Richard Seymour was good in San Francisco last week, but he was great today. It was one of those moments when the room becomes one, speaker and audience breathing together, pausing together, moving together. Too much? Perhaps, but this was a take-no-prisoners talk (filled with cursing, finally!) and criticizing designers--again, like in James Woudhuysen's presentation yesterday--for their lack of bravery and omnipresent pessimism. There were lots of provocative bits, but a point that kept showing up was his contention that we need to separate the "its" from the "hows." Here's an example: At the end of the 19th century, people started saying, "The electricity is coming!" Then when they got it, they talked about "electric heating," and "electric lighting." But then they soon stopped using the term "electric." Quick jump to modern technology: "The internet is not an 'it'; it's a 'how.'"
He followed with a series of axioms: 1. Post convergence: Naming the beast; 2. Jam with real visionaries; 3. The future's encoded in emergent behaviour; 4. Whole-ism; 5. Us-ism, not Them-ism; 6. 'Inclusive' or 'universal' design shouldn't be lowest common denominator; 7. Get the best design brains on the hardest problems--no more fucking cruets for Italian luxury goods companies, get off your arse and do something important, for chrissake! (I included the subtitle on that last one.)
We'll definitely post the recording of this one, but Seymour's final remark is worth some pixels: "We are facing the most appalling negativism right now. If you're not an optimistic futurist in design, fuck off and do things a lot less damaging."
Clive Grinyer then took to the stage next, and although following Seymour's act would be hard indeed, things got off to a good start. Grinyer structured his talk around the people in his life--his father, his wife, his mentors, his boss, his colleagues, and back to his dad. The presentation started to frame up as an Empathy 101 session, but then spiraled out to an overview of, well, basically everything. Not sure this talk was spot on for the conference, but the insights and examples on user-centered design were enlightening, and Grinyer's passion was evident. And his final admonition was strong: "We have to be louder! We are silent. We've got to be proactive. We've got to stop just being designers; we need to be visionaries."
A wrap up with John Thackara followed, answering some write-in questions from the audience, and then volunteers brought out flowers--ballet recital style--to the prime movers of the conference: Louise Fowler, Wendy Hutchinson, Tracey Urwin, Kevin McCullagh, and Jeremy Myerson. (Okay, the men got plates.) Congrats to all.
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