Who is Jason Nam?
Jason Nam, ARCHIP graduate and Design Disco Director (Photo by Lukas Korynta)
We are teaching students to think like designers, because design thinking can be applied to anything and Architecture is a good discipline to introduce every side of design because it involves several aspects of design from graphic design, to landscape design, to anthropology.
ARCHIP Alumni and Design Disco Co-Founder, Jason Nam’s love for design came to him when he was just 17 and attended a Harvard Graduate School of Design Program. Nam went to high school in the United States and after attending the summer program, Project Link, at Harvard he realized how expansive the field of design was and his passion for architecture.
“It really opened my eyes to what design is. Before that, I knew what it was to be an Architect but I had no idea that could be me.” Nam says, “The program really opened my eyes, and it taught me the necessary tools to pursue Architecture.”
A few years later, Nam found himself a student of Architecture at the esteemed Virginia Tech University. However, the rigid and systematic approach to Architecture wasn’t as forward-thinking as Nam would have liked and he found himself constantly referring back to his first experience with design at Harvard. Eventually, he contacted Harvard and returned to Project Link as a teaching assistant. Nam found himself drawn to the freedom that the Harvard program provided, and the opportunity to work with younger architects and grad students who he could easily relate to and connect with.
After three years at Virginia Tech, Nam returned to his hometown of Prague and continued his study of Architecture at ARCHIP. As a motivated, self-starter Nam thrived in ARCHIPs intimate environment and fluid curriculum. During Nam’s second year at ARCHIP, he realized that Prague needed a program similar to the Project-Link program he attended as a teenager, in order to inspire young students interested in design. This spawned the idea for Design Disco, a non-profit organization that provides free workshops to make design accessible to high school students and expose younger generations to the potential of creativity and design thinking. In 2013, Jason and fellow student ARCHIP Ben James begin sending emails and visiting as many high schools in Prague as they could, pitching the idea to provide free after-school design workshops to high school students. After an initial struggle to get schools on board with the idea of design workshops, Design Disco held their first workshop at a local high school, The English College of Prague. Jason and Ben took over a 60-minute art class where students designed and built their own projects and Design Disco executed its first official outreach workshop.
“It was a lot of fun, and a turning point in the organization,” Nam says “The students had fun and it just ignited, even more, passion in us.”
From there the organization continued to grow. More students at ARCHIP began showing interest in teaching and more high schools begin hosting workshops. The workshops focused on design thinking a concept that was lacking in high school arts curriculum, and perhaps the reason more students were not getting involved in the design. Design Disco’s mission was to fill that gap, using Architecture focused projects.
“We aren’t teaching students to necessarily to become designers,” Nam says “We are teaching them to think like designers, because design thinking can be applied to anything [and] Architecture is a good discipline to introduce every side of design because it involves several aspects of design from graphic design, to landscape design, to anthropology.”
Upon graduation, Nam and James realized the demand and need for an organization like Design Disco looked for ways to expand Design Disco even more.
In 2015, Design Disco partnered with the International Baccalaureate (IB) and began teaching their creative workshops substantially increasing the number of students who participated in their workshops. Design Disco has since visited almost every international school in Prague, opened an international chapter in Norway, acquired their own office and workshop space in Prague. In the future, the organization hopes to launch a summer program for high school students next year and continue to host workshops around Prague.
Nam says the story of Design Disco shows how you can plan for your future but often things you never planned seem to work out much better than what you imagined. Today, Nam continues to head the Design Disco organization and also works full-time as a teacher at Riverside International School in Prague, a job he came across while teaching a Design Disco workshop there in 2016.
“I never thought I would be teaching, I thought I would just end up working at an Architecture firm,” Nam says, “But life is kind of funny, new things come at your way and a lot of times it is better than what you had planned.”
Design Disco team at ARCHIP
Photo courtesy of Design Disco, www.designdis.co