Monday, April 06, 2009

European Academy of Design 2009: Design Connextity

This is an image from Dunne & Raby's Technological Dreams Series: No.1 Robots (2007). Fiona Raby was one of the keynotes at last week's European Academy of Design 2009 conference in Aberdeen. What I enjoyed about the conference was its ability to step through several of contemporary design's realities, from work by Dunne and Raby (as exemplars of "critical design") to mainsteam design management to Josephine Green, who helps Philips think about and visualise futures. Fiona teaches on MA Design Interactions at the RCA, and alongside her and Tony's work, showed lots by their students (some of whom were collaborators with my MBA students on a short project in 2007). At the other extreme, Josephine Green gave insights into how a traditional manufacturer of objects is using design to visualise and rethink its core activities to engage with some of the challenges facing contemporary societies (see some slides from a similar talk here). I also very much enjoyed the talk by Julian Bleecker of the Near Future Lab, originally an engineer, now following what he calls an "undisciplined practice" at Nokia's Design Strategic Projects studio in LA. Julian's stated aim of creating more habitable near futures by combining material practices with knowledge practices was a model which complements my own efforts.

Ideas running round this conference included the fairly standard (how can design's value be understood...communicated...appreciated) to new disciplinary specialisms (eg service design, design for sustainability). For me, the benefit of attending, in addition to catching up with UK and international colleagues, was hearing how distinct approaches to design - from critical design, to Daria Loi's work in the Digital Homes group at Intel, to Stuart Walker's gentle arrangements- all involve the material practices of design in making things public through creating visual and tangible forms.

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