'Design can bring unconventional solutions to complex problems' said Amsterdam mayor Eberhard Van Der Laan in his opening speech of What Design Can Do! During this activist conference, speakers and designers from all disciplines gathered to discuss the impact of design. The two day event was held on May 10 and 11 in the fabulous Stadsschouwburg theatre in Amsterdam, clad in red and yellow for this occasion. Craftscurator highlights what you, professional in product design, can learn and...do!
Fashion designer Suzanne Lee is growing her own clothes, by using ordinary bacteria to spin cellulose. She told the audience to 'start with an idea, a question, no matter how weird, and work your way towards a solution'. She gave the worn out Nike slogan 'Just Do It' a new meaning. Lee's idea might influence the whole fashion supply chain one day. Instead of planting, spinning, weaving and sewing textiles, full garments could be constructed using new technologies.
Colombian blogger Esteban Ucros showed the audience 'grafica popular'; street ads and graphics found all over South America. The colourful billboards and busses are painted by artists who are not trained as designers. And while it is such a big -visual- part of everyday life in many countries, it exists and evolves outside the digital design culture. It is just out there. On his Popular de Lujo blog, Ucros portrays makers and their work, caught somewhere between advertising and self- expression.
Indian designers also make use of their hands creating graphics, design consultant Aditya Dev Sood explained, by showing Bollywood posters. Digital and analog techniques are often combined; the results are interesting because they show a handmade touch. The Indians have a word for make-do: jugaad. This literally means to come up with a creative idea, to quickly work towards a solution when you have limited resources. Products that are recycled, slightly imperfect and cleverly made are often a result of jugaad.
And while jugaad is already becoming an attractive style aspect in design from India, in Europe manufacturers are working hard to bring back the human touch in products. Designer Hella Jongerius is on the fore-front of this development, wanting to combine handmade techniques and large scale industrial production. She proves to be a real do-er; she explores the possibilities to bring a human touch in a high tech environment. She is now designing the interior for the KLM business class cabin. She told the audience she believes consumers are demanding products with real energy, and the industry will be pushed by this demand to deliver that.
Many designers are influencing governments and industries to innovate and offer solutions for the greater good. They do not shy away from big corporations or mass marketing. Great example is the home make-over TV show Marcelo Rosenbaum is hosting in Brasil, watched by 40 million people every week. After designing the villas of the rich and famous of the country, he now wants to bring design to the masses. He offers make-overs to people in favela's and makes sure his projects have an impact on the whole community. Now he is tackling an even bigger problem: by working with craftsmen in 'forgotten corners' of the country, he hopes their income generated by making design products prevents them from moving to the urban favela's. The results of his project 'A Gente Transforma' were shown in Milan during design week.
The What Design Can Do! conference offered many inspiring examples of social design and design thinking. But most of all, it sparked a call to action. To do!