2017/10/08 13:10 Alice Rawsthorn, “Good or Bad Design”, EditDX

Keynote @alicerawsthorn @EditDX

Introduction by Nina Boccia @nboccia Director of Programs, Design Exchange

[Alice Rawsthorn]

Good or bad design in light of sustainable development goals

Machine Art, exhibition at MoMA 1934

  • Curated by Philip Johnson, a student, who had gone to Baushaus
  • Championed modern movement
  • A year after joining, added design
  • Machine Art was first project in 1934
  • Speed, economy, convenience
  • Amelia Earhardt
  • Visitors weren’t accustomed, reviews were dreadful, letters of complaint flooded in
  • Now seen as an enduring influence on popular perceptions:  what something does, and what it looks like

“The Beauty of Life”, William Morris — lecture similar to Johnson

  • Nothing in your house that isn’t useful
  • William Morris hated this

Then, art context, like Pompidou Centre, more how it looks, not so much function

Citroen car, 1955 in exhibition

  • Fall from the sky


Fostered idea of industrial design

  • Can be damaging
  • Symbols of design beauty

Alice Rawsthorn at EditDX

Valentina typewriter 1969 for Olivetti, but it didn’t work, stopped production to so many complaints

  • Yet it’s still in design museums worldwide

Businesses and NGOs only thinking of design in this way is limiting

Accra, outside Ghana

  • Where waste goes to die
  • Can design be used to clean this up, instead of filling it with junk like this?

Use in healthcare?

Not just unfit for purpose, but irrelevant

  • What should replace it?

Defining design

Design is an agent of change that can help us to make sense of what is happening, and to turn it to our advantage.

  • Changes could be economical, social …
  • Doesn’t have to be scary
  • Need this, right now, for speed and scale

Women’s march on London:  Too much to fit on one sign

  • Terrorism
  • Accelerating science and technology
  • Refugee crisis

Design isn’t a panacea, but can help … if society allows it to do so

  • Only if process includes design as good and bad

Non-negotiable quality since 1880, usefulness

  • Why consider desirable if not useful?

New Bus for London 2012 (new Routemaster), replacing 1954 model Routemaster

  • Named the Boris bus
  • New Routemaster looks good, when you see a lot more together
  • Quality of engineering is so poor, it breaks down
  • Diesel breakdowns
  • Overheating for passengers
  • It’s too unreliable to be useful
  • Tasteful rubbish is still rubbish:  Reyner Banham

Digital product:  Google Glass

  • Seems so exciting at Google, thought the rest of us would wear them
  • The look dodgy, don’t do much more than phones
  • Triggered court cases
  • Mocked
  • Sales poor, stopped making them in 2013
  • Wasn’t useful, although it serve function

Useful needs to be combined with third, integrity

  • If concerned with manufacturing, distribution, etc. … it can’t be consider as good design

Roland Barthes:  any pleasure from car is blighted by it being a gas-guzzling economic bomb

Apple iPhone:  following physics in the hand

  • But environmental impact, and workers?
  • Apple has made some progress, but still worry
  • Can’t possibly look at them anymore
  • Or Dublin taxes

Fairphone:  sustainable

  • Know they’re trying to develop as responsibility and sustainable as possible
  • Without integrity, can’t be designed responsibility

Razor wire on fence at Calais, to prevent refugees from leaving France

  • Homeless spikes to stop people from sleeping there
  • Purpose is odious
  • No integrity

Another response:  Talking Hands, Treviso in Italy

  • Many refugees on their way through
  • Most living illegally, nothing to do
  • Can’t be employed legally
  • Local designers set up and run talking hands workshops
  • Hand skills, focusing on skills the refugees already have
  • Carpentry, embroidering
  • An example of good design, empathic, useful

Useful and integrity, changes beauty

Material quality

  • Shapes come in and out of fashion

Postmodernism 1980s

  • Neo-rationalism in 1990s
  • Now, Chinese design:  objects 3-D printed, reminiscent of what we see on our screen
  • 3D printing, ever more innate intricacy

Cookery, bone china with chisel

  • Chisel was thought too coarse for porcelain
  • Singularity
  • Looks different from different heights and views
  • Creates an optical illusion that each piece is unique

Singularity rising, because of digitalization making things uniform

Politics of personal identity, radical redefinition of identity and gender

  • Being biologically black
  • Feminism, transgenderism
  • Increasing fluidity gender
  • Facebook tried to add 58 types of options, but then people complained that they couldn’t express themselves, Facebook responded with a freeform field
  • Fashion graphics can reflect colours, political concerns
  • Can use digital manufacturing systems, become more affordable and accessible

Are we going to exercise choice?

  • Not everyone wants to cook their own food
  • But do-it-yourself is becoming popular
  • Pleasure of making
  • Exposure to digital technologies, making us more sensitive to touch


  • Light fixture manufacture, Simon 100, no physical cues
  • We’re so accustomed to using phones by touch, we know how to use it
  • Too sharp, too wet, too slippery is uncomfortable

Hardware of tablet:

  • Pull to refresh, scrolling down a screen
  • NY Times:  few scientific articles on touch
  • Haptic software

Greater understanding of materials

  • Form becoming function is less important, with material become more important

Some important design projects that are good

Georg stool by Chris L. Halstrøm, a simple wooden stool manufactured in Denmark

  • Won awards, on old fashion merits
  • Political subtext, gender fluidity
  • Visualizing how it will be used, despite gender
  • Uses texture, as sense of touch is less likely to be stereotyped
  • String attaches to stool, individual can adjust to be comfortable
  • Everyone is free to interpret as they wish

Wecyclers, Lagos Nigeria

  • African designers at the vanguard, compelling projects, with humanitarian goals
  • Adebiyi Fatai Mabadeje
  • Recyclable waste building up in slums
  • Streets in slums too narrow for city trucks
  • Develop a service so that citizens can text cyclist, then trade for points, e.g. useful for food
  • 7,000 houses in Lagos use this, created 80 jobs
  • Contributes to sustainable production

Sehat Kahani:  improvisational design, to improve healthcare to women in Pakistan

  • Pakastan has shortage of women doctors, even though there are more in university
  • After graduation, women are pressured to marry
  • Network of tele-clinics, so that women doctors can practice at home
  • Tele-clinics staffed by nurses, in Karashi
  • Problems:  problem shortages, believing the women are real doctors
  • Addressed
  • Contributes to good heath and well-being

Forensic architecture:  Israeli architect, Eyal Weizman in London

  • Uses data to reconstruct scenes of criminality
  • Cameroon, evidence
  • Fostering peace and justice

All inspiring projects of good design in a contemporary sense

  • Challenges stereotype of design
  • Improve quality of life, rather than rubbish


Scale?  Grassroot projects.  Big powers?  Barriers?

  • Think scale is becoming more flexible
  • Empowering designers to work independently on complex problems
  • More funding, e.g. Ackerman, Gates Foundation
  • Downstairs:  Bruce Mau exhibit
  • The Ocean Cleanup project from Dutch designers, controversial, but has also generated a lot of support, clearing up plastic trash in oceans
  • $100,000 to launch project, ended up raise $2 million, now $31.5 million
  • Has prototyped in North Seas, next year will go into Pacific
  • If it flops, it will make it harder for other attitudinal designers, but if it works, it will make it easier
  • Projects have to prove merit

How can raise design philosophy?  Wanted to become a software designer, thought could change the world, build with information. Frustrated that there isn’t a language, but it isn’t practical.  Multidimensional.

  • Good news, there needs to be more debate on this issue
  • This festival shows this
  • May not come from specialist designers
  • Families will think of design differently, from coming here
  • Awful if people thought there’s not point in trying
  • The war continues, a lot of battles have been won

Example of female doctors in Amsterdam, trust?

  • Don’t know specifically
  • Have 20 tele-clinics, planning to have 150 by 2020
  • Have a lot of media support
  • Design community saw as improvisational
  • Medical professionals dealing with design in a practical way
  • Process will have been speeded up
  • Could serve dlderly women, who have a lot of medical problems

Comment, some families will go home and have pizza, others will have hand china.  Culture, we’re far away from that.  Affluent get to choose.

  • True.
  • General public awareness of sustainability and recycling has increased
  • While not at level we would like, it’s significant
  • Middle England, conservative, are skeptical
  • Local city councils providing an effective recycling service, there’s been a radical shift from landfill towards productive
  • Even 10 cent fee for plastic bags in Britain, skin flints don’t want to spend, so drastic shift
  • Some people can trade for food, cell phone minutes
  • Design has a lot to do

#design, #editdx

2017/09/29 16:35 “Future of Design Thinking”, EditDX

Panel @EditDX @rsomerson  @CodeZebra  Luigi Ferrara, @jamescowan as moderator


This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted by David Ing.


  • by moderator:   James Cowan, former EIC of Canadian Business, and head of Maclean’s University department
  • Rosanne Somerson, President of Rhode Island School of Design
  • Sara Diamond, President of OCAD University
  • Luigi Ferrara, Dean of Centre Arts, Design and Information Technology at George Brown College, and Director of Institute Without Boundaries

James:  Start with “what is design thinking”?

Roseanne: doesn’t like the term design thinking

  • Designer at IBM:  Design thinking is a term used by non-designers
  • Term is used as an add-on, but designers thinking of it as a rigourous practice, strategy, making, doing, much more than thinking
  • Adding wellness to knowledge doesn’t made a doctor

Sara: Historical evolution

  • Northern Europe:  rather than technological change coming from above, best users are at the table
  • User-centered design
  • Then wicked problems
  • Ideo formalized it as pulling methods together, so multidisciplinary groups could think outside their boundaries in a wicked problems
  • Tools from ethnography, UCD, adopted
  • Sketching (using the body), brainstorming, creating personas
  • Has been reduced, partially by business schools
  • Designers are good at ideation
  • Thinking and making, thinking and making
  • Have used the concept a lot in Canada, with federal government to push outside the box of how funding is done

Luigi:  Term designing thinking has come out of business community for something they had previously had a limited need for

  • Was design, capital investment, then stewardship for 30 to 40 years
  • Changed in 1970s and 1980s, product innovation
  • Adaptive skills weren’t enough to handle rapid change
  • Who is able to do something, and work at the rate of change?
  • Saw design as a critical factor in success
  • Led them to understand there’s another approach beyond analytical, creative with scenarios
  • In design, opening up possibilities
  • Globalization is driving competition
  • Problem:  they want to latch onto design thinking, but aren’t comfortable with the design process
  • Messy, iterative lead to places that are uncomfortable
  • They want to systematize to find as something comfortable
  • Roger Martin, borrows from Greek philosopher, the opposable mind
  • Business isn’t ready yet, to have that much oppositional thinking

Sara:  Don’t want to generalize on organization’s ability to absorb

  • Some businesses find too disruptive
  • Have to be coupled with design making, generous design (respect for the earth)
  • Diversity inclusion lens
  • Systems thinking based
  • Will talk about Strategic Foresight

James:  Concrete examples of what design thinking looks like?

Roseanne:  Just think of it as design

  • A lot of industries are in flux
  • Have to reinvent:  design re-thinking, reinventing, not starting with existing paradigms
  • Notion of wicked problems, global challenges, rely on more than just one body of knowledge
  • Designed outcome:  intersections, collaborations, bringing rigour from different bodies of knowledge that inform that
  • Have a lot to do with education and training
  • Printmakers can always look at things in reverse
  • Group of students working with cadets at West Point, structures of cities to look at cities in the face of nuclear attack can be solved more humanly:  military mind and design mind
  • Student textile artist working with West Africa, wove stories into fabric to education of women on how bodies work and how to take care themselves
  • Then did visualizations on immunizations
  • Working with government:  institutes with members of CIA, DoD, running studio exercise for human-centered public policy:  how do you define a civic society?

Luiigi:  Design thinking uses the capacity of imagination

  • Not decidable problems, but undecidable problems
  • Change and time
  • Also seen design thinking in theatre
  • Disney Corporation used theatre metaphors
  • Theatre is a process unfolding over time
  • Industrial paradigm is always looking at the end product, functional perfection
  • But functional perfection changes over time
  • Design over time, that’s what’s different
  • Designing not a solution, but an evolution of solutions over time, that include communities of users of a postential problem
  • Not designing a chair, designing for sitting over time
  • This is the unexplored power
  • Many problems that have been intractable over time, people have been trying to solve them with one thing:  you change one thing, and then another, and slowly it all changes
  • How it’s generative, is at the core

Sara:  OCADU at undergraduate level teaches design thinking

  • Ideation, iteration
  • Has been a demand to ask about positionality:  design and feminism
  • How does my position play out into the power:  self-critical and interrogative
  • Different from design thinking previously, not asking about position
  • Foresighting is a more contemporary way of looking at future studies:  developing secondary research, maybe even primary research
  • Context and environment, looking at drivers, signal:  social, economic
  • Requires a depth of prior research
  • Developing scenarios, instead of a single solution
  • Baycrest, aging and brain health:  built carts that go into care environments, with caregivers and clients (receiving care), students undertake processes about the care environment, the positionality of people, taking in the knowledge of context, and how would be ways of transforming radically, particularly for the care receiver
  • Public policy:  client-facing services of the federal government, making it digital, online, seamless and client-centric, using design thinking tools in a deep way, with innovation centres, have received a lot of training, then piloted in acceleration centres, then in client-facing situations
  • Take a hierarchical environment that has been policy driven, administered, flipped
  • Use both foresighting and design thinking
  • Working with Heritage Canada, policy involved heritage should always involved artists:  what if you put artists at the first, instead of the grant giver
  • Coming for user-centric design

Roseanne:  Taking a blank pieces of paper, building something new

  • Artists and designers are comfortable in uncertainty
  • Not scary territory for them
  • People coming through sequential thinking
  • Problem when seen as an add-on
  • People come with questions, but spend a lot of time a the beginning reframing the question, due to rapid change
  • Multilingual abilities, see something differently, tweak the code, sometimes subverting it

Sara:  Intuition, other ways of knowing

  • Being highly sensitive to impact
  • Job as designers is to constantly remind human beings where they fit in technology change
  • Affective economy, how we live in the world
  • Capacity is important in design thinking, have to be careful not to strip it out.
  • Why are we doing this?
  • Can’t be value-free, has to be value-driven
  • This is why indigenous knowledge is important
  • Not moving away from disruption, but moving towards disruption

Luigi:  Business people deal with words, can be impoverished way of dealing with the pace of change

  • Massive change
  • Diversity:  we used to live in more homogenous
  • Future ways of living:  global village is now among us, it was predicted by McLuhan, now we’re living it
  • Have people with radically different backgrounds coming together
  • Language is a problem
  • The power that design brings is digitalization and simulation
  • By using tools, can start to use this
  • e.g. people arguing about density, but then have a visualization can discussion, and then simulation is more powerful
  • Skills then in interaction:  if you can create a design (systematics) that allows people to interact with the design, work through, and change, can change paradigms
  • Rather than a product, can create a system

Sara:  Traditionally, designers didn’t work with data in the same way, unless in infographics world

  • Now, showing that data can be represented in many ways
  • Now, data is god
  • Visualizations and simulations are important

Roseanne:  Perception, has to do with diversity and inclusion

  • As becoming better with perception
  • Big data, from the point of massive confusion into experience that helps others make sense of it


Question:  Responsibilities of designers to support things like the environment?

Roseanne:  Don’t inherently have the responsibility, but do have the capacity

  • Can bring the new ways to think about it, but not more than others in society
  • Designers can appreciate the experiences of others
  • Everyone’s responsibility

Luigi:  Most designers have an affinity, environment and social change

  • Over last 30 years, there’s been an isolation of the community
  • Designers can’t do things alone
  • Also a problem in the artistic community
  • Artists and designers need to work as citizens, and with other citizen
  • Was a broad social movement
  • Don’t just to things on your own, engage with others, and do projects

Sara:  importance of systems thinking

  • Commitment to teach sustainability, and teach techniques that are sustainable
  • Responsibility to hire diverse faculty
  • In Canada, need to look at truth and reconciliation, have to step up

Question:  Role of the educator in helping facilitate design thinking?

Sara:  Needs to be curricula that starts earlier than college and university

  • We don’t have design education K-12
  • Not just design thinking, but also innovation and design
  • Position design and sustainable
  • Haven’t talked enough about helping companies start companies
  • IBM and banks are hiring designers, but a lot of being a designer is to start own practice
  • Responsibility in a radicalized way, in the criticized way

Luigi:  Need to start earlier

  • Design education, need to start projects, but never took projects into implementation
  • At George Brown, now trying to take the project to reality, and that can inform you
  • Otherwise you’re only learning practice, and not getting the feedback from reality
  • Don’t really know what’s effective

Roseanne:  Have been starting design towards K-12

  • Can test and evaluate, culture changers need that
  • Looking at curriculum itself, don’t have baked instructions
  • You can’t erase history, but whose history?
  • Role of education, designing of 2048 when there isn’t ethnic majority, and gender fluidity is change communities, need to create curricula that are leading, rather than putting into margins

Question:  Artists and designers?

Sara:  A lot of fluidity

  • There are different methodologies that they learn
  • Art world:  Creative Time conference, artists role in transformative social change … similar, but maybe more disruptive than designers are comfortable with
  • Interrogation, critical irony
  • Design is more solution-ridden
  • Designers more problem solving, artists are going to construct and deconstruct the problem
  • Documenta, almost like being at Architecture Biennale
  • Needing to plan for nuclear war

Luigi:  Division in industrial design towards specializatoin

  • If you were an artist in the Renaissance, you were also a designer and an architect, part of a guild that created pottery, etc.
  • Creating art for people is an industrial concept
  • Traditional cultures, industrial world, then post-industrial
  • Pre-industrial, culture was created by communities together

Roseanne:  Audience, learning

  • Artists used to be about developing self
  • But now art is more community-based, more crossing disciplines
  • Designers were thought of creating for others
  • Self-conscious design
  • Harder and harder to categorize
  • Tradition in a contemporary way:  haptic, heart, mind
  • Design education has more formality in tools
  • Artists may have more inputs
  • Crossing and morphing
  • Steve Jobs as starting from calligraphy as a way to start designing
  • How do you find what you love, and what should you do with the educational path

Sara:  Reliance on different types of theory

  • Visual art was based on 19th and 20th century philosophy
  • Psychological, structuralist … ways of explaining the world
  • Not just visual world, but also text
  • Now reading across art theory:  critiques of race, more than design theory has, recently
  • Trying to converge in diverse ways

Question:  As chef, know design, how to use design thinking in antoerh way

Sara:  Would be fun to run a workshop on that

  • Urban agriculture, where you think from

Luigi:  At George Brown, are supposed to be designing the platter, Trevor is designing the food

  • Difference in looking at the sensory:  mouth feel

Roseanne:  Two food future communities at RISD

  • The way food interacts with taste buds differently
  • Nutrition
  • Food science
  • Set up lab, and play

Question:  Successful design and empathy?

Sara:  A huge history of design without empathy

  • In worst case, building of gas chambers
  • History of modernism, particularly anti-empathetic
  • Look at an empathy economy
  • It will influence what will be designed

Luigi:  Question may not be important

  • Wife is architect, and she was just tested with 3% empathy

Sara:  Being good at user engagement, she can fake the empathy!

Roseanne:  Self-conscious, ego-driven, unique, making it about me

  • Issue is a set of values
  • The more personal they are, the more that they will connect
  • Designing from a different set of values
  • Key:  understand the values, as you drive ideas forward
  • Work environments where you can bring those ideas forward into experience

Question:  Resources inspiring?

Luigi: Not a good book on design thinking, yet

  • Latest book from Ideo is about learning how to design, but it doesn’t describe design thinking
  • Go into projects, looking, finding out, visiting
  • Maybe it’s not a book, it’s an experience
  • Book is 19th century way

Roseanne:  How to inspire, build intuition

  • Not on the topic, different way of approaching the problem
  • Outdoors:  looking at things in a different way
  • Try a sketchbook, to design your own way
  • Can use camera in your phone as your sketchbook

Sara:  Believe in reading

  • Tim Brown, recent book
  • Idea Couture, idea thinking (for free)
  • Carl diSalvo, looking at adverserial design, agonism, support debates in democracy
  • Feminist theory:  Helene Frichot, How to make yourself a feminist power tool
  • Inclusive design research centre

#design-thinking, #editdx