This past Monday evening, on an unseasonably warm night in Chicago, sustainability expert Ezio Manzini gave a thought-provoking lecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Mr Manzini is a Professor of Industrial Design at Politecnico Milano, and is a renowned expert in the application of strategic design for sustainability. His perspectives on systems and service design relate nicely to his core message of sustainability, yielding a compelling framework for a vision of the future city. Of course, as your resident sketchnote correspondent, I was there to cover his lecture in drawing-form; the scans of which follow below:
Since a bit of time has passed since I last wrote for the Core77 Sketchnotes Channel, let me take this time to briefly revisit the concept of sketchnotes. Simply put, sketchnotes are visual notes that are drawn in real time. These notes take advantage of the "visual thinker's" mind by pairing images, text, and diagrams to help make sense of the information being presented. As a tool for designers, they're a great way to capture information and synthesize your thoughts in real time—also great practice for the same kind of process one uses in an ideation situation.
Ezio's lecture was titled "Small Projects, Large Changes: Scaling Up Sustainable Solutions". His research has centered on smaller grassroots community projects that have brought communities together and have affected social (and environmental) change on a small scale—such as community supported agriculture, farmers' markets, and co-housing. These projects may only have localized impact at their current scale, but multiplied with the power of digital tools and social networks, can begin to affect larger change. One of many examples he shared was fixmystreet.com, a site where people can report potholes and graffiti to local authorities and keep track of the progress. These collaborative networks pair the physical with the digital, and start to erase the distinction between service providers and receivers, resulting in new forms of social organizations. From Manzini's perspective, scaling these projects is not accomplished by following the 20th century "make it bigger" mantra. The new model is to keep these projects small, share the localized successes, replicate them using the power of digital social networks, and ensure that these projects can link and support each other. He calls this "The New Scenario"—projects that are small, local, connected, and open—and, most importantly, all four of those conditions simultaneously.
What's especially interesting is the role that the designer can play in this scenario. Instead of creating new products and services from scratch, the designer must creatively reinterpret from what already exists. The designer also plays a meta role in shaping "the conditions to replicate ideas" instead of the ideas themselves. Designers become facilitators of people, giving them the tools they need to enact change.
My approach to sketchnoting Ezio's lecture was to capture the big ideas, and leaving out many of the details. He shared many interesting services examples, but since they moved by so quickly, I chose not to record them. Instead I attempted to capture the main concepts of his lecture, which I boxed in consistent container shapes. Since much of his lecture was conceptual and not especially tangible, my drawings were more diagrammatic, and I tended to focus on capturing ideas as text, and linking them together. The end result is a fairly dense page that admittedly may not fully communicate a linear story without a narrator, however at the same time it does capture the important bits, and encourages the reader to explore the page.
Immediately after his lecture was a panel discussion that brought local policy-makers, academics, and designers on stage to discuss the implications of his ideas as they relate specifically to the city of Chicago. This 'bonus round' discussion was a nice complement to Mr Manzini's high-level perspective, grounding his thinking with a local perspective, and also sparking an interesting discussion around what a designer's role is in helping shape ideas for the public good. The board included John Tolva - Chief Technology Officer of Chicago, Karen Weigert - Chief Sustainability Officer of Chicago, Marissa Novarra - Metropolitan Planning Council, Daniel X. O'Neil - Smart Chicago Collaborative & Everyblock.com, George Aye - Professor of Designed Objects at SAIC, and was moderated by Victor Margolin - Professor at University of Illinois at Chicago. The diverse bunch highlighted the new "government 2.0" that's brewing in Chicago: policy-makers that are transparent in process, freely share their data, and are open to collaboration with small-business and the public-at-large.
Instead of summarizing this part of the evening, I'll allow you to explore my notes and see for yourself. In sketchnoting a panel, the biggest challenge is keeping up with the pace—it's common that many interesting things can be said in rapid succession that you'll want to capture. I like to try and make columns of quotes underneath each speaker's picture so that I can refer back to whom said what, but that often gets scattered as soon as panelists begin to talk to each other, and respond to each other's statements. Lastly, don't forget that sketchnotes are your notes, there's no reason not to add your own commentary—as I did at the bottom of the page. As Ezio would surely agree, the best ideas are the ones you can build on yourself.