Another Perspective on Design – Symposium

Yesterday, an interesting symposium was organised in Breda by COLIN (Creative Organisations Linked in Networks) , named “Another Perspective on Design“. Here are some notes I took during the presentations. They are not comprehensive, but should capture some of the highlights.


Speaker: Mary-Ann Schreurs, chairwoman of the working group Design of the Eindhoven city council

  • Design has enormous economic potential
    • One reason DAF trucks has become so succcessful is because of their truck cabins having been optimally designed for their human users.
  • Designers bring together ideas from all disciplines, combine them into a form. Design is leading.
  • Governments need to create the necessary conditions for design to have its effect.
    • For example, never enough workspaces for starting entrepreneurs!
  • Innovation networks necessary
    • Alone it cannot be done, collaboration between many stakeholders is essential. Only organize those who are really willing.
    • Companies are proud of their products because they mean something to people
      • No longer make products just to own, but products that add meaning to people’s lives.
      • For example, children in hospital get badge, when moving around the kids see their favorite themes. projected on the walls, e.g. space travel. Result: faster recovery time.

    “Designer is a carrier of societal change”

  • A design meeting was organized for city politicians: what’s in design for them? Some examples:
    • Participation is the magic word. One approach that has been shown to work in Eindhoven is the “virtual neighbourhood”.
    • Software for 3D design. Use it to show the effects of construction choices, costs automatically calculated. Design of houses much more tailored to needs of citizens, they co-own the design.
    • Designers living with homeless found out that they do not use the designed shelters if their dogs are not allowed entry, as these to them are “their family”.
    • The city council now better understands the power of design for the city. A range of aspects needs to be taken into account:
      • Esthetics
      • Economics
      • Societal
      • “Freedom”
        • Large companies often constrain the creative process too much. Technology should not lead but serve us. Make sure to liberate creative souls to work in the way they want/need.
  • Eindhoven is going to change from a city that creates technology to a city where you experience it.

Speaker: Conny Bakker, director of consultancy company Info-Eco, co-author of ‘Trespassers, inspirations for eco-efficient design’ and author of ‘Sustainable Technological Development’.

  • Info-Eco: helps designers and entrepreneurs choose the most appropriate eco-design strategies for their products and services.
  • For example: “peak oil”, oil shortage very soon becoming major problem
  • Design can help to achieve hyperefficiency
    • e.g. Volkswagen has prototype car using 1 liter of gas per 100 km. Will be on the market in 2010
    • Zero emission house using an advanced pipe system.
    • Airquarium: inflatable building, can be transported easily, using air as construction material
    • XO laptop (One Laptop Per Child). Many efficiency features, needs only 2 W! Rwanda and Uruguay have already bought it, among other nations, positive experiences reported from the field.
    • Zooop electrical car can reach 180 km/h, what can we learn for mass car design?
    • Nokia Eco Sensor Cell Phone: is charged by body movements of user

Speaker: Thera van Osch, economist and chairwoman of the Association for the Care Economy

  • From knowledge economy to experience economy, in which empathy is important
  • Does the economy determine design, or can design change the economy?
  • Increasing monetization of everything, including design! Not good, inhibiting real innovation!
  • We need to develop a paradigm of the caring human being
  • Achieve balance between market economy and care economy
  • Can sustainable design contribute to the economy in economical , social, and ecological sense?

Speaker: Alex van Dierendonck, O2 Nederland

  • User interface design & sustainability: involve the user
  • O2: growing network of designers together involved in developing innovative sustainable solutions. O2 Netherlands, the Dutch branch, has been founded in 1993.
  • Examples of innovative solutions
  • Focus on products doesn’t show the complex processes needed to get there!
  • Together doing design sessions is an interesting added value of such a design network.

Speakers: Stella van Himbergen, programme manager DDiD and Robert Nijhout, graphics design specialist who volunteered for the FairMail project

  • DDiD: Dutch Design in Development, couples Dutch designers to small producers in developing countries.
  • Stimulate sustainable economic development in developing countries.
  • DDiD supports the whole process, is a matchmaker, works towards realizing fairer social and environmental values.
  • Aims for unique product development
  • Example project: FairMail, Peru
    • Municipal waste dump. Many people living and working there in very poor and unhealthy conditions.
    • FairMail organizes photography courses to the kids, by volunteers from all over the world. The photos are sold as postcards (“cards with perspective”) in Peru and the North, leading to sustainable income for the locals. Revenues are split by local community and the individual photographers. Part of the revenues are used for education and health insurance funds for the whole community. The good thing is it stimulates the economy of everybody, from the individual, through the community to the local economy.
    • DDiD provided templates and training (in, for instance, Indesign publishing software) to allow them to produce independently. E.g. photo processing training for the FairMail kids.
    • Good example of “social design” by providing the community with the means to themselves improve their own future.
    • Issue: how to “train the trainers” in order to scale up the impact of such programmes?