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

4 comments:

Qin said...

god, u r good at reporting conference... all I do is taking photos of food...

lauren said...

there was a photo of food from the other education conference :)

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