.  London, New York First textbook covering the basics of service design with interviews with leaders in the field, detailed case studies and a methods guide. Translated in Korean and Greek.

    Penin L. (ed) (2012) Parsons DESIS LAB The New School (2013) Amplifying Creative Communities New York City. NYC: Parsons DESIS LAB. Self-published volume (Parsons DESIS Lab). Project funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

    Book review

    Telalbasic, Ida & Bofylatos, Spyros (2019) “Book Review Designing the Invisible: An Introduction to Service Design, by Lara Penin” In The Design Journal An International Journal for All Aspects of Design. Taylor & Francis https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/6xFYEfW5mt5Pr2FUdtmz/full?target=10.1080%2F14606925.2019.1615677&

    Papers, articles and book chapters

    Penin, L.; Staszowski, E.; Bruce, J.; Adams, B; Amatullo, M. (2019a) “Public libraries as engines of democracy: A research and pedagogical case study on designing for re-entry”. Submitted to NORDES Conference 2019. Available online

    Penin, L.; Staszowski, E.; Bruce, J.; Adams, B; Amatullo, M. (2019b) “Striving for solidarity: a case study with the Brooklyn Public Library”. SED 2 Socially Engaged Design Conference, Limassol, Cyprus 2019. (abstract only) Available online

    Penin, L., Staszowski, E., Brown, S. (2015a) “A new generation of transdisciplinary thinkers and practitioners of design-led social innovation”. Design and Culture Journal, Volume 7Issue 3, 2015. Routledge. Available online

    Staszowski E.; Penin, L.; Moon, A. (2015b) “Towards a Sustainable Present: Urgency and Agency in Transition Design”. Transition Design Symposium: Provocation and Position Papers, Carnegie Mellon University on March 7, 2015. Available online

    Penin, L.; Staszowski, E.; Harriss, H. (2014). “Amplify Soundview: reflecting on the use of digital tools for promoting community engagement & stewardship in the development and care of the Soundview Park in New York City”.  The Electronic Journal of Communication Available online

    Penin, L., Forlano, L., Staszowski, E. (2013). “Designing in the Wild: Amplifying Creative Communities in North Brooklyn”. Cumulus Working Papers Helsinki-Espoo 28/12. Publication Aalto University. School of Arts, Design and Architecture 2013.

    Penin, L.; Manix, R. (2012) “Beyond the service journey: How improvisation can enable better services and better service designers” In Touchpoint The Journal of Service Design Vol.4 #2. Service Design Network: Cologne.

    Penin, L. (2011). “A Critical Approach to Service Design Education: Building an Undergraduate Learning Path at Parsons School of Design Strategies.” In Touchpoint The Journal of Service Design Volume 3 No.1 Service Design Network: Cologne, 2011. Pp 62-65

    Penin, L. (2010a) “Amplifying Creative Communities in New York City.” In Cumulus Working Papers Shanghai. College of Design and Innovation Tongji University. Pp 446-452.

    Manzini, E.; Penin, L., Gong, M.; Cipolla, C.; M’Rithaa , M.; Mendoza, A. (2010b) “The DESIS Network:  Design and Social Innovation for Sustainability.” In The Journal of Design Strategies, Parsons The New School for Design. Vol. 4, No. 1 | Spring 2010. Issue ‘Change Design’. Pp 14-21

    Penin, L. and Tonkinwise, C. (2009). “The Politics and Theatre of Service Design” In proceedings of the conference IASDS (International Association of Societies of Design Research), Seoul, Korea October 2009.  

    Performances and Appearances

    Recent interviews and profiles

    Ventin, Michela (2019a) Interview for Design Decode. A service designer working to bring positive social change and the author of ' An Introduction to Service Design: Designing the Invisible'. http://designdecode.org/article.php?p=lara-penin

    Fonteijn, Marc (2019b) Interview for The Service Design Show (video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klf5koJ7tho

    Disseny Hub Barcelona (2019c) Interview for the Disseny Hub Barcelona (in Catalan) “Entendre la gent és la part més important del disseny de serveis” http://ajuntament.barcelona.cat/dissenyhub/ca/noticies/lara-penin-entendre-la-gent-es-la-part-mes-important-del-disseny-de-serveis

    Sitten, Marshall (2018a) Interview for service design NYC May 7, 2018. Q+A with Lara Penin, author of Introduction to Service Design: Designing the Invisible http://servicedesign.nyc/news/qa-with-lara-penin-author-of-introduction-to-service-design-designing-the-invisible/

    Grimes, Jesse (2018b) “Meet the service designer Lara Penin. Interview with Touchpoint Editor-in-Chief Jesse Grimes”. Touchpoint Magazine Volume 10 Number 2, October 2018. https://www.service-design-network.org/community-knowledge/lara-penin-meet-the-service-designer

    Schwob, Olivia (2018c) “Reentry: Start Here”. Michael Carey, Eva Raison, John Bruce, Lara Penin, and Eduardo Staszowski, for the series The Location of Justice: Futures by Olivia Schwob. Urban Omnibus – a publication of the Architectural League of New York Sep 07, 2018 Available online

    Abello, Oscar Perry (2015a) Designing a Better Connection Between People and Government, Next City, October 9, 2015 Available online

    Recent keynotes

    Aug 24, 2022, UX Australia 2022 Keynote presentation “Thinking Design for this Century”.  (remote)

    Dec 3, 2021, “Thinking Design for this Century”.  Keynote at VIII SIMPÓSIO DE DESIGN SUSTENTÁVEL. SUSTAINABLE DESIGN SYMPOSIUM. Universidade Tecnica Federal do Paraná, Brazil (remote)

    Oct, 20 2021, “Thinking Design for this Century”.  Keynote at 2021 Jiangnan University DESIS. International Symposium: Pluriversal Cultures and Common Crisis. (remote)

    Feb 14, 2020 “The socio-cultural relevance of design in a world of systemic crisis: a case for transdisciplinary design” at the Kyoto Institute of Technology, KYOTO Design Lab, Kyoto, Japan. (in person)

    Nov 14, 2019 “Designing The Invisible: Worker-Centered Service Design” keynote at SDNow Melbourne Australia. (in person)

    June 14, 2019, Service Design Days, Barcelona, part of Barcelona Design Week 2019. Title: “Services as the soft infrastructure of society: The Politics of Service Design”http://servicedesigndays.com/summit-barcelona-design-week-2019/ (in person)

    May 10, 2019, Frontstage, the first service design conference in Mexico, Mexico City. Title: “Designing the Invisible. Reflections on service design as a socio-material practice” https://frontstage.servicedesign.mx/ (in person)

    March 29–30, 2018, Design Anthropology Week, Symposium University of Cincinnati (Social Innovation, Social justice: rethinking design anthropology) (in person)

    October 9-10, 2017, Emerging Practices Design Research and Education Conference 2017: The Social World. College of Design and Innovation Tongji University, Shanghai China. Title: “Teaching the next generation of Transdisciplinary Designers” (in person)

    Recent public lectures/talks

    Aug 7, 2022, “Design De Serviços Para Pessoas Reais” at Festival MUDA, Casa do Povo, São Paulo (in person)

    May 19, 2021, “Designing Services as designing work and workers.’. Talk at D-Ford, Michigan. With Antonia Yunge (remote)

    Mar 31, 2021, “Thinking Design for this Century”. Talk at PhD Seminar at Hong Kong Polytechnic (remote)

    Mar 12, 2021, “Designing Services as Designing Work and Workers.” Expert Design Talk at Politecnico di Milano University (remote)

    Nov 20, 2019,  “The Design of Work. A Framework for Designer Worker Solidarity” at University of Technology Sydney, Australia (in person)

    Aug 7, 2019 Perspectivas em Design de Serviços, Talk at the School of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo, Brazil (in person)

    Jun 3, 2017, Fifth Oxford Futures Forum (OFF 2017) themed on the Oxford Scenario Planning Approach & the Climate Imaginaries of the Arts and Humanities. Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, UK. Title: “From big science to citizen science and beyond. Reframing citizen engagement with urban climate systems” (in person)

    Dec12, 2016, Design, beyond service and product. Training for new perspectives on design professions. Symposium organized by Konstfack, Sweden on the development of the College's design program and future designers. (remote) Title: “Transdisciplinary Design” (i

    Feb 2016, VergeNYC 2016, New York City (Opening remarks). 2.5-day design event organized by students of Transdisciplinary Design graduate program at Parsons School of Design gathering design and community partners, leading thinkers, field experts and change makers to galvanize a movement towards Transdisciplinary Design. (in person)

    Research Interests

    Service Design, Design and Social Innovation, Design and Social Justice, Civic Design, Participatory Methods, Sustainable Design, Transdisciplinary Design, Design Studies




    Future Courses

    Public & Collab Services
    PSDS 5302, Fall 2024

    Thesis 2
    PGTD 5201, Spring 2025

    Thinking Design this Century
    PGTD 5600, Fall 2024

    Past Courses

    Public & Collab Services
    PSDS 5302, Spring 2024

    Thesis 2
    PGTD 5201, Spring 2024

    Thinking Design this Century
    PGTD 5600, Fall 2023

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