Continnuing on the positive side, Core-fave Alex Steffen took his show from Denver to San Francisco, and slapped the audience around with his take on the realities of resource usage and what's gotta be done about it. "We need to build a one-planet prosperity," he argues, and that "the average American lives a 5-planet life" (some of us live a 20-planet life). We've got 'til 2050 until we reach catastrophic collapse--which seems generous--but he's hopeful that design can make the difference: "We can choose a different future, but we have to act with great imagination and passion." Further, he contends that "Americans need to lead the way, since we have the money and the institutions. And we're the cause of the problem." "We need to think differently about how we deliver the services that make us wealthy," he reasons, invoking Netflix and Flexcar as positive paradigms, and making a strong case for dematerialization in general. Nice.
Ayse Birsel gave an extremely poetic presentation on "connecting" designers and users. Typically we think of this connection in pragmatic, logical, and business-like terms, but Birsel cast a way-beyond-humanist light on the dynamic. She started with the obvious "I am the designer; you are the user"--articulating the transfer of ownership of a design through "This is my baby; this is my idea" to "this is mine; this is my thing." Fair enough, but then she took the narrative to this: "The designer feels ownership of an idea because he births it. The user feels ownership because she recognizes herself in the product." Things progressed along these lines through the talk, offering tao-like statements such as "I need to think of you without fear," "I need to connect to you," and ultimately, "Can the user feel the beat of our heart?" A lovely, philosophical rumination on the relationship between designer and user in the end, and a nice breather from typical deductive thought.
Ezio Manzini and Suzanne Gibbs Howard brought the day home. Manzini asserted that "today, design is mainly on connecting," but that "the mandate now is to connect for a sustainability society." He pointed to the need for paradigm shifts, citing Dott 07's mantra of "Less stuff; more commons." Still, he conceded that if you're going to offer people less, you need to offer them something better--more social fabric, more beautiful and green cities, and to put words into his mouth, more value. At the end of his talk, he proposed "not talking about needs anymore. Rather, talk about capabilities." This was a nice thought that hung in the air, providing a good bridge to the following presentation.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard centered her talk on the need for making room for intuition in human centered design, showing a hysterical slide of a check-out clerk being "observed" by 4 design researchers. Searching for ways to "inform our intuition," she talked about a new method in practice at IDEO. It was one of the more (literally) provocative ideas of the day, and involves creating what they call "Sacrificial Concepts"--purposely extreme, radicalized concepts designed to provoke a response. She shared examples around milk packaging, phone design, childhood education, and toothbrushes. "Build-to-think" is a great way of extending the rationale of early and quick prototyping (an IDEO staple), and it was inspiring to see them continuing to move that ball up that field.
Then it was off to the studio parties; pics shortly.
Allan Chochinov is a partner of Core77, a New York-based design network serving a global community of designers and design enthusiasts, and Chair of the new MFA in Products of Design graduate program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Allan lectures around the world and at professional conferences including IDSA, AIGA and IxDA, has been a guest critic at various design schools in including Yale University, IIT, Carnegie Mellon, Ravensbourne, RMIT, University of Minnesota, Emily Carr, and RISD. He has moderated and led workshops and symposia at the Aspen Design Conference, the Rockefeller Center at Bellagio, Compost Modern, and Winterhouse, and is a frequent design competition juror. Prior to Core77, his work in product design focused on the medical, surgical, and diagnostic fields, as well as on consumer products and workplace systems. He has been named on numerous design and utility patents and has received awards from The Art Directors Club, I.D. Magazine, Communication Arts, and The One Club.