Paul Saffo started off the Friday morning sessions with a declaration: "We are in a moment of absolutely unprecedented uncertainty," and his presentation worked up methodically to bear it out. (He did make a point of cautioning that we are best to not pretend that things are more certain than they are.) One of the pre-eminent forecasters, Saffo argued that "information" has moved, through its ubiquity, to "media." Hell, it's ALL media now. Tracing shifts from mass to personal media, he nonetheless argued repeatedly that we ain't seen nothin' yet ("The web is here, but it's not interesting yet;" "In 10 years, if not sooner, well below 1% of web page viewing and creation will be done by human beings.") He went on to draw distinctions between an economy where the worker was the central actor and the "worker" was the symbol, to the "consumer economy" where the central actor was the person who purchased things and the symbol was the credit card. Now, we're entering the "creator economy," where the central actor is no longer the person who makes, nor the person who consumes; it's an "economic animal who does both things at the same time."
Anthony Dunne + Fiona Raby gave a presentation entitled, "Designs for Fragile Personalities in Anxious Times," which was divided into two parts--student work, and Dunne + Raby work. This was the kind of presentation that you really had to see and hear with your own eyes and ears, but they provided wonderful, thoughtful, and rich insight into the work, and featured a video by Chris Woebken called "Nanofutures: Sensual Interfaces that wowed with audience. You'll wanna watch this movie right about now. Honest.
Janine Benyus also brought her show from the AIGA in Denver to San Francisco, and dazzled the crowd with an impassioned argument on the need for biomimicry in a presentation entitled, "A Conscious Emulation." Noting that "the design community essentially created my career," Benyus argued that there's been a break in the contract that we have with the natural world, and that we need to "recouple that which is beautiful to that which is good for us." (We find flowers "beautiful," for instance, since two weeks later they mean "food"; we find running streams beautiful because they signal fresh water, etc.) She broke down her talk into 4 areas: Sourcing (to a mollusk, CO2 isn't a problem; it's a building material), Signaling (no large animals were harmed in the tsunami; they pick up the raleigh waves and moved inland), Shaping (5 polymers are used to create everything in the natural world; we use 350 polymers. That's why recycling is so difficult), and Making (now, we heat, beat and treat, resulting in typically 96% waste, and 4% product. Life does the opposite. "If we made leaves, we'd take a piece of construction paper and cut it out."!) It was a great 25 minutes, and you could tell that she was stoked to be speaking to a roomful of designers. Janine, we loved you from the beginning; we need you more than ever now.
(***The planet images above are repeats from last week, be well worth the reblog: On the left, all the water that exists relative to the volume of the earth; on the right, all the atmosphere. Benyus added, "3.8 billion years of life have sweetened those balls of water and atmosphere. The only thing you can do is take care of the place that's going to take care of your offspring.")
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.