DESIS Knust Lab

The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), is positioned as the premier design school in Ghana. As such, the DESIS lab, is hosted by the Department of Communication Design at the KNUST.


Kwame Nkrumah University
of Science and Technology




Dr. Edward Appiah 
& Ms. Ralitsa Diana Debrah

About Us

 In this DESIS Lab, we have created a space for learners to unitilise the concept of design for Social Innovation and Sustainability, exploring new design tools, new concepts, building on existing ideas to find sustainable solutions to problems in society. These activities are deeply rooted in the postgraduate programs and to some extent in the undergraduate program as well. So far in the DESIS.KNUST Lab, we have worked on several projects in areas such as Environmental Sustainability, Sanitation, Education and others.


Environmental concern: One of the ongoing projects is the 5-Star street project with a focus on environmental sanitation. The project is being managed by KNUST, Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA) and community members of Moshie-Zongo, Kumasi-Ghana. Additionally the DESIS Lab, KNUST, have engaged in other collaborative project with partners from University of Michigan (UM), USA, as part of community engagement activities for sustainability in Accra, Ghana. Through these projects students have engaged with community members in Nungua, Accra, Ghana to develop bio charcoal using found organic waste materials. The community engagement was a way of responding to environmental sustainability issues in the community of Nungua-Accra, Ghana. (Click to view:

Income generation/ entrepreneurship: one of the projects in this case is the Zongo Caravans of Hope project in a resource-restricted community near KNUST. Some of the emerging possibilities from interacting with this community has been skill training project which is ongoing, equipping the youth with basic skills for a lifelong career.

Design performances:  These are mainly projects we have done collaboratively with KNUST staff, other researchers across the globe and local community members in Accra and Kumasi, Ghana. Example is Re-Painting the RED, Vodafone project. In this case we used performances by local communities to put messages across to Vodafone company companies to reduce aggressive outdoor advertising in Ghana (Click to view: Soon after these activities we have observed the re-branding of Vodafone companies integrating peaceful Ghanaian Adinkra symbols in most of their brands.

Zongo Caravan of hope: In this project, design was used as a tool to address pressing challenges in the community such as water, sanitation and youth unemployment. Participating members were mainly members of faculty working collaboratively with community members. One of the outcomes of these activities was a skill-training program for young girls in the form of a fashion school. The trainees will be using found materials in the community to create newer garments as a way of living sustainability and keeping the environment clean. Please see link to view online catalogue for more details (Click: http://www.away-is

A 5 Star Sanitation Street Project: Another major ongoing social innovation project from the KNUST is focused on improving sanitation within Moshie Zongo, a local community in Kumasi, Ghana. The current project proposes bottom – up approach, using Design for Social Innovation and sustainability concepts whereby designers co-create, co-design and collaborate with the main stakeholders – residents, landlords and designers– in prototyping a design system for tackling the sanitation and environmental issues within the Kumasi Metropolis. The project is code-named “5-Star Street. A 5-Star Street will seem to be the ultimate pride to behold. Streets will therefore have to struggle and maintain their status since there is a possibility of a 5-Star Street being demoted and vice versa at a particular time to previously awarded members.

Abetenim community project: the project was developed with community members, KNUST, other university faculty members and NKA foundation. The project is located at the Abetenim, village in the Ejisu-Juabeng District, Kumasi, Ghana. The village is now affectionately called “UBUNTU” village. Some of the results from design activities in this village was an emerging maker space. The maker space is designed to serve as a creative space in the village, which could also be used for meetings, studying and working on art and design projects. School children from Abetenim community occasionally perform at functions at KNUST, as a way of exhibiting their talents and to showcase possibilities in the village. Please see link for catalogue on Abetenim project (Click to view:

Zongo Caravan of hope, 2011-date; Funded: Hannie Marie Jokinen, Focus Foundation and other researchers; Description: Zongo Caravans of hope are a community project, which was strategically designed for sustainability to unearth emerging problems and find solutions in the Ayigya-Zongo community in Kumasi, Ghana.

A 5-Star Street Project, 2015-date; Funders: KNUST Research Fund (KReF); Description: The project is designed to encourage community members to improve their sanitation activities by awarding each street with a ‘Star’. A 5-Star Street Project will seem to be the ultimate pride to behold in the Moshie-Zongo community to motivate them towards these goals. “Streets” will therefore have to struggle and maintain their status since there is a possibility of a 5-Star Street being downgraded. The project is still ongoing in the Kumasi metropolis in the Asante Region, Ghana.

Abetenim community project, 2011-date; Funders:Centre for cultural and African studies, KNUST, Participating Members from Kumasi Biennial Symposium and NKA Foundation; Description: The Abetenim community project (UBUNTU village) was approached using art and design as a catalyst for change in the said community, which is located in a remote area in the Ejisu-Juabeng area in Asante Region, Ghana.


Our projects

Some of our projects are: Zongo Caravan of hope,  A 5 Star Sanitation Street Project, Abetenim community project.


Dr. Edward Appiah


Dr. Edward Appiah

Edward Appiah is Senior lecturer at the Department of Communication Design, KNUST, Kumasi, and the Coordinator of Research and Postgraduate Studies at the department. He had his doctoral degree in Design Education and Social Innovation at the Faculty of Informatics and Design, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa. His research interests are in Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability, and Technology in Design, with emphasis in Design Pedagogy. He also holds Masters in African Art and Culture from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. He is the local Coordinator for Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability (DESIS), a network of design labs, based in design schools and design-oriented universities, actively involved in promoting and supporting sustainable change. He is an ardent believer of ‘always a new paradigm’, and believes that there is always a new way of sustainability in life. Edward Appiah is committed to the philosophy and practice of sustainable socially responsive (and responsible) design.

Ralitsa Debrah

Operation Manager

Ms. Ralitsa Diana Debrah

Ralitsa Diana Debrah is a design educator and researcher at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana, and at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), South Africa. She is a member of several design organizations including, the Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability Network (DESIS); e/Merge Africa, Network of Afrikan Designers (NAD), Pan Afrikan Design Institute (PADI), Ghana Institute of Graphic Artists (GhiGha); and Design Ghana. She also currently serves as the Afrikan Ambassador to the Open Design Afrika (ODA) organization.  She has worked on several projects related to sustainability in both Afrikan and European settings. Ralitsa is currently a PhD Candidate at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Educational Technology from the University of Cape Town (UCT), Cape Town, South Africa. Ralitsa holds a Master’s Degree in Communication Design and a Bachelor of Fine Art in Graphic Design from Kwame Nkrumah, University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana.


Get in touch with us if you liked any of our projects and would like to participate!


DESIS Network’s purpose is “to promote design for social innovation in higher education institutions with design discipline so as to generate useful design knowledge and to create meaningful social changes in collaboration with other stakeholders.”

DESIS Network’s purpose is “to promote design for social innovation in higher education institutions with design discipline so as to generate useful design knowledge and to create meaningful social changes in collaboration with other stakeholders.” Applying members who share the same vision and fulfil the following requirements will become DESIS Labs.

Members can be legally constituted higher education institutions or Universities with design disciplines (hereinafter referred to also only as “higher education institutions” or only as “Universities”), private or public, sharing DESIS motivations and visions and supporting DESIS activities (Labs projects, international Initiatives, Platform improvements).

Once the Membership Request Letter and its attachments have been received by the International Coordination Committee, they will be analysed in order to verify if the formal requirements are satisfied. On this basis, feedback will be send to the interested teams.

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