The Future of….Design
– by John Mathers, CEO, The Design Council
Asked recently what she sees as the single greatest driver of social change, Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation replied, “Design.”
We find ourselves poised today at one of Malcolm Gladwell’s infamous ‘tipping points’: design is being applied to generate innovation and value across so many fields – ‘mainstreamed’, in other words – to the extent that the definition of design itself is being called into question.
How has this come about?
How has design, which many still associate largely with style and consumerism, come to be something one might look to for solutions to the most complex and challenging problems facing humanity today – problems requiring not just local fixes using clever design objects, but solutions that reimagine systems themselves?
Are we, at this point, really even still talking about the same discipline? With interdisciplinary design set to become one of the drivers of market and social change – and no longer a mere component of the engine – we urgently need an informed debate.
Mindful of our historical moment, we have launched a series of thought pieces called The Design Economy to raise awareness of the risks and opportunities presented by the redefinition of design’s role and status. Our aim for the series is not to make the case for design as the next great management fad – a notion that tends to rear its head from time to time – but to give a clear indication of design’s immense scope for bringing about profound business transformation.
Going beyond business, the series takes a critical look at design’s capacity to help resolve large-scale economic and social problems, exploring how governments, health providers, NGOs and developmental organisations are harnessing its power.
The Design Economy series boldly asks the difficult questions, too, about design’s challenges in realising its transformative potential. In an age of austerity, rising inequality, ageing populations, climate change, the redefinition of the role of the state, big data and ubiquitous surveillance, how are we, as a society, to assess design’s rapid ascendency? How realistic are the claims being made for the transformational design discipline? Are they overly optimistic – or perhaps overly cautious? Shouldn’t we be asking ourselves serious questions about how design is transforming our world – questions about design’s limits, values and ethics – before it’s too late?
Over the next 10 weeks, we will be publishing our series of in-depth articles on the Design Council’s website as well as on Pieria, the leading UK-based online economics and policy magazine and social network, and Medium, a US-based publishing and social network platform started by Twitter’s founder.
Our aspiration for the series is not to preach to industry insiders but to speak to a wider public. We hope the series will open up discussion amongst readers – design industry thinkers and practitioners, leaders in business and public service, scientists and technologists, policymakers, architects and planners, healthcare practitioners… the intellectually curious across all disciplines.
– with thanks to the author, John Mathers, CEO at The Design Council