Institut für Partizipatives Gestalten


To us, education (Bildung) and design (Gestaltung) are two sides of the same coin. The term Bildung does not have a direct equivalent in the English language. Bildung means education in the sense of culture, formation and self-formation through knowledge, skills and personal reflection. A second term, Erziehung, is used for education in the sense of upbringing and pedagogy. Likewise, the German word “Gestaltung” means “giving form to something”. The “Gestalt” is a shape, configuration, or structure which as an object of perception forms a unity incapable of expression simply in terms of its parts. For example, a melody is the “Gestalt” of a set of musical notes in a certain formation.

To design means to educate oneself

So one side of the coin is that every participative design entails intensive personal engagement which can be described as education in the sense of formation. To us, to submit openly to the design processes which unfold within and around us includes the willingness to perceive and carefully observe, to interactively accumulate experiences, knowledge and skills, to engage in self-reflection and to test and implement the insights and ideas gained. This type of education (Bildung) was described by Wilhelm von Humboldt as “appropriation of the world … in a mutually interconnected and constrained way”.

Bildung is design

The other way of looking at it is that we need a propensity towards education and learning to become good designers, as we understand Bildung neither as unreflected memorization of canonical knowledge nor as the exclusive acquisition of instrumental skills for particular purposes but as an open attitude towards one’s own development potential. We are interested in Bildung that changes our inner self and lets us grow, that brings up questions and spurs on and satisfies our natural sense of curiosity in equal measure. In this sense, education, understood as Bildung, gives us room to grow into our own creative potential as designers of our worlds.

Design processes and education events

Those who take part in our participative design processes – no matter on what topic – will in the end not only have solved a design problem. They will also have been able to discover, reflect upon and use new knowledge and skills and hence will have aided the formation of their own “Gestalt”.

Similarly, we always integrate creative tasks into our seminars and training courses. Creative design, for example in the form of conceptual drafts, helps to consolidate topics and content and implement these in a creative and tangible way.

We support educational institutions and we conceptually design education and training provision with you and for you. We have coined the term educational architecture (german) for this task: Just like an architect should design structures in which people can live a good and meaningful life, we develop educational structures within which learning becomes a meaningful and vital experience. In terms of methods, we work primarily with our Pattern Language for Education Systems (PLES) (german).

"Bildung is 'the stimulation of all human faculties so that through the appropriation of the world these can unfold harmoniously and proportionately in a mutually interconnected and constrained way and lead to a self-determined individuality and personality, which in its individuality and uniqueness may enrich mankind.'" Wilhelm von Humboldt