• Faculty

  • Lara Penin

    Professor of Transdisciplinary Design


    Office Location
    D - 6 East 16th Street

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    Lara Penin


    Lara De Sousa Penin is an Associate Professor of Transdisciplinary Design at Parsons School of Design, where 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 is also a core faculty member of the new Graduate Minor in Civic Service Design.

    Lara is co-founder of the Parsons DESIS Lab, an action research laboratory that works at the intersection of strategic design, management, and social theory, applying interdisciplinary expertise in problem setting and problem solving to sustainable practices and social innovation. In her work she seeks to explore the agency of service 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 the author of “An Introduction to Service Design. Designing the Invisible” (Bloomsbury, 2018) an introductory textbook on service design. 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, PhD panels and editorial boards nationally and internationally and is a speaker in design conferences worldwide. Lara was the chair of the Service Design Network Global Conference in 2015. She is a Parsons representative at the University Faculty Senate and served as member of the School Leadership Council at the School of Design Strategies, among several other leadership roles.

    Lara has a PhD in Design from the Milan Polytechnic University in Italy and a BA in Architecture and Urbanism from the University of São Paulo in Brazil.


    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

    DESIS Network https://www.desisnetwork.org

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

    Winterhouse Institute http://www.winterhouseinstitute.org

    Recent Publications


    Penin, L. (2018) An Introduction to Service Design. Designing the Invisible. Bloomsbury. [Launched in May 2018, this is the first textbook covering the basics of service design targeted at learners of all levels with interviews with lead thinkers and practitioners in the field, detailed case studies and a methods guide.]

    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). Publication of the project Amplifying Creative Communities 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. (2019) “Public libraries as engines of democracy: A research and pedagogical case study on designing for re-entry”. NORDES Conference 2019, Helsinki https://nordes2019.aalto.fi/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/NORDES2019_AbstractBook_PDFversion.pdf

    Penin, L., Staszowski, E., Brown, S. (2016) “A new generation of transdisciplinary thinkers and practitioners of design-led social innovation”. Design and Culture Journal, Volume 7, Issue 3, 2015. Routledge https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17547075.2015.1105564

    Staszowski, E., Penin, L. , Moon, A. (2015) “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 at: http://transitiondesign.net/articles/  

    Penin, L.; Staszowski, E.; Harriss, H. (2015). “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 http://www.cios.org/www/ejc/v24n12toc.htm#peninfr

    Penin, Lara (2013) “Amplifying innovative sustainable urban behaviors. Defining a design-led approach to social innovation”. Book chapter in Crocker, R., and Lehmann, S. (Eds.) Behaviour Change, Consumption and Sustainable Design. Series: Sustainable Design. Earthscan / Routledge   

    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 Series G. 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., 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. Available at: http://www.iasdr2009.org/ap/Papers/Special%20Session/Adopting%20rigor%20in%20Service%20Design%20Research/The%20Politics%20and%20Theatre%20of%20Service%20Design.pdf

    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

    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/

    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/

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

    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

    Recent public lectures/talks

    August 7, 2019 Perspectivas em Design de Serviços, Talk at the School of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo, Brazil

    June 2-3, 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

    December 12, 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. (Teleconference) Title: “Transdisciplinary Design”

    February 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


    Research Interests

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





    Current Courses

    Public & Collab Services
    PSDS 5302, Spring 2023

    Thesis 2
    PGTD 5201, Spring 2023

    Past Courses

    Independent Study
    PGTD 5900, Spring 2022

    Public & Collab Services
    PSDS 5302, Spring 2022

    Thesis 2
    PGTD 5201, Spring 2022

    Thinking Design this Century
    PGTD 5600, Fall 2022

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