Co-design, not ego-design! Some Thoughts on Contemporary Design

Alastair Fuad-Luke at ESDi

Alastair Fuad-Luke at ESDi's 1st International Congress of Design and Innovation of Catalonia. Photo by Miriam Millán

Designers should get away from ego-design and concentrate on eco-design, or even better, on co-design as Alastair Fuad-Luke believes. Designer Gui Bonsiepe commented in his speech at ESDi School of Design in Spain last week that we need to amplify design from environmentally sustainable to socially sustainable. Can that be the way to post-crisis design? And, How do we balance industrial skills with the ability to work with other people?, is that Fuad-Luke asked. Bonsiepe stated that designers do not only need a sensibility to solve problems, but also to detect them. When Alastair Fuad-Luke talks about co-design (read about his book Design Activism), he opens a lot of questions, but also gives plenty of advice and solutions. According to him, the number of eco design strategies has grown from 120 in 2002 (The eco design handbook #1) to 167 in 2009 (The eco design handbook #3), so there are plenty of strategies designers can apply. He urges designers to pick a strategy for Life Cycle Thinking and run with it, and for businesses to do the same, just like InterfaceFLOR does with its cyclist business model where they take the flooring back at the end if its life to turn it into new carpet. For Fuad-Luke, the meta-challenge is not climate change but social change. We need serious PSS (Product Service Systems) and to refocus beyond the object by sharing stuff and designing services, not just objects. The writer and activist also says we should go back to making, and do half-way products. Fuad-Luke talks about a new design entrepreneurism, where " designers can become donneurs and not preneurs"; givers and not takers.

Gui Bonsiepe, a renowned industrial designer, believes that design can be a way out of the triple crisis; the financial one, the environmental one and the socio-economical one. But before that, we need to gain back the identity of design. "Design is not added value; design is value" is what Bonsiepe believes.

Alfred Astort, user experience design leader at Microsoft's Entertainment Experience Group says that "attractive things work better and last longer". He explained that nowadays an object needs to satisfy non-material desires, and "although utility and usability are still important, a full range of emotions and the importance of "feeling good" must be part of the experience too". For a design to last long emotionally instead of being designed for the dump, it needs to be: "holistic, storytelling, playful, emotional, meaningful, and empathic". Industrial designer Oriol Ventura in his speech "Adaptable product", has a similar message. He believes that longevity in products can only be archived if gaining the users' loyalty and designing adaptable (multifunctional, personalisable, etc.) products. As M. A. Gonzálo Pérez says in her paper "Dynamics of sustainable uses built by women", "furniture should be designed to be used, and re-used".

Design for All or Universal Design was also a hot topic at the 1st International Congress of Design and Innovation of Catalonia. Germán M. Mejía, addresses the contemporary awareness of human differences and needs when solving design problems. This should include physical, mental and cultural differences, such as illiteracy, age, traditions, etc. and be taken into account when designing anything from elevator buttons to immigration cards at airports.

As Gui Bonsiepe concludes, it is time to rediscover reading and reflecting, something this conference definitely made us do. Designers need to rethink the symbolic and real values of design and start designing together by sharing information from the very beginning of the design process with everyone along the life cycle of a product. :: 1st International Congress of Design and Innovation of Catalonia (ESDi) ::Alastair Fuad-Luke ::Gui Bonsiepe

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