Student Directed I: Nowruz gift making

Emily Carr DESIS Lab
Student Directed: Social innovation happens from the bottom up. The Emily Carr DESIS lab exemplifies “bottom up” with Student Directed, a series of research workshops that are developed and hosted by students.
Student Researcher: Nasim Khosravifarsani, MDes 2018
Faculty Partner: Eugenia Bertulis

Nowrus gift making

This workshop was conducted to explore ideas for expanding the culture of sustainability in Iran. I link underlying philosophies of green thinking and notions of sustainable development to rituals that have been part of Persian culture throughout history.

In Iranian culture, Nowruz, the greatest cultural event in Iran, is celebrated as the beginning of the new year and marks the first day of the spring. There are many activities that people do to celebrate this event such as seed growing, planting, gift giving and connecting with family and friends.

The focus of the Nowruz Gift Making Workshop was to explore the concepts of planting and gift giving. A number of hand-made origami packets designed with the Persian calligraphy and poetry were distributed among the participants as a gift to begin the conversations and activities. This was followed by a presentation about Nowruz, Gift Economy and Eco-centric design versus Anthropocentric design.

Several open-ended questions were to spark brainstorming and begin designing and making gifts with the supplied materials:

  • How might redesigning cultural activities trigger a change in behaviors and influence culture of sustainability?
  • How might we design a gift of seeds or plants in order to reshape the relation of people with the nature?


At the end of the workshop participants talked about their prototypes and shared their stories in a round of discussions. Many creative works, deep thoughts and ideas around seed planting and gift making were collected to inspire my thesis work about changing cultural rituals to foster sustainable behaviors.


Please stay tuned for information about this project as it develops!

By Nasim Khosravifarsani

See also:
Student Directed II: Habitual?
Student Directed III: Unfinished Stories