World Economic Forum in Dubai Day 2--The Design Manifesto.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on November 09, 2008

Here is the “manifesto” of our Global Agenda Council/Design group that came out of an amazing day of discussion in Dubai about the financial/economic crisis and what design thinking can do to help reshape the big issues of the day. It is an excellent summary of the state of art of design and innovation.

To structure the discussion among 68 Global Agenda Councils, the World Economic Forum asked each to focus on answering two questions on the issue before each GAC:

1) What is the state of the world on this issue and how is the economic crisis impacting this issue?
2) What should be done to improve the state of the world on this issue/region/industry and by whom?

Here is the Design GAC’s response:

“ON DESIGN

Throughout history, design has been an agent of change. It helps us to understand the changes in the world around us, and to turn them to our advantage by translating them into things that can make our lives better. Now, at a time of crisis and unprecedented change in every area of our lives – economic, political, environmental, societal and in science and technology – design is more valuable than ever.

The crisis comes at a time when design has evolved. Once a tool of consumption chiefly involved in the production of objects and images, design is now also engaged with developing and building systems and
strategies, and in changing behaviour often in collaboration with different disciplines.

Design is being used to:
· Gain insight about people’s needs and desires
· Build strategic foresight to discover new opportunities
· Generate creative possibilities
· Invent, prototype and test novel solutions of value
· Deliver solutions into the world as innovations adopted at scale

In the current climate, the biggest challenges for design and also its greatest opportunities are:

· Well-being – Design can make an important contribution to the redefinition and delivery of social services by addressing acute problems such as ageing, youth crime, housing and health. Many
designers are striving to enable people all over the world to lead their lives with dignity, especially the deprived majority of the global population - “the other 90%” who have the greatest need of
design innovation.

· Sustainability – Designers can play a critical role in ensuring that products, systems and services
are developed, produced, shipped, sold and will eventually be disposed of in an ethically and environmentally responsible manner. Thereby meeting - and surpassing - consumers’ expectations.

· Learning – Design can help to rebuild the education system to ensure that it is fit for purpose in the
21st Century. Another challenge is to redefine or reorient the design education system at a time of unprecedented demand when thousands of new design schools are being built worldwide and design is increasingly being integrated into other curricula. Designers are also deploying their skill at communication and visualization to explain and interpret the overwhelming volume of extraordinary
complex information.

. Innovation – Designers are continuing to develop and deliver innovative new products at a turbulent time when consumer attitudes are changing dramatically thereby creating new and exciting
entrepreneurial opportunities in the current crisis. They are increasingly using their expertise to innovate in new areas such as the creation of new business models and adoption of a strategic and
systemic role in both the public and the private sector.”

I was fortunate to be able to work with an amazing group of people in the Design GAC: Chris Luebkeman, director of global foresight and innovation for ARUP, was our chairman. Paola Antonelli, senior curator of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Brian Collins who now runs his own ad/marketing company in his own name, Tim Brown of IDEO, Toshiko Mori of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Chris Jordan, a photographic artist, Alice Rawsthorn, design critic at the International Herald Tribune, Milton Tan, Executive Director of DesignSingapore Council, Ministry of Informatin, Communications and the Arts and Arnold Wasserman, chairman of The Idea Factory in Singapore.

Others in the group who couldn’t make it to Dubai were Hillary Cottom founder of Participle in the UK, Kigge Mai Hvid CEO of Index in Denmark, Chris Bangle, director of design for BMW, Larry Keeley of Doblin, John Maeda, President of RISD and William McDonough.

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Reader Comments

Christina Jackson

November 10, 2008 06:18 PM

Many thanks to Bruce, Brian and the rest of the Design GAC for creating a manifesto that reveals the full promise of design. I'm wondering if there is a plan, by this distinguished group and/or other bodies to formally communicate this manifesto.

MS

November 10, 2008 07:36 PM

Great manifesto - very nice encapsulating of design as it *should* be today. Two thoughts: 1) the manifesto suggests that "...design has evolved. Once a tool of consumption..." - yet I would suggest that design is evolving - we are far from having evolved in the sense of "...developing and building systems..." etc.; 2) a manifesto is also about intention - I see little of that in the above, and this deserves further thought. What are designers doing that is more well-being, sustainability, learning and innovation focussed in this time of economic crisis? Will there be a refocusing from the ephemeral to the real? Design is no panacea; the manifesto highlights a relatively new area of design focus - that of applying design methodologies to resolving some of the challenges humankind faces (methodologies that will hopefully bring out (indeed excite) solutions/opportunities that may not have been considered). A few edits and all you need is buy-in.

Jim Walls

November 11, 2008 05:22 AM

I was just thinking to myself "Boy, it's been about three months since the Design Community has issued a manifesto reminding other designers how important design is." Then BINGO. Just in time. And you were sure to get in the "now, more than ever" line that gives any manifesto or Chrysler/Plymouth commercial a certain gravity. Kudos!

Marcel Zwiers

November 12, 2008 04:02 PM

This is the best article about the change of the role of design I've read. Thanks.
It's really important that people/companies start to realise that design is about a process (of change). About a way of approaching issues in order to develop valuable solutions.
As an addition to Learning, I would like to add that we should start teaching design as early as possible. Kids not only need to learn to read, write and maths, but also design. We (designers) can help kids through playful tasks (like building a tree house) to develop their creative design thinking.
All values of design like collaboration, visualization, prototyping, making mistakes, building (stuff) will be of great asset in facing future challenges.

Darrel Rhea

November 17, 2008 10:15 PM

For those of us working to apply design thinking to complex, intractable social problems, this is music to our ears! I have seen substantive actions from a host of people this week. Rick Grefe is leading AIGA in sustainability initiatives, Tom Lockwood is working at DMI on Childhood Obesity, Marco Steinberg from Harvard Design is doing incredible work on Stoke Care, Ken Kaplan from MIT is tackling mental health. Cheskin is helping on these programs, and working on redesigning education for kids with learning differences too. The manifesto captures the spirit of what I am now seeing and experiencing on a daily basis – designers collaborating to provide extraordinary leadership in social innovation.

Luis Bendana

November 18, 2008 03:07 PM

I particularly love the comments on education, Imagine if schools were to teach all the values mentioned by Marcel
Zwiers. kids would actually want to go to school. It would produce generations of creators, and innovators, more leaders, and less followers. Revolutionizing our education systems is key. Learning needs to be made fun and interactive.

Alessandro Segalini

November 21, 2008 09:17 PM

Thank you Bruce Nussbaum for sharing this.
I will second Luis Bendana, he made me think of an article I read on FT magazine (September 27/28, 2008), actually a photo from a classroom wall in Samfya, "education is breast-fed," and "educate women and you educate the teacher of men," went quite deep. Sure it is important for society that school be a place for experimentation. Just like John Dewey, I believe that all education proceeds by the participation of the individual in the social consciousness of the race, and that this process begins unconsciously almost at birth, and is continually shaping the individual`s powers, saturating his/her consciousness, forming his/her habits, training his/her ideas, and arousing his/her feelings & emotions.
Now Luis said "kids not only need to learn to read, write and maths, but also design," but what is handwriting if not design, where the plan is already its realization, where its execution does not depend on patrons, their money or whims. Consideration of past writing falls to palaeography, diplomacy investigates past writing in original sources and letters, and epigraphy studies past writing on walls. Contemporary handwriting is totally ignored. It is at the mercy of the pedagogues who, through their wilful action, place the entire civilization at risk.
Pedagogues pride themselves on the fact that they do not burden school children with an introduction to writing and so doing they undermine civilization. The frightening increase in illiteracy begins with the neglet of writing in the schools. This threat goes together with the differentation of the writing disciplines. It is no exaggeration to say that the school teacher only allows bad handwriting, because he or she regards good handwriting as "drawn" instead of "written."
If we don`t grow into creativity we grow out of it, or rather, we get educated out of it (creativity being the process of having original ideas that have value). "Let us work with love and without fear of our faults," wrote James Ensor. No doubt innovation is also unpredictable, often wasteful, full of dead ends, and business growth (particularly in hard times) means doing new things, doesn`t it, yet often I miss those days I have not lived, when Geometry was not an interesting hobby but the standard of art.
In terms of design, if not art (in as much as a distinction can be made between them - highly problematic, dubious to say the least) genius is the highest form of emotional intelligence. And intuition is the core of it all, the hidden, red hot nerve centre from which radiates inspiration and solution. Still, poetry, lasts more than a stone.

Alessandro Segalini

November 23, 2008 08:55 AM

Thank you Bruce Nussbaum for sharing this.
I will second Luis Bendana, he made me think of an article I read on FT magazine (September 27/28, 2008), actually a photo from a classroom wall in Samfya, "education is breast-fed," and "educate women and you educate the teacher of men," went quite deep. Sure it is important for society that school be a place for experimentation. Just like John Dewey, I believe that all education proceeds by the participation of the individual in the social consciousness of the race, and that this process begins unconsciously almost at birth, and is continually shaping the individual`s powers, saturating his/her consciousness, forming his/her habits, training his/her ideas, and arousing his/her feelings & emotions.
Now Luis said "kids not only need to learn to read, write and maths, but also design," but what is handwriting if not design, where the plan is already its realization, where its execution does not depend on patrons, their money or whims. Consideration of past writing falls to palaeography, diplomacy investigates past writing in original sources and letters, and epigraphy studies past writing on walls. Contemporary handwriting is totally ignored. It is at the mercy of the pedagogues who, through their wilful action, place the entire civilization at risk.
Pedagogues pride themselves on the fact that they do not burden school children with an introduction to writing and so doing they undermine civilization. The frightening increase in illiteracy begins with the neglet of writing in the schools. This threat goes together with the differentation of the writing disciplines. It is no exaggeration to say that the school teacher only allows bad handwriting, because he or she regards good handwriting as "drawn" instead of "written." If we don`t grow into creativity we grow out of it, or rather, we get educated out of it (creativity being the process of having original ideas that have value). "Let us work with love and without fear of our faults," wrote James Ensor. No doubt innovation is also unpredictable, often wasteful, full of dead ends, and business growth (particularly in hard times) means doing new things, doesn`t it, yet often I miss those days I have not lived, when Geometry was not an interesting hobby but the standard of art.
In terms of design, if not art (in as much as a distinction can be made between them - highly problematic, dubious to say the least) genius is the highest form of emotional intelligence. And intuition is the core of it all, the hidden, red hot nerve centre from which radiates inspiration and solution. Still, poetry, lasts more than a stone.

Pete Montero

November 29, 2008 02:20 PM

This reminds me of two things a former professor of mine at Art Center told me that changed my perceptions of Design.

First, struggling with 2D skills, he stopped me and told me that I was dangerously close to being "just" an illustrator, that I need to make sure I don't lose my thoughts in doing a cool sketch. He added, "Design boils down to 3 things. First, DEFINE the Problem. You have to have a Problem Statement that clearly defines what you're designing for. Secondly, IDENTIFY the Solution. You need to figure out what is the best solution for your Problem. (Sometimes, during the course of this, you figure out other problems that can be solved-for...). Finally, COMMUNICATE. You need to be able to clearly and convincingly communicate all that you have learned and believe in when it comes to this PROBLEM, and that includes being able to put the PROBLEM into terms that are clear to your audience, both as a statement of what it is and in terms of it's gravity. This includes all the tools that you have at your command (boards, sketches, models, etc.)."

For a student figuring out how to get a clean looking marker & chalk "flash" rendering in a Trans Class at Art Center, this became a key driver for me, especially, later, whenever I had a junior or intern designer. This also became a key touchpoint whenever I would manage exercises involving other disciplines. I would sometimes be told by team members from other disciplines that these ingredients are no different than what they do. "That's good," I would answer, "That means you see how Design can fit with your work." Then I would ask, "How do you incorporate it into your work, because we have processes built around these ingredients..." I would then show my process maps for Brainstorming, for Ideation and for Concept Development.

The point is that we, as Designers, have not just a stake in today's & tomorrow's problems but our inherent tools are invaluable to helping to solve just these kinds of problems. We are intellectuals as much as we are "mere" artists.

The second quote from that teacher? When I was asked to join an Advanced Product Planning group at my car company, I struggled with it because I wasn't sure I wanted to leave Design. I visited Art Center, chased down my professor and asked him what he thought. Immediately, he said "Go for it! Absolutely! This is a great opportunity for you. You'd be a great addition to Product Planning; Remember a good Designer needs to be a GREAT Product Planner in that you need to understand your end user's needs, sometimes even before they know what those needs are, themselves..."

We are intellectuals, thinkers who apply logic to identifying & solving problems. Our focus, when we are great, especially, is on the end-user. Because of that, we develop great empathy for them. Our best work as Designers (and, yes, as a Product Planner, I still consider myself a "designer") pulls together expertise from all other disciplines. We are a nexus for applied knowledge as it evolves from information and, before that, raw data. Our application allows knowledge to be focused on solving problems (small or great). We are a key part of a great inclusive process that solves problems.

I'm sorry for the long post but this a topic that I am both empassioned about and, frankly, struggling to become more involved in solving. Thanks for the opportunity to chime in...

Marcel Zwiers

December 17, 2008 10:36 AM

Great feedback from everybody! Nice. I've had some time to think about the value of design as a method for problem solving. I came across some very interesting people who said some important things about this. Maybe not particularly about design, but about creativity. This is not the same, I know, but non the less, interesting and relevant stuff.

The first is an article by Albert Einstein. The man is often quoted. Mostly oneliners. But in a book I read; Ideas and Opinions (1988, Souvenir Press) there is an article called education for Independent Thought. (New York Times, October 5, 1952). The point Albert is making is that we must be very careful teaching man a specialty. "Through it he may become a kind of useful machine but not a harmoniously developed personality. It is essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling for values. he must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and the morally good."
He end the short article with: " It is also vital to an valuable education that independent critical thinking be developed in the young human being, a development that is greatly jeopardized by overburdening him with too much and too varied subjects (point system). Overburdening necessarily leads to superficiality. Teaching should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty."

The second is a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson. I'm not gonna explain what it is about. You need to listen en see him talk. Awesome and very inspirational.

Within my company 31Volts, I've asked our intern (design) to do a little project on what the values are (or could be) of creativity within education. Especially on elementary school. The project is a design project starting with a survey gaining insights, coming up with some concept, testing them with kids ending up with some practical plans. I'm looking forward to his results!

A little comment on Alessandro; 'but what is handwriting if not design, where the plan is already its realization, where its execution does not depend on patrons, their money or whims.' I think you are right. The way Albert handled math has always been an creative one. Just as the writers of our time have with words.

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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