Monday, 21 December 2009

Icsid World Design Congress, Singapore 25-27 November 2009

Following the Icsid Design Education Conference was 3-days of the Icsid World Design Congress. Congress was the 26th conference organised by Icsid and attended by 700 delegates at Singapore's massive and shiny Suntec City.

Here's what the conference website has to say about the 3-day Congress:

The Icsid World Congress will bring together the thinking of 9 Design2050 Studios, 4 Keynote Speakers and the Congress Facilitators in an interactive forum where delegates will engage with them and each other to propose solutions to many of the critical challenges we face today [...] Our aim is to develop ‘real world’ solutions that are viable within current and future scenarios, for a more sustainable economy and society in 2050. [...] We believe that the challenges we face over the next 40 years represent unprecedented opportunities to develop new products, processes and solutions that will be the foundation of a new sustainable economy.

The theme was very similar to the Changing the Change conference I attended last year. Here's a short excerpt from Changing the Change:

The conference Changing the Change seeks to make a significant contribution to a necessary transformation that involves changing the direction of current changes toward a sustainable future. It specifically intends to outline the state-of-the-art of design research in terms of visions, proposals and tools with which design can actively and positively take part in the wider social learning process that will have to take place.

The key differences between the conferences was their location (European vs. Asian) and also where the propositions/solutions were being driven from ie. In Changing the Change content mostly came from design researchers while Congress brought together design studios and practitioners.

Below is a neat image from the Icsid website which illustrates an overview of the specific streams under the conference theme and also identifies the studios, keynotes and facilitators.

The first day of Congress began with design commentator, Bruce Nussbaum interviewing Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore's Minister for Finance. Shanmugaratnam was very eloquently spoken, painting us a picture of where Singapore has been and where it seeks to go in the future. But Shanmugaratnam needed a big steer by Nussbaum at the end of the interview in addressing design thinking for Singapore's economic policies. As Nussbaum blogged upon reflection:

The sophisticated insight and knowledge shown on stage by Minister Tharman lead me to expect that the government will probably get it right as it promotes the evolution of Singapore from an efficiency-centric society to a mixed efficiency/creativity model. But it might accelerate that progress by bringing more of Singapore’s smart young Gen Y generation of creatives into policy-making positions right now. A global mega-city of Singapore’s excellence can’t afford to let any of its young go.

Presentations by the studios followed, beginning with former Director of Design at BMW, Chris Bangle. Bangle's take on a design proposition for 2050 was not a hard and concrete solution, but a philosophy for design.

WOHA Architects were quite the opposite end of the spectrum, proposing a masterplan for Singapore 2050.

Protofarm brought together a consortium of designers to present future scenarios for farming. During the keynote, shorter presentations from Revital Cohen, Frank Tjepkema, Futurefarmers, Dunne and Raby and 5.5 designers covered a broad scope of propositions ranging from Dunne and Raby's Edible Wilderness to Cohen's use of human organs for energy where the "body becomes a farm" and we are more reliant on ourselves. Check out Protofarm's 10 minute film here.

The following panel session, facilitated by a brilliant, Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator at MOMA (New York) discussed: the need to do "less talking and more doing" as "leading by example is always best"; that the relationship between design and science is growing; that design education needed to bring in other disciplines for designers to work with; questions around whether design should be measured; that design looks to be moving from human-centred to nature-centred; and that designers have a responsibility for designing stuff, but also designing the intangible.

Lunch was served in the foyer and the rest of the day, delegates could visit the Studio spaces. I wanted to sit in on Toshiko Mori Architect's Studio session on Design Blind Spots 2050 which looked at the evolution of design practice, particularly in the area of the designer as part of large-scale co-operations to address issues beyond the built environment. Or as they write on the Congress website:

As the spectrum of global governance shifts away from post-war models, design practice has the opportunity to assume an increasing role in developing systemic frameworks to confront new scales of risk endemic to the 21st century. At the interface between specialized disciplines that regulate economic, environmental, societal, geopolitical and technological pressures, expertise often exists in isolated silos. As a result, these ‘Blindspots’ catalyze even greater and more prolonged risk [...] Our proposal is to interpret blindspots within causal chains as discrete opportunities to resituate the role of design as an integral function; locating it further up on the “food chain” of global risk decision making systems. By evolving design agency beyond reactionary problem solving, it will be allowed to assume a more proactive function within global risk identification and prevention mechanisms so crucial now and into 2050.

I was intrigued by the studio's research and proposition because it places designers as one agent of change in a co-ordinated effort and also looks toward finding opportunities for designers to take on greater role in society and government in the future. Unfortunately the studio session didn't run, but I did get to speak to Landon Brown who heads up the research initiative within Toshiko Mori Architects which is named Visionarc.

The studio presented a provocative keynote the following day which called for designers to change current modes of practice and step outside our known discipline of design and engage with others. The studio also asked designers to: seek to define problems from the top (rather than just "inherit" them); work toward directing policy; visualise strategy; facilitate know-how; direct planning; and identify blindspots in opportunity and risk.

Emily Pilloton's keynote on her initiative, Project H Design also called for a change in current modes of practice. Project H, as she described, was driven by what she sees as a need for an "industrial design revolution." Pilloton's initiative engages product designers to do work for the developing world and in her keynote, she presented reflections on Project H in the form of 6 design roles. These were:
  1. There is no design without (critical) action;
  2. Work with, not for;
  3. Start local and scale globally;
  4. Create systems, not stuff;
  5. Document, share and measure;
  6. Build (the latter what Pilloton described as a "lost art for designers" these days).
Some of the principles are the same as those discussed and outlined by John Thackara, for example in his book, In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World (2005). Speaking of books, Pilloton also just published a book this year on Project H and "product design that empowers" called, Design Revolution. One of Pilloton's final slides was, Project H in numbers, and here they are for your interest:

Other keynotes on Day 2 included ones from Arup, who presented their work on the Design 2050 Challenge which imagined the world in 2050, and Philips, who presented the scenarios for the future of healthcare 2050.

These were the last presentations I was able to attend as I had a flight to catch to Sydney that afternoon. I really enjoyed my time at the conference. It was fascinating to see how designers were seeing our world in 2050 and the provocations and propositions they presented to inspire and enthuse the design community to not just follow the future, but take a bigger role in creating it.

Other related links
Icisd World Design Congress event archive on the Icsid website

Friday, 18 December 2009

Icsid Education Conference, 22 November 2009

The day after Service Design Thinks, I flew to Singapore to present my paper, Perspectives on the changing role of the designer: Now and to the future, at the Icsid (International Council of Societies of Industrial Design) Education Conference.

The theme of the conference was design education 2050. The intent of my paper and presentation was not to say how design education in 2050 should be, but inform design educators on what designers were doing today in the context of the public and social sectors. I hoped this might help inform pathways for educating tomorrow's designers.

I spoke about the design projects in Dott 07 as exemplars of where some designers were doing work today and profiled the different roles of the designer I interpreted from my research on Dott 07 (see image below for the seven dominant roles I drew from the Dott projects).

Seven roles of the designer in Dott 07

I also talked about the broader context of which this was all happening and how there were several enabling factors right here in the UK which help create an industry of design consultancies working with the public and social sector. These factors included the policy context, access to funding and enterprise tools, the open-mindedness of clients etc.

Finally I talked about what I have come to find in my research around this movement of 'designing for social good' (which has several names such as design for social impact, social design etc). I mapped the numerous initiatives (programmes of design projects) which were happening around the globe to demonstrate design's and the designer's contribution to society (see below). Included on the map was Dott 07 but also Project H, of which the organisation's founder, Emily Pilloton would be a keynote at the following Icsid World Design Congress.

Map of research-led and practice-led initiatives in designing for social good from my conference paper, 'Perspectives on the changing role of the designer: Now and to the future'

The feedback I received on my paper presentation was really positive, and the conference delegates had excellent things to say about Dott 07 and its project and how inspired they were to hear of them. Many delegates approached me to say that they had definitely thought about designers contributing in this way, but had not known that initiatives like Dott 07 existed with projects that had already happened.

Presenters at the Icsid Design Education Conference

In summation for the rest of the conference, I have to be honest and say that I found it difficult to take all that much away from the presentations I saw. The theme was very broad and I didn't feel as if the presentations I saw addressed the theme in a direct way. I felt some presentations didn't address the 'so what' for design education 2050. This was a bit disappointing, but maybe the theme was too broad for a one-day conference with presentations a maximum of 20 minute each in length- a very small amount of time to sink one's teeth into the subject matter and have a good discussion about it.

But having said all that, I did meet some really great people at this conference who were enthused, inspired and passionate about design education for tomorrow's designers. It was also great to visit the Temasek Polytechnic who hosted the conference and provided exceptional hospitality including a lovely lunch under the sun on the college grounds.

During lunch we got to tour the Polytechnic and I noticed the Greater than 60 Design Centre (though we didn't get to tour inside). The Centre addresses the demographic of the aging population and how design can provide "ideas and solutions that will make the ageing lifestyle a creative and an exciting one."

The following Icsid World Design Congress was a bigger conference focusing on design in 2050. It got several design studios from around the world to propose their ideas for what design in 2050 could look like. I'll report on this shortly so stay tuned!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Published paper in the Australiasian Medical Journal, Nov 2009

Last month, the Australiasian Medical Journal (AMJ) published a 4-part series special issue on design and health.

Image from the AMJ website

Editors of the journal, Moyez Jiwa and Christopher Kueh, write in their Editorial titled, 'Designing the Future in Health':

The design of the structures in which we work, rest and play serve the health agenda by ensuring that all who use those facilities, irrespective of their physical or cognitive capacity are able to contribute to society. Designers also claim that human emotion is a very significant confounding variable in design for health. Therefore authors in this special edition of the AMJ suggest that the aesthetic qualities of the objects and symbols around us, indeed the very clothes our healers choose to wear, have a significant impact on our experiences and ultimately on the speed of recovery when we are ill [...] We seek to foster the debate which will ultimately change the way we craft solutions to global health care problems from dementia to deafness, from the packaging of medicines to how we find our way around hospitals, from tools to measure the severity of pain to the design of websites to promote self help.

I am pleased to announce that Deborah Szebeko (Founder and Director of thinkpublic) and I had our paper on the Dott 07 project, Alzheimer 100, published in the 3rd of the 4-part series.

We worked on this paper for many months earlier this year. Our intent was to give insight into the Alzheimer 100 project and the co-design practices of thinkpublic. The paper is titled, 'Co-designing for dementia: The Alzheimer 100 project' and if you click on the title, it will automatically download a pdf of our paper. Otherwise, visit the AMJ website where our paper sits alongside other design and health papers in Volume 1, No. 12, Design and Health III.

If you get a chance to read our paper, please let us know if you have any thoughts or feedback (positive and/or critical) as we'd love to hear from you!

I feel really honoured that we had the opportunity be part of the journal's initial design and health conversation. I'm excited to see where the AMJ goes from here in discussing and debating design and health, contributing valuable stories, insights and lessons for the future of healthcare and livelihoods of everyone in society.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Service Design Thinks 2, 19 November 2009

Last month, the second Service Design Thinks night happened in London at the Sense Loft in Soho.

The theme of the night was to discuss service design at scale.

We had three brilliant speakers:
  • Steven Baker: Who talked about designing a mobile banking service for 21st century Africa called M-PESA which went from 0 - 2 million customers in just one year;
  • Julia Schaeper: Who has been working within the 4th largest organisation in the world, the UK's National Health Service (NHS). Julia spoke about building design capability within the NHS to upskill people to support cultural change; and
  • James Gardner: Who spoke about service innovation within one of the UK’s largest banking groups.
We have more photos on Flickr here. On the night, we also launched the global website which hosts several other city chapters. Alongside London (UK) the cities of Amsterdam (Netherlands), Sydney (Australia) and Sao Paulo (Brazil) are now connected and bringing service designing people together.

If you would like to be a city host, please get in touch with us on and add to the network of events for people who are service designing around the world.