September 27th I’ve been in Basel attending the fourth edition of the IKEA DDD in Switzerland. This year’s topic has been «Design for purpose» and involved speakers tackling this challenge from many points of view and with the tools they know better to impact this world in a positive way.
It’s not my first time at the IKEA DDD and I know from first-hand experience that you always come back home with some food for thought. And so happened this year with a topic that is so crucial these days. The event also took place the very same week of the Climate Week in NYC run in collaboration with the United Nations. A very good timing I’d say.
The event focused on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals discussing whether design is already making the difference or not and what could be done to improve our lives on a larger scale. As it was written in the program, at IKEA they believe that «diversity is enrichment» and so they put together a line-up of very different speakers from designers to educators, and social entrepreneurs.
Presentations were very interesting (you can watch the recorded streaming on Designboom) but here I’m going to share the takeaways I brought home.
Empathy, curiosity, first-hand experience. They all lead to meaningful design
To create purposeful products and services you need to put the end users at the very centre of your work. Designers are not the experts. End users are. Marcus Engman (former IKEA Head of Design now running his own company Skewed Productions) shared a story about what he is doing in collaboration with UNYQ, company specialised in custom 3D printed prosthetics. They are developing functional and aesthetically beautiful prosthetics and wearables that fight stigmas around people with disabilities (1/5 of the world population). This is a very good example of inclusive design trying not only to solve the functional needs but also, and especially, emotional ones.
Great design is all about great purpose
«Success will lie in providing value relevant not only to individuals, but also to the world. Value creation will not come from simply growing bigger, but by being better.»
The statement above comes from the Fjord Trends 2019 report. Presentation by Martha Cotton (design researcher at Fjord) focused on the need to ‘redesign everything’ in a way that people will embrace it. This is a matter of behaviour change. Experience, again, will help us in tackling this huge challenge and make the difference.
We can turn a crisis into an opportunity
Creativity is really helpful in this. Creativity is the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions. The presentation by young IKEA designer Akanksha Deo, gave us a hint into how to create new value from a by-product such as rice straws that, I had no clue, are one of the main reasons of air pollution in India. Usually crop residues are just burnt but they can be turned into an extremely versatile material to make home objects.
We can design impact
We are living in an era where opportunities are huge. Technology is advancing fast, current generation is the most educated we ever had, we have access to a lot of data and we can really remove barriers and make this world better and better. Researches and projects speakers Adina Rom from ETH and Leroy Mwasaru founder of greenpact, showed us that we are already designing impact. What do we need next? Start really thinking collectively going beyond competition and helping each other in navigating a world that is a lot more complex than just few years ago.