Hidden Layers – AI & DESIGN Summer School

Köln International School of Design is hosting the summer school Hidden Layers from July 18 to 22 in Cologne, Germany. The event gathers a diverse group of experts to collectively discuss and learn about artificial intelligence in design. It is held by the research project KITeGG on design and AI and combines a public program with talks, an exhibition, and workshops with internal meetings of the five art and design schools that are part of the project. The summer school is the first in a series of eight summer and winter schools between 2022 and 2025. The next one will be at HfG Offenbach on November 9-11, 2022.

July 18, 2022 until July 22, 2022

Thematically, Hidden Layers addresses the black boxes of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) from a design perspective.

Köln international school of design
TH Köln




What are the aesthetics, potentials, serendipities, biases, and dangers we find inside the hidden layers of deep neural networks and buried in big training data?


How can we empower designers to create and use machine learning systems?


How do we support a design practice that not only understands how to use these systems but also why and when we should use them – and when we shouldn’t?





The summer school approaches these questions along three thematic threads:

I. Ai & society

seeks to reflect on the changes in the way we work and live that are affected by AI – from changes in the design profession to changes in how we design the lives and labor of others.

II. Teaching machine learning

deals with the places and practices that are needed for collectively learning how to design for and with ‘intelligent’ systems.

III. Ai & material

looks at the entanglements of AI, objects and people, paying special attention to integrating product design, embedded AI systems, and new forms of use.

Public Programm
July 19, 2022 – July 21, 2022
Tuesday until Thursday

The public program is open for everyone and free of charge – please register below.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022
AI & Society / AI & Material

Wednesday, July 20, 2022
Teaching machine learning / AI & Society

Thursday, July 21, 2022
Ai & material / Teaching machine learning

While machine learning and artificial intelligence carry the promise (or threat) of automating our work-lives (not only in design), it has repeatedly been shown automation often turns out to be “fauxtomation.” The hidden layers of machine learning often conceal the hidden labor of underpaid (or even unpaid) workers. In "AI & Society," we discuss the influence of automation on society as well as if there are utopian and liberatory potentials in the technologies we call ‘intelligent.’

Online Talk
16:00 - 17:00 CEST

Crip Futurity and Cyborg Disability: Embodied Design Practices and “Smart” Medical Devices

This presentation illustrates how fashion, art and design might be used in order to explore themes related to cyborg disability. Drawing on a decade of autoethnographic observation and lived experience (Forlano 2017) on “smart” medical devices and, specifically, the use of “automated” insulin pumps by Type 1 diabetics, which has been framed through feminist (Haraway 1988) and crip (Kafer 2013) technoscience, I discuss the mundane everyday ways in which disabled people live with computational technologies such as algorithms, hardware and software. I examine three conceptual designs created in collaboration with fashion designers, artists and designers in order to explore themes around invisibility, labor, algorithmic harm and dehumanization. In contrast to an industry that is obsessed with behavior change and persuasive design, nudging “users” to abide by their rules, this presentation argues for new relations with data and devices fostered through fashion, art and design.

Laura Forlano, a Fulbright award-winning and National Science Foundation funded scholar, is a writer, social scientist and design researcher. In 2018-2019, she is Visiting Research Fellow at the Digital Life Initiative at Cornell Tech in New York City and Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. Currently, she is an Associate Professor of Design at the Institute of Design and Affiliated Faculty in the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where she is Director of the Critical Futures Lab.

Online Talk
17:30 - 18:30 CEST

A thing, something, everything, and nothing

In this talk, Taeyoon Choi depicts an abstraction of the natural world in an attempt to guide inquiries about how we can thrive in symbiosis with the magnificent living and non-living beings of the earth. In this exploratory essay he examines the poetics and politics of code, through artistic examples, metaphors and terrestrial inquiries. How can we create meaningful change in the Community Code, in order to transform our relationship to each other, technology, society and culture? Can computer codes become a tool for poetic and political exploration of being together? Can we reverse-engineer the tools that are traditionally used for oppression and exclusion of marginalized populations through gatekeeping and the hoarding of power, data, and resources? Can we unlearn the codes of control and manipulation to rethink all of our relationships to technology and the environment? Can we build social justice infrastructures, not limited to valuing sociality of proximity, but instead a recognition of a global commons we are obligated to enrich and maintain.

Taeyoon Choi explores the poetics of science, technology, society, and human relations. He works with computer programming, drawing, and writing, oftentimes in collaboration with fellow artists, experts and community members. His projects, participatory workshops, performances, and installations were presented internationally. He taught at the New York University, Parsons School of Design | The New School, The City University of New York, the University of Seoul and co-founded the School for Poetic Computation, in New York City.

Hidden Layers
Exhibition Opening
On-site Event
19:00 - 22:00 CEST

Selected works from students and alumni of Köln International School of Design that address artificial intelligence as aesthetic dispositive, cultural contsruct, and extractivist infrastructure.

With works of Kjell Wistoff, Conrad Weise, Julius Walsch, Arthur Nagel, Lisa Marleen Mantel, Laura Wagner, Moritz Tontsch, Malte Hinrichs, Matthias Grund, Tomas Ignacio Corvalan Azocar & Alfred Ramskill

"Teaching Machine Learning" is a space for talks and discussions on how to establish environments for teaching and learning AI methods in design. What tools and interfaces are needed to allow designers to become AI literates? What are the physical lab spaces that we need? How do we foster experimentation – technologically and conceptually? Teachers from all project partner institutions and the leads of their five newly established labs here engage in discussion with invited guests.

On-site Event
10:30 - 13:00 CEST

Three hands-on workshops on prompt-based image synthesis, embedding AI in hardware, and ethics in designing AI/ML, on-site only.

“AI & Society”: a safe space for learning and critically thinking about AI enabled systems in society with Jiye Kim.

“AI on the Edge”: embedding AI in Open Hardware. With Press Every Key.

“Designerly Appropriation of PyTTI”: practical experiments with text-to-image technology with Laura Wagner.

AI & Design Labs
Panel Discussion
Hybrid Event
14:00 - 15:30 CEST

A panel discussion about laboratories for artificial intelligence and machine learning in design education and design research with special guests Alexa Steinbrück and Simon Maris, who run the XLab at Burg Halle, as well as all KITeGG Lab Leads.

Online Talk
16:00 - 17:00 CEST

Reflections on 10+ years of teaching machine learning to creative practitioners

For designers and other creative practitioners, learning to effectively reason about and apply machine learning can open up new creative possibilities, fruitful interdisciplinary collaborations, and new ways of working. However, traditional machine learning curricula and learning resources usually aren’t a good fit for the types of knowledge and skills that creative practitioners need. In this talk, I’ll discuss my experiences in over more than a decade of teaching machine learning to creators, highlighting some of the approaches I’ve found to be effective as well as some of the persistent challenges, and encouraging others to formalise and share their own approaches to teaching.

Rebecca Fiebrink s a professor at the Creative Computing Institute at University of the Arts, London and affiliated with the Department of Computing at Goldsmiths University. Her teaching and research focus largely on exploring how machine learning can support and expand human creative practices. She is the developer of the »Wekinator« creative machine learning software, and she created the first online class about machine learning for music and art.

Online Talk
17:30 - 18:30 CEST

The End of AI Art

Recent multi-modal generative models like DALL-E 2 or Imagegen have attracted much attention, and have been perceived as both a significant next step in, and radical disruption of, the automated creation of non-trivial images. In this talk, I will trace the development of these techniques over the past decade and argue that we have reached the end of AI art. The photorealism of current-generation models is a stock-photorealism. As model-specific glitches and constraints (e.g. mode collapse in GANs, compression artifacts in VAEs) are eliminated, and as massive meta-datasets of Internet-vernacular imagery become the new norm, the aesthetic contact surface of machine learning vanishes. While this does not limit the theoretical potential of machine learning, it does mark the end of a distinguished period of experimental practice.

Fabian Offert is Assistant Professor in History and Theory of Digital Humanities at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Before joining the faculty at UCSB, Fabian was Postdoctoral Researcher in the DFG priority program “The Digital Image” at Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg and Affiliated Researcher in the Artificial Intelligence and Media Philosophy Research Group at Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design.

As machine learning models increasingly become embedded in physical systems, in "AI & Material" we ask how this will change the design of interactive objects and autonomous things. How should interaction and product design address these objects and what metaphors are needed to communicate their behavior, beyond crude anthropomorphism? How can users be included in shaping their activity through training? Talks and discussions include perspectives of the relationship of AI and material as well as code and AI as material.

Hybrid Talk
12:00 - 13:00 CEST

Bodies that Betray: Biometric Data & EU’s Corporeal Borders

The European Union has gradually intensified its gathering of biometric data of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers and increasingly makes the resulted data banks available to several immigration-related and Police institutions throughout Europe. Where legal, political, and humanitarian efforts fail, asylum seekers try to distort their bodies as the source of undesirable biometric data. With methods such as burning fingertips or claiming to be an unaccompanied minor, they attempt to escape the algorithm and defy the problematic Dublin Convention. Consequently, the EU uses technologies such as retina scans or DNA tests to force these bodies to reveal their deception. In this talk, we will look at the black-boxing of the European Union’s immigration data banks and discuss how the bodies of immigrants become the bearer of the borders.

Azadeh Akbari is an Assistant Professor in Public Administration and Digital Transformation at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. She is the founder of Surveillance in the Global South Research Network. Her research focuses on authoritarian surveillance, data justice, spatial justice, and datafication of immigration. Azadeh has also been a journalist, activist, and UN employee.

Hybrid Talk
18:00 - 19:00 CEST

☑ I’m not a …

Robots are no longer just “better” or more “efficient” workers, they also become co-actors in our daily lives. In our coexistence we ascribe almost human qualities, emotions and liveliness to our technical counterpart, but the rational machine is something else. But how might these things be designed if they evolve from trivial tools to proactive things? The talk focuses on the non-anthropomorphic appearance and behaviour of robotic others as an alternative approach to support interaction with non-human beings.

Andreas Muxel is Professor for Physical Human-Machine Interfaces at the Faculty of Design at University of Applied Sciences Augsburg where he founded and is directing the Hybrid Things Lab, exploring alternative perspectives to our relationship with proactive, robotic beings in terms of acceptance and trust. His contributions have been internationally published, exhibited and awarded (p.ex. ACM DIS Eindhoven, Ars Electronica Festival Linz, FILE Festival São Paulo, TodaysArt Festival Brussels, VIDA Award Madrid, Share Prize Torino). His research is centered around poetical and engaging tools for thinking, regardless of whether they are hardware or software.

Summer School
On-site Event
19:00 - 21:00 CEST


Hidden Layers brings together an interested public with invited guests as well as teachers and students of the five schools that are part of the research project KITeGG. It is organized by students and teachers of the Köln International School of Design.

KITeGG - Research Project Associates

Köln International School of Design

Jakob Kilian

Lasse Scherffig

Laura Wagner

Eduard Paal

Kjell Wistoff

Matthias Grund

Hochschule Trier

Matthias Sieveke

Harald Steber

Peter Ehses

Selâle Franger

Emanuela Roca

Hochschule für Gestaltung Schwäbisch Gmünd

Benedikt Groß

Hartmut Bohnacker

Felix Tischmacher

Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach

Alex Oppermann

Adrian Nießler

Catrin Altenbrandt

Johanna Wallenborn

Joscha Berg

Bastian Kämmer

Max Kreis

Ivan Iovine

Laura Hilbert

Hochschule Mainz

Florian Jenett

Julia-Jasmin Bold

Maika Dieterich

Anton Koch

Isabela Dimarco

Jean Böhm

Francesco Scheffzcyk

Markus Mau

Invited Guests

Taeyoon Choi

Rebecca Fiebrink

Laura Forlano

Simon Maris

Andreas Muxel

Fabian Offert

Alexa Steinbrück

Azadeh Akbari


Kjell Wistoff

Conrad Weise

Julius Walsch

Johannes Growe

Arthur Nagel

Lisa Marleen Mantel

Laura Wagner

Moritz Tontsch

Matthias Grund

Paul Wehner

Tomás Ignacio Corvalán Azócar

Alfred Ramskill-Pugh

KISD Organizational Team

Felix Raphael Westhoven

Huiling Wang

Jihee Hwang

Lukas Marvin Kostka

Tim Noah Lingens

Omid Akbari

Rina Cellarius

Sejal Vatta

Jiye Kim

Eduard Paal

Matthias Grund

Jakob Killian

Kjell Wistoff

Laura Wagner

Lasse Scherffig

Hidden Layers

Selected works from students and alumni of Köln International School of Design that address artificial intelligence as aesthetic dispositive, cultural construct, and extractivist infrastructure.

July 20, 2022 – July 21, 2022
Tuesday & Wednesday
19:00 – 22:00 CEST

With works by Tomás Ignacio Corvalán Azócar, Johannes Growe, Matthias Grund, Lisa Marleen Mantel, Arthur Nagel, Alfred Ramskill-Pugh, Moritz Tontsch, Laura Wagner, Julius Walsch, Paul Wehner, Conrad Weise, Kjell Wistoff.

Köln international school of design
Ubierring 40, 50678 Cologne

Free Online

Registration is free of charge. Online registration includes access to the live-stream of all public talks and discussions. On-site registration includes access to the venue, including talks and exhibition. Please register until July 10, 2022.

    TUESDAY, JULY 19, 2022

    WEDNESDAY, JULY 20, 2022

    THURSDAY, JULY 21, 2022

      TUESDAY, JULY 19, 2022
      I. AI & SOCIETY

      WEDNESDAY, JULY 20, 2022

      THURSDAY, JULY 21, 2022