Leaders of the industrial design world will gather in London this week at the third Product Design + Innovation conference, to reflect on new dynamics in the industry in the midst of shifting social and technological paradigms.
With speakers ranging from in-house design innovators from the likes of Nike, Cisco and Philips Design, to design agency directors of Seymourpowell, Priestmangoode and Kinneir Dufort the packed two day programme will feature expert perspective on the emergence of connected objects, wired transportation, the maker movement, healthcare consumerisation, as well as the fields of synthetic biology and energy harvesting.
Clockwork from top right: Matt Shaw, Tiffany Lambert, Brigette Brown, Cecilia Fagel, Bryn Smith
Each year the SVA MFA Design Criticism department hosts a conference, where the students present their research, as well as choosing the theme and format. This year's theme is "counter/point" and each student will present their work in counterpoint with that of a speaker whose views may differ from their own. We asked the D-Crit Class of 2013 to explain how they selected their speakers and what discussions they think will ensue at the conference.
Can you explain why you invited your speaker and why their areas of research or design practice relate to your thesis topic? What can the audience expect from your pair of presentations and the discussion to follow?
Matt Shaw: I think that Mark Foster Gage provides a good counter/point for my topic because at first glance we appear to have very different agendas. In my thesis, I advocate for the communicative possibility of what is called "roadside vernacular," or buildings shaped like giant objects. His advanced digital aesthetic is very different, communicating more viscerally and less directly, which he writes about in his book Aesthetic Theory. However, we both place an emphasis on the visual, and we agree that this could be the key to making architecture which re-engages broader publics. I think we agree about what needs to happen, but disagree about how to best accomplish it. These similarities and differences are nuanced and should make for a stimulating discussion in many ways.
* * *
Tiffany Lambert: You can anticipate a glimpse into a future universe—one with mountain-shaped trains and cars grown from organic materials—and hear about how design mediates broader cultural and social experiences that go well beyond aesthetics alone. My research project interrogates the way design citizens (or end users) have become more engaged in processes of design. This participatory culture manifests itself in a variety of ways, shifts the roles of both citizens and expert designers, and raises important questions for the field and its surrounding discourse.
While my work aims to expose the implications of participation in order to establish a critical framework, Fiona Raby's most recent experiment with Anthony Dunne—now on view at the Design Museum in London—explores cultural and ethical impacts through speculative (and spectacular!) design solutions. Their project uses the design proposal as a participatory tool, involving the larger public and designers alike.
Could games like Papa Sangre pave the way for other mobile audio experiences?
The tech lovers at last week's MEX Mobile User Experience conference in London were treated to all manner of fantastical visions of our further mobile empowered futures; big data, connected cars, smart homes, Internet of Things, gestural interfaces, personal mini-drones—the lot.
Few presentation this year will be complete without at least passing reference to the game changing nature or dystopian social implications of soon-to-be-unleashed Google Glass. Surprisingly, however, a couple of jaw-dropping demonstrations were enough to leave many of those attending wondering whether we might be missing a slightly quieter revolution taking hold. Could immersive audio be about to come of age in mobile user experience?
Having played second fiddle to the visual interface for decades, being so often the reserve of experimental art installations or niche concepts for the blind, audio has yet to find mass interaction application outside of alarms, alerts, ringtones and the occasional novelty bottle opener. All of this, however, could be set to change, if the two fields of binaural sound and dynamic music can find their way into the repertoire of interaction designers.
Binaural Audio Spatializes Interaction
Hardly a new phenomenon (though not always well known), Papa Sangre is regarded as the 'best video game with no video ever made.' Since it's release back in 2011, the audio app game for iOS has been a hit with both the visually impaired and fully sighted. The game plunges players into a dark, monster-infested fantasy with only their ears to navigate the three dimensional underworld and rescue the damsel in distress. The incredible 3D sound effects are achieved with headphones and binaural audio—an effect that replicates the experience of hearing a sound-wave originating from a certain direction, hitting one ear before the other. Use of the screen is disconcertingly limited to only a rudimentary compass-like dial (determining the player's virtual direction of movement) and two feet buttons, pressed to take steps into the darkness. Never has a computer game monster been so terrifying than when you can't actually see it.
In the dark: screenshot of immersive audio game PapaSangre
The creators, London-based SomethinElse, developed the game by first mapping out the experiences of sound from hundreds of directions using a binaural microphone—a stereo mic the exact shape and density of a human head with pick-ups for ear drums. The algorithmic engine this produced could then be put to work transforming any ordinary mono audio into a spacialised, stereo output for listeners wearing headphones (with a fair dose of clever coding, of course).
Binaural microphone with exact dimension and density as human head
What better way to celebrate the coming of spring than with a series of events that examine the impact of design on business and society? The 2013 IDSA District Design Conferences kick off this weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina, and continue over the next two weekends in four additional cities across the States. Whether you happen to live in Cleveland, Long Beach, Indianapolis or Hartford or the unique opportunity for professional development happens to be the next state over, make a point of making the trip.
Make sure you register for the conference you want to attend the most as spots will fill up fast, and each conference offers a different focus. This year's themes range from color theory to entrepreneurship, and designers from each and every region can look forward to valuable insights and in-depth design discussion over the course of each two-day conference. Find more details on the schedule and each of the conferences here.
The people behind the upcoming Interaction14 conference invite you to attend a panel discussion in Milan on the "Long View of Interaction Design."
On Monday 8 April at 6 p.m. (on the eve of the Salone del Mobile), Claudio Moderini, Fabio Sergio, Jan-Christoph Zoels and Todd S. Harple will debate with Alok Nandi on how to design for those interaction design challenges that go beyond the immediate consumer product/service launch cycle.
What if your interaction design has to be integrated in a hospital or a building or a city? How do you design if your creation has to last 10, 20 or even more years into the future? What tools can you use as an interaction designer? How do you make it adaptive and resilient? How to avoid obsolescence?
Anna Meroni, Assistant professor of service and strategic design, Polytechnic University of Milan (IT)
Is it possible to make a government services site useful for citizens seeking information? Ben Terrett, Head of Design at the Government Digital Service, not only thinks it's possible, but believes it might be the world's best brief. In 2011, the British government established the Government Digital Service (GDS) within the Cabinet Office. It was established as a direct response to a government-commissioned survey conducted by Martha Lane Fox that recommended that the government strategy be "Digital by Default," along with key tenets to overhaul the public-facing websites that served as portals for government services and information.
The key concepts as outlined by Fox included:
- Establish a digital team in the Cabinet Office with absolute authority across all government online services.
- Fix Publishing - With over 2000 websites for citizen needs versus business links, departmental and public bodies with individual websites.
- Fix Transations - For people who pay for services online
- Go Wholesale - opening up APIs to third parties
By October 17th, 2012, the GDS launched GOV.UK, a single portal to access governmental information as a citizen or a business. A month later, the team began folding over 400 departmental agencies. To date, 14 out of 24 ministerial departments are live on gov.uk along with 17 of over 300+ public bodies within the department. In the video below, Ben Terrett chats with Willy Wong, Chief Cretive Officer of NYC & Company, New York City's marketing, tourism and partnership organization. Ben shares about designing for user needs through simplification, the history of British public design as well as the GDS' plans for opening up information to third parties.
It's that time of year again. IDSA is gearing up for Spring with five district design conferences looking at the changing practice and the impact of design on business and the society at large. Taking place throughout the month of April, the five district conferences invite educators, practitioners and business professionals to share learnings over the course of two days. Register today!
Southern District Design Conference
Raleigh, April 5-6
"Revitalize with Design"
Western District Design Conference
Long Beach, April 12-13
"Designer as Entrepreneur"
Central District Design Conference
Cleveland, April 12-13
"Design Your Ecosystem"
Midwest District Design Conference
Indianapolis, April 19-20
"New Paradigms for Design"
Northeast District Design Conference
Hartford, April 19-20
"The Color of Design"
Hit the jump for full descriptions of each of this year's district design conferences.
'Dare We Do It Real Time' by body>data>space (photo by Jean-Paul Berthoin)
Over an intensive two days at the end the month, 100 delegates at MEX 2013—the international forum for mobile user experience, in its 12th iteration this year—will gather in central London to discuss and attempt to envision the development and future impact of mobile technology.
With speakers at last year's forum including Dale Herigstad, four-time Emmy award winning creator of the iconic Minority Report conceptual user interfaces, as well as connected car experts from Car Design Research, this year's event boasts inspiring input from the likes of content strategist at Facebook Melody Quintana, UX research guru of WhatUsersDo Lee Duddell and Ghislaine Boddington creative director at experimental connected performance outfit, body>data>space.
Insight - How should we improve understanding of user behaviour and enhance how that drives design decisions? Diffusion - What are the principles of multiple touch-point design and the new, diffused digital experiences? Context - How can designers provide relevant experiences, respect privacy and adapt to preferences? Sensation - What techniques are there for enhancing digital experience with audible and tactile elements? Form - How can change in shapes, materials or the abandonment of physical form be used to excite users? Sustainability - How can we enable sustainable expression in digital product choices? Can we harness digital design to promote sustainable living?
Sam Dunne, Design Strategist at Plan and Core77 UK Correspondent, will be reporting live from the event.
MEX, Mobile User Experience
Walllacespace St. Pancras
22 Duke's Road
London, WC1H 9PN
March 26–27, 2013
One of the largest events of it's type, Semi-Permanent is a creative platform spreading art and design inspiration. Started in Sydney, Australia in 2003, the event has established itself over the last ten years as a leader in presentations and exhibitions throughout the creative world. With annual events hosted in Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, and Brisbane, this is the first time the conference has hit Stateside since their 2005 US debut in New York City.
Andrew Johnstone, the Director and Founder explained, "Two of the Semi-Permanent team visited Portland last last year and loved it—we chose Portland to host a conference because we had heard that it was a really creative and interesting city. We chose Los Angeles because we felt that the art and design scene in Los Angeles is quite strong—it is a more creative city than people like to think."
This year's event includes presentations from Chuck Anderson (NoPattern), Terry White (Adobe Evangelist), Holly Wales (Illustrator), Michael Muller (Photographer) and special guests in each city: Gary Baseman (Artist), Gmunk (Motion Graphics) and Rei Inamoto (AKQA) in Portland, Aaron Rose (Director/Curator), Gia Coppola (Director/Photographer), Oliver Zahm (Purple Fashion) and M Blash (Director's Bureau) in Los Angeles. Attendees can look forward to an exhibition and parties that are programmed alongside the conference itself. More artists are on the roster and are being announced daily—REGISTER TODAY for the Early Ticket pricing.
To win tickets, leave a comment below with:
- Which speaker are you most excited about seeing + one sentence explaining why
- Be sure to include your email address so we can reach out to you if you win!
To get a taste of what's in store at the conference, check out the highlight reel from last year's event in Sydney.
This is the second article in a series examining the potential of resilient design to improve the way the world works. Join designers, brand strategists, architects, futurists, experts and entrepreneurs at Compostmodern13 to delve more deeply into strategies of sustainablity and design.
We've all been there: it's another late night in the studio, and you've got hours of pixel-pushing and deck-polishing ahead. Your social life, if it exists, is under duress. The cramp in your mousing hand makes you wonder if it really is time to see that doctor.
Meanwhile your mind wanders from the task at hand to what you can do—what you can change about your "situation"—to close the gap between the seeming pointlessness of how you earn your living and the realization that your time and energy could be better spent doing something (anything!) more meaningful.
Like your brother who joined the Peace Corps in India. Or the industrial designer you read about who designed a new clean water system for a village in Tanzania. The architect who took a 6-month leave of absence from his job to build relief housing in Haiti.
It could be mere escapism to indulge such humanitarian fantasies but I think there's more to it, especially for designers. It's in our professional DNA to do stuff, to make things—and if we were trained well—to solve problems and have real impact on people's lives. Our hands feel tied when we're not putting them to good use.
Human need is everywhere
Humanitarian work shouldn't require quitting your job, uprooting your life and moving to another community. The eye of the storm for social injustice isn't always half way across the world—it's often right under your nose in the form of an urban food desert, children stuck in a cycle of poverty, a family who lives in your back alley.
Over the last 5-7 years, we've witnessed an explosion of programs dedicated to applying design methods to humanitarian issues in the developing world. Some have spun off as nonprofits; others are embedded in top design firms, universities or government. Philanthropic foundations are expanding their grant portfolios by underwriting innovative, designer-led initiatives that meet their programmatic interests. Both the design and mainstream media have caught on, helping to fuel more attention to the value of designers working in the developing world—amounting to more funding, more programs, and more opportunities.
And we're live from Cape Town at Design Indaba this week covering the presentations, films, music and products that are making a difference not only in South Africa, but around the world. An impressive roster of international speakers includes John Maeda, Steven Heller, Louise Fili, Paula Scher, Asif Khan, Martí Guixé, Core77 Design Awards winner Daan Roosegaarde, Oscar Diaz, Jeanne van Heeswijk, David Adjaye and more. We'll be covering the ideas and inspiration from over 30 speakers representing the broad, transdiciplinary nature of this conference.
Beginning on Wednesday, follow us on Twitter @Core77 for live tweeting or if you're a student or young designer in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town or Durban, you can participate in one of the local Young Designers Simulcasts.
Over the past weekend, Core77 ventured up to Boston to check out the inaugural edition of the HarvardxDesign conference, a collaboration between the students of the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. The conference explored ways to use the principles of design to transform business and education and included both a speaker series and a design challenge. We hit the ground running on Friday night with a series of rapid-fire presentations from the likes of Hunter Tura, CEO of Bruce Mau Design; Paul Pugh, VP of Creative for Software Innovation at frog; and Marco Steinberg, Director of Strategic Design at the Finnish Innovation Fund.
Hunter Tura preached how imperative it is for designers and businesspeople to collaborate as early in the product development process as possible in order to create the most holistically successful results. "The Design School students need to introduce themselves to the Business School students," said Tura, "because these people will one day control the fate of your brand." Tura continued with describing how innovation, certainly the buzz word of the conference, has become like irony. "It's very difficult to define, but you know it when you see it," said Tura, while showing examples of products that have changed stagnant markets. Most importantly, though, innovation is not some stand-alone goal to achieve—"innovation is not something that exists in a vacuum"—but rather something that is dependent on the design process.
Paul Pugh talked about bucking the stereotypes in design in order to find happiness. He put up the typical design thinking process, with steps like Discover, Concept, Refine, and Deliver. "These are really marketing diagrams about how design works," said Pugh. "At frog, we try not to stick to that." The very rigid process of design thinking can be limiting, so teams at frog are allowed to come up with their own processes and ways of working, all in the pursuit of turning a sort of happy chaos into the best end results. Pugh described how software design projects are often regarded as trivial, especially in comparison to social innovation projects. "But look at software design as a humanitarian project," said Pugh, flipping the modality on its head. "People sit in front of screens all day—we can make them happier and make their lives better. Always think about how products can change a person's life."
Lastly, Marco Steinberg stole the show with a passionate and down-to-earth talk about using design to face the world's biggest problems. "Our challenges are on such a grand scale. Combine that with diminishing resources and now it's about redesign, not just making the systems more efficient," said Steinberg. He described the aging populace in Finland where the tax base is shrinking, yet the need for services is quickly increasing. This seemingly necessitates the need for service designers, yet solely using service designers as the solution "will only make the services more pleasant—we'll just die more pleasantly," but not solve the root of the problem. Government needs to engage all stakeholders into to administer its services better.
During the panel, Steinberg continued to inspire the audience with his stories of struggling to change the culture of government through embedded designers. "The public sector has no history [of design]," said Steinberg. "If we can figure out how to get in, then we're not burdened by any legacy." However, unlike the oft-repeated design thinking maxim of failing early and often, designers in government cannot be allowed to fail since there won't be another opportunity to try again. Steinberg also offered two "sinister" strategies that he uses to effect change more rapidly: the Trojan horse—"we give you what you want, but load it with what you need"—and creep—"do small things, work at the margins, then take bigger and bigger bites." Although we had never heard of Marco Steinberg before today, he is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Saturday started off with a somewhat status-quo yet highly enjoyable lecture on using design to shape business strategy from IDEO's Colin Raney, who proffered Richard Buchanan's Orders of Design as a basis for understanding business design. The Orders of Design start with graphic design, then evolve to products, to interaction design, and finally to system design, which includes businesses, government, education and other organizations. "Business is the platform for design," said Rainey. He then described the steps for integrating the design thinking process into business strategy, which include visualizing the system, looking for areas of potential leverage, and then implementing a series of systemic changes to redefine the system.
Since its inception in 2008, the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation has become the poster child for internal innovation practices. The Center for Innovation focuses on engaging all of the stakeholders in the healthcare system, from doctors to patients to staff, and introducing the design process as a means of taking healthcare to the next level. We had the chance to sit down with the Center for Innovation's Gerry Greaney and Molly McMahon to talk about how design is reshaping healthcare.
Core77: What is the Center for Innovation?
Gerry Greaney: We're a very interesting and diverse group with backgrounds in design, healthcare, finance, budget management, IT, and we're taking the design thinking and design research approach to try to transform the delivery experience of healthcare.
Have you seen the Center transform, along with the culture and behaviors at the Clinic?
Molly McMahon: Definitely. When we first started, we moved out of this kind of raw space in the back area that wasn't finished and that was also right inside the patient clinic hallway. Our team was split—we didn't have a dedicated space for ourselves. Then last March, we moved into to this new, open space with everyone on the same floor. Space is a [scarce] commodity and really valued at Mayo. If you're given more space, then you're worth something. It shows that the Clinic has made an investment in us as well as through the work that we've been doing.
GG: I think what's happened over the past couple of years is that more and more groups throughout Mayo have engaged with the Center and as they've done that, they've started to really understand what the value is. When you bring something like a design approach into a medical institution, it's very different than the scientific, analytical lab approach that's prominent there. It's hard to understand initially what the value of this is—until you experience it. And then once you go through that, you can see the benefit. And when that happens, more people talk about it. It's about getting a foothold.
What kinds of attitudes have you seen? When you say, "I do design and innovation," do people balk at that?
MM: I would say it's more of a slight confusion or an 'Explain more,' because as soon as you say the word 'design,' from their perspective, they're looking at it as, "Are you designing the curtains in the room or the bed? What are you trying to design around or change?" From that, I think it's more of a confusion around the term 'service design' and how it fits into how what they're doing and what we're going to provide to their services.
GG: I think there are times when people may wonder why we're needed and we have to show why we are. Maybe we go a little further to do that and to really capture the stories people tell and things we're told by patients and then translate it into something that applies to the work that needs to be done.
So why is the Center for Innovation needed?
GG: I think it's because there's only so much you can do to address the change that needs to happen in healthcare with the approaches that have been tried already. So there are certain things that you can identify through equality efforts, things that have made huge progress in improving efficiency. But there are certain things that you don't see when you look at things that way. By looking very carefully through a patient experience and trying to understand the greater context of health for patients, you start to see some opportunities that you might not see if we were only focused on purely the medical side of things, purely the care aspect.
Bruce Nussbaum is a luminary in the business and design fields, as well as a professor at Parsons the New School for Design and an occasional contributor here at Core77. A year-and-a-half ago, Bruce famously declared that design thinking was dead. We had the chance to sit down with Bruce and see how his thoughts on design have evolved since then.
Core77: How has your thinking about design thinking changed in the last year-and-a-half? Now you're hearing business professors talk about design thinking as the new thing and a year and half ago you said it was dead!
Bruce Nussbaum: Well, that's what happens when you're there at the beginning of a concept and you live through it, you see it mature, and you believe that it is now a wonderful foundation for something else. Then you come to a place like Harvard where they're sort of discovering design and embracing design thinking. My reaction to that is that it's wonderful because for this situation, for this time, for them it's great that they're understanding the power of design and what design can do, not just in terms of objects, but in terms of relationships, experiences and education. For here, it's great. For those of us who've been inside, we're trying to push the envelope and move forward and Harvard will embrace that too as time goes on.
Does this mean that design thinking is enduring? Or that there's kind of a lag time between these concepts emerging and their adoption down the road?
Yes, well, government is just beginning to adopt design, much less design thinking. But there are institutional lags, cultural lags, there are all kinds of forces at work. There's the force of fad. I remember when design was hot and then not and then innovation was hot and it's kind of peaking now. You can see more and more creativity is moving up that S curve. And creativity is getting hotter and hotter. My book is coming out on "creative intelligence," which will have its moment. To me, they all become scaffolding for other ideas. You're moving down and evolving one's thinking about all of this, whether you call it design, innovation, or creativity. We're all in that same space and trying to do a better job of understanding the phenomenon and the process and most importantly the practice.
When I moved from Business Week to the New School at Parsons, that really changed things for me in terms of my frame and I wanted to be more inclusive. Design is very powerful, it's very particular, and it involves a small number of people. Everyone feels that they're creative and everyone probably can be creative. I just found over the years that when you talk about design, people lean back a little bit and will be a little wary and they'll hear you out. But talk about creativity and they'll start telling you about their kids and they'll talk about how when they were in school they did that. Or they'll talk about their job and you'll tell them, oh, that was very creative. They'll say, Really? And the fact is what they were doing is really creative. So it just brings everybody into the conversation, that's why I went there.
They're still talking about design, design thinking, focusing on user needs or the experience. That's just the tiniest, tiniest bit of what we know in anthropology and sociology about what I consider the most important thing, which is engagement. That's what it's about. How we engage with products, how we engage with services, how we engage in a social way and it's the design of that engagement which is so powerful. And that's what Apple used to do so well. It was that engagement that we had, the meaning we found in that engagement, which they seem to be losing.
Why do you say that Apple is losing that engagement? What was that shift?
Well, the map thing was a disaster. The latest iteration of iTunes is pretty problematic. Perhaps the most important thing is the promise of things to come. In the book, I talk about aura. I want to bring back aura. And the reason I want to bring back the concept of aura is that it is quintessentially about engagement. Aura is this thing that beckons you, that pulls you in, that you have an engagement with, and that very often is an emotional engagement. I would argue that there is such a thing as simulated aura, that you can in fact create aura, that you can create an engagement with people. I have a friend who just bought an Apple Mini. She loves it! And she looks at the Mini the way prisoners will eat their food, she circles it. If I were to get between her and her Mini, she'd kill me! That's aura, that's passion, that's emotion. That's the power of engagement.
During the 2012 Design Ethos DO-ference, nearly 100 designers, design students and design experts in social innovation teamed with community members of an economically-depressed area of Savannah through a choreographed sequence of asset-focused workshops. Each workshop group engaged in a participatory design process for three days, with an eye toward generating concrete deliverables and strategies for realistic implementation. Six design experts were invited to participate in the workshops, then to offer their observations on the process: the below essay is Cameron Tonkinwise's contribution.
Take and Give
Every act of creation involves destruction. To build a chair, you must kill a tree, or two.
An ethical designer believes that what he or she has created is worth more than what was therein destroyed. Presumably the chair is more beautiful than the tree, or provides respite to people more important than cute, furry nesting creatures, or at the least, gets used for longer than it took the tree to grow the wood.
A truly responsible designer will realize that it is not enough to merely make a piece of good design and hope that it gets used long enough and well enough to justify the resources consumed to make it. A truly responsible designer will do more to ensure that that happens: marketing the designed chair to communicate its value; providing instructions about use and care and maintenance; perhaps providing repair or return-to-maker services. In this way, whatever destruction was necessary for the creation of such an artifact is more than recompensed by the ongoing valuable services afforded by that artifact.
The economy of destruction and creation in relation to conferences has always irked me. Conferences are immaterial events—exchanges of knowledge and networking—but they have huge material footprints. Attendees must emit tons of climate changing gases to get to these events, where they are accommodated and fed and beveraged, and invariably given a pile of crap in never-to-be-used-again conference-specific dysfunctional satchels. Conferences can go green, serving up local produce to delegates, ensuring that all way-finding is on recycled material, etc, but in the end these will only ever amount to tinkering with the vast material destruction required to convene people together.
And yet we all acknowledge that valuable experiences are afforded by conferences—meetings and learnings that seem still impossible in any kind of virtual context no matter how thickly bandwidthed its multimodal media. In this case, the task is not just to minimize the ecoimpact of conferences, but to maximize their value, to make sure that all those carbon miles are more than mitigated by the productivity of the conferencing experience.
Recently there's been a spate of innovations in conferences, blurring the line between conferences, courses, tourism and television: from TED to Dark Mountain. A very interesting innovation was the 2012 Design Ethos Conference hosted by the Savannah College of Art and Design. The principal organizer, Scott Boylston, made the classic design innovator's move: if I am going to get a large number of incredibly interesting designers, design thinkers and design students together, shouldn't all that intellectual capital be used to accomplish something beyond exchange amongst itself? Given that all those human resources will be co-located at one time, couldn't they be thrown at some local problems needing social innovation? Wouldn't that make up for the ecoimpacts of bringing all those people together—not just for the world, in that it would be a better distribution of the value generated from those resources; but also for the participants themselves, who would now not only get from this conference meeting and learning, but also the experience of making, of making contributions to situations of much-need?
So the Design Ethos Conference was also a DO-ference, with participants working on a series of initiatives in the inner city Savannah neighborhood of Waters Avenue. And indeed it was incredibly valuable, to the local community by all reports, and to the conference participants, from what I saw and heard. Apart from what the DO-ference accomplished, the resource destruction involved in the gathering were also accounted for by the exemplar that this innovative way of conferencing set. Having seen how productive a conference can be, all other conferences now seem to me heavily on the ecodebt side of the ledger.
But the DO-ference was no easy undertaking. There are three lessons that can be learned about what is in involved in trying to make a Conference on Social Design more valuable than the ecoimpacts involved.
For the past ten years Randy Johnson has been Editor-in-Chief of American Woodworker magazine. Johnson, a longtime furniture builder who previously ran his own furniture business, is also a huge fan of CNC; so it's no surprise that as of last week, he came on board with ShopBot Tools as their Director of Education. Johnson was on hand at this year's AU to man his new post.
With his extensive experience in woodworking, furniture building and CNC, there's simply no better man to ask about what a ShopBot can do for a furniture designer. So we did:
Back in the '90s, Ted Hall was a professor of neuroscience at Duke University. As a hobby he built boats out of plywood in his barn, but found cutting the shapes he needed using conventional tools was tedious. Hall then looked into a CNC cutter, but the going rate at the time—$40,000—put him off. Following that he figured out how to build his own CNC machine for far less, and went on to found ShopBot Tools to share his creations with the market.
That was in 1996. Today ShopBot sells a multitude of affordable CNC routers and even a five-axis number, as well as a variety of accessories and production aids. (If you recall from a video we shot at last year's AU, it was ShopBot machinery that allowed the design-build firm Because We Can to launch.) We caught up with Hall at this year's AU, where he was displaying ShopBot's most affordable model (and one you can definitely fit in your shop, no matter how crowded), the ShopBot Desktop. Check it out:
Way back at AU 2009, Zebra Imaging's holographic prints blew us (and you, judging by the hit counts) away. Here in 2012 they're using Autodesk's 123D Catch to capture footage for their jaw-dropping technology, like the nutty 3D family portrait you'll see in this video:
Most of the recent buzz around 3D printers has been of the consumer variety, but of course it's companies like Objet that have the seriously bad-ass machines. At the Autodesk University 2012 Exhibition Hall, the company showed off their Objet 1000, which boasts multi-material printing and lays it down at an absurdly tight layer height of just 16 microns. Check out what they can make:
Your cell phone knows where you are through triangulation. A Hungary-based company called Leonar3Do has taken that principle and applied it to a 3D mouse: by integrating several antennae into the form factor, a reading device can determine, with pinpoint accuracy, exactly where the mouse is in space. Have a look:
One of the reasons you'll want to attend the annual Autodesk University is because of the quality of science-dropping speakers they attract. This year Because We Can's Jeff McGrew gave a lecture on "The Five Myths of Digital Fabrication." We weren't allowed to simply broadcast it, of course—the sessions are the privilege of AU attendees—but we asked him to give us a teaser:
Now that's what I call quick: twenty minutes of design followed by three (leisurely) days of fabrication to create four different tables and more than a half-dozen stools. Core77 fave Because We Can (we covered them last year here) used their extensive design experience and CNC mastery to whip up some tables on short notice for this year's Autodesk University. On display in the Creative Studio, not far from the ShopBots we'll get to soon, the tables were in constant use.
Because We Can Co-Founder Jeffrey McGrew breaks the project down:
Throughout the two day Design Research Conference the frog design team wandered around interviewing attendees and encouraging them to fill out the cards they received at registration check-in. The top card stated, "As you listen to the speakers, engage with other conference attendees, and think about what you hear, we'd like you to capture some notes. Please fill out these cards and bring them to Monday's 3:30pm interactive session." The other cards had questions such as "What are the biggest challenges facing design research today", "What superpower do you wish you had when conducting research", and "What problems in the world should design researchers tackle". Attendees had no idea what the frog team had up their sleeve, but attendees played along anyway. The frog team planned two activities for the end of each day of the conference, which required attendees to put their design thinking hats on, to interact with other attendees, teamwork, and of course fun.
Attendees gathered at 3:30pm on Monday ready to find out what role the cards would play in the first interactive frog activity. Everyone was asked to split up into groups of five people and to grab a worksheet. I joined a group of people, took a look at the worksheet and was really excited to find out that we were being asked to put together a Design Research Super Team! The worksheet had questions that matched the cards so we could collectively jot down the answer to the questions in one place as a team. It also had a space for the group to draw characters on the super team as well as name the group's super team.
The definition of what it means to be a "designer" has greatly evolved over the past few years. From building systems to creating new economies, the role of designers in today's world has expanded to include all aspects of human interaction. Joe Gebbia's story epitomizes this shift, and his experience was the topic of a talk he gave last Friday, as he kicked off the second annual RISD Entrepreneur Mindshare.
RISD Entrepreneur Mindshare is an initiative started by Greg Victory, Director of the RISD's Career Center. The event aims to inspire students to be more entrepreneurial—providing the studying artists and designers with the tools and resources they need to launch their own entrepreneurial endeavors, getting advice from people who have done it themselves.
Joe Gebbia's CritBuns, which "support creativity where others can't."
An example of a scenario that could use some CritBuns.
Gebbia is perfectly suited to be the commencing speaker: he works in the magical intersection of design and entrepreneurship as a self-described "designtrepreneur." His work covers a wide spectrum, ranging from Ecolect.net, an online database of green materials, to CritBuns, a product whose appeal anyone who has enjoyed the pleasure of an 8-hour critique can understand. Hitting upon each of these ventures, Gebbia shared the secret behind his successes.
"Some will, some won't, who cares, move on."
He summed it up in four words: "Take the next step."
After being greeted by the welcoming committee, checking in, exchanging my Polaroid photo for my nametag and taking in the introductory conference experience I chugged my morning cup of coffee and headed into the theater for this year's IIT Design Research Conference at the Spertus Institute in Chicago.
This year, the two-day schedule of the conference consisted of 25-35 minute talks from designers and non-designers presenting on Understanding Data, Story Making, Human Behavior, and the Adjacent Possible. Within these topic categories, Interactive Sessions were introduced in place of a day of workshops. There were two interactive sessions in particular, one given by Elliott Hedman on Understanding Data, and the other presented by George and Sara Aye on Human Behavior, which were both informative, engaging and helpful in that the attendees could test their skills as design researchers while experiencing the benefits of a more traditional presentation.
What does the future hold? Designers are said to hold a bit of this magical future dust in their work, but at the upcoming annual DMI conference, the speakers and attendees will grapple with the looming question of What's Next? now that design has earned a seat at the proverbial table and garnered the respect of business leaders.
Edie Weiner, a futurist and one of the most influential practitioners of social, technological, political and economic intelligence-gathering has built a robust business consulting with everyone from the U.S. Congress to Fortune 500 companies on the facts and trends of the present and how they might impact the future. Here, she speaks with Core77 on how design will effect every aspect of business in the future, the importance of competencies over skills and how 3D Printing will disrupt our relationship with products as we know it.
October 23-25, 2012
Museum of Jewish Heritage
New York City, USA
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Core77: Thanks for speaking with us, Edie. Can you share a bit of background on what it means to be a futurist and the the work of your firm, Weiner, Edrich, Brown, Inc.?
Edie Weiner: We study the future and we have been studying the future for over 40 years. I've had my own firm since 1977, and the way we do it is we do a lot of reading. We read a lot of things on a regular basis. It used to be all print publications, but now, of course, many of those have migrated over to online. So we read a lot of carefully vetted online publications, print publications, plus a lot of additional sources that come along. And we look at social, economic, political, technological, demographic and environmental content.
We abstract somewhere between 60-100 articles every month—they can deal with anything so long as they meet our criteria about somehow affecting the future. Every three months we stop the world and we save all we know about the future with the prior three months' worth of readings and we develop six new themes every quarter. We present those six themes at a quarterly meeting here in New York, which many of our clients and a lot of other interesting invited guests attend. We generate probably a thousand article abstracts a year and 24 new themes a year.
In more recent years, have you seen that things are shifting more rapidly within those 3-month cycles?
There's no question about it. In fact, one of our recent papers covered something that I'm going to talk about at the DMI conference, which is a concept that we call templosion, the implosion of time on an escalating basis so that even the biggest things now take very small amounts of time.