The Skills for Life project is an investigation into how design can influence the learning experience of young adults. The main objective is to use the principles of design education as a new format of online learning, to inspire and improve the young adult’s life skills, encouraging them to participate actively in society.

Will teach design to young adults help them overcome their negative learning experience?

Ever since my first years as a student, I felt a great difficulty in learning and studying. After 12 years of studying, I could say that I was not ready for the real world, so I went to university and I started studying Design. The biggest difference I found was that, in the Design Course, most of the classes were practical. Instead of it being a second-hand experience, I was learning and creating by myself. By the end of the first year, I was finally enjoying learning, and I felt at last able to gain valuable skills that would be important for my future. By learning Design, I developed a new way of thinking.

This was the trigger to the beginning of these project. So I start by discovering if other students feel the same way as I did, and the professor’s opinion on this matter. This way I conduct classroom observations were my objective was to understand the environment inside the classroom and the relationship between the students and the teacher. I focused on the methods used by the teacher and the students’ response to these methods. And made interviews with several students and teachers.


After my observation exercise and the interviews with students and teachers, I discover that:

What I discovered

Therefore, the aim of the project change to:

Teach life experience skills through a design-led approach to young adults.

What are the life experience skills that students want to learn?

From my research with the students, the World Health Organization and the book “Skills for the 21st Century jobs”, I came with the conclusion that the life experience skills are:

So, the trigger research question is how to teach design to non-designers?

Which will help me define what kind of approach I should use to develop a design learning experience. To help me with this hard task, I decided to do semi-structured interviews with experts in Design education.

So, how can I teach/ deliver these principles to non-designers?

Instead of focusing on the whole learning environment (schools, classroom, studios,…) I focused in learning networks, a new area that is growing and could be a great opportunity to innovate and thus be a focus for my project.

This way, I found this project more important to young adults who are preparing themselves to leave school or employment, because they are the students who could take more advantage of the life experience skills, but who at the same time have enough maturity to have a completely new experience and challenge themselves to learn these new skills.

Having the opportunity to innovate through a global learning network, the question arose of how to motivate young adults to learn design even through an online course?

The beginning of Skills for Life

As an overall result of my research, my final insight is that:

Young adults want to learn life experience skills for their professional and personal life. A design-led approach can teach these skills by motivating young adults with real life projects through an online learning network.

This way, from the results of the research, I developed several concepts. Most of the concepts were based on ideas that emerged during the research, and revolve around physical tutoring centres, toolkits and online courses.

Skills for Life’ is an online school of Design, a program where the schools, tutoring centres and learning communities can be connected online and use a Design-led approach to challenge young adults to be more active in their society and solve real life problems that will teach them life experience skills.

view the explanation video here

This concept is more focused on the emotional experience of the users, but at same time, it challenges them to work in teams to have the physical experience of a Design-led approach. Being an online program, it will reach a larger number of users from all around the world.

This program will work as an extracurricular activity in learning institutions, which, with the help of ‘Skills for Life’, are going to deliver a design-led approach to the students through online tools. Through different activities, the students will be able to learn the process of Design at the same time that they gain life experience skills and engage with their community.

So, the main goal of the ‘Skills for Life’ program is to deliver an alternative approach to teach life skills through Design as an online tool.

Testing Skills for Life

To perform a real experience in a tangible form of the final concept, I developed a workshop. A group of four young adults participated in this workshop, which was organised in Portugal, through a long-distance method of presentation, to test whether it was possible to deliver these activities without the presence of a facilitator.

The main goal of the workshop was to deliver a new learning experience based on a Design-led approach, which can help the participants to lightly improve their life experience skills. So, this workshop was a simulation of a challenge that can be launched on the website. The challenge was focused on life outside the school and how the experience of choosing a life career could be improved, since the participants were students who were leaving school.

To reach the goal of the workshop, the participants had to find a solution to the challenge using a set of tools focused on the process and methods of Design. Almost all the evaluation parameters were fulfilled, so I can conclude that the process and activities based on a design-led approach can lightly improve the life experience skills of young adults.

This kind of challenges are also motivating to the students, and it is possible to deliver them online, since they do not require the presence of a facilitator. The greatest achievement of this workshop was to see the positive reaction from the participants.

“I really loved this experience. I learn new ways of thinking and communicate my ideas. This workshop definitively helped me as a student and as a society member”

Vadson Culanda

“I felt valuable by thinking how to help other people. I found me pushing myself to find new ideas and be more creative, something that I thought that I wasn’t capable of”

Henrique Pimenta

“Is very playful and fun and at the same time I felt that I learn a lot of new skills”

Sara Ramos

I also got positive feedback from an expert of online learning, Stefano Mirti, which said:

"I loved how you created a physical experience online. The online world in education must be a part of the traditional learning. You explored quite well the capabilities of using the online world as a tool for teaching. It is good to have more people to explore the capacities of the online world in education, because this area is too new so there are no experts in this field. Therefore, is good to take advantage and fin more people to explore it."

Stefano Mirti

Skills for Life

The core of Skills for life is the online platform, because it will show how the programe is going to work in real life, taking the viewer through the experience and have an overall view of the activities realized in the workshop as a real challenge.

You can check the platform here.

Therefore, I created a service map and user journey, which, besides helping me understand deeply each step of the ‘Skills for Life’ experience, is also a great way to explain the overall view of the concept, because it describes what is visible in the service to the user (the interactions) and what happens in the backstage area of the service.




Looking back it was great to engage with the teachers and the students from different nationalities to have a broad vision of the current situation in the education, and mostly to have the contact with the real life situation, this was a key piece for the evolution of the project. Another key point of the project was the capacity to test the final concept with real stakeholders and to discuss it with experts in the area.

If possible, I would like to continue this research and prototype the final concept in a bigger scale, because I feel that this project is a great trigger to the development of new online communities, and to challenge them to be more connected to the physical world and, in that way, help them become more visible.

For me, it is important to deliver projects that challenge the young people to be more active in the world, by helping them grow and change their own future. Because I believe Design is important to the intellectual and practical life of any individual, especially as a member of a society, so I found my role as a Designer is to investigate how Design can have a foremost role in the society, making it more dynamic, safe, comfortable, organized, and also awakening creativity and new ways of thinking in everyone.