Event: Symposium on the Big Potatoes Manifesto for Design

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Made in Brunel, OXO Tower Wharf, London SE1 9GY

Following the 2010 publication of BIG POTATOES we have focused our analysis and thinking on particular areas, creating workgroups, including on design, with the aim of drafting manifestos in each area.

This invite-only symposium is the first time the Design Manifesto will have had a public airing. Feedback and contribution from participants will be invaluable, helping shape its arguments in time for its launch on an unsuspecting world!

The symposium will feature two debates – both being central to the Manifesto themes – with a final plenary to gather overall feedback. Each debate will be introduced with a provocation made by a member of the Manifesto team. Two external speakers will challenge the points being made, with the remainder of the time given over to the audience, for a wider debate. The debates are:

DEBATE#1: UPHOLDING HUMANISM – OR CENTERING ON USERS?
Chair: Jason Mesut, manager, advocate and critic of innovation based on user experience

Design is intimately bound up with understanding people. Every designer extols the virtues of getting to know customers, users, people. However, can being too close to your subject stifle creativity? Today this question has added relevance and is at the heart of our manifesto. As at no other time, the collective and individual will of human beings is felt to be little rival to the capricious actions of Fate.

The human ability to take a conscious risk, in the pursuit of innovation, used to be the fundamental premise of design. But now designers join with other cynics in agreeing that people are for the most part driven by nature, neurology, ostentation and irrationality. That can only degrade the processes and the products of design.

The old discussion was about people as market segments with latent needs – people who were held to be in a ‘relationship’ with product or service providers. More and more, however, the rhetoric today consists of how design can work to minimise demand, redirect consumption, and even improve patterns of human behaviour.

Is it the role of design to understand and change people’s behaviour, or is design about producing ideas that allow people to make their own minds up on how they choose to use it? Likewise, should design strive to exceed expectations by going beyond people’s immediate needs, or must it be mindful of how people might use stuff, encouraging greater responsibility and awareness to ourselves and even the planet? And even where people do adapt existing things to better suit their needs – should we celebrate such amateurism, or instead prefer the expertise designers can bring, expertise that can raise people’s horizons further still?

Provocation by Martyn Perks, writer, speaker and consultant in design, innovation and technology

Response from Pat Jordan, author, consultant and government adviser with honorary chairs in design at City University and the University of Surrey

Response from Dan Lockton, consultant, research fellow at University of Warwick and research assistant at Brunel University specialising in design for behaviour change

DEBATE#2: DOES DESIGN DRIVE ECONOMIC GROWTH?
Chair: Frank Peters, designer now leading the professional body for designers and design sector consultant

What is design’s contribution to economic growth? This question has for a long time been intimately bound up with discussions about design’s purpose — even more so since New Labour sought to trumpet the contribution made by the so-called ‘creative industries’ to UK plc. Because of the credit crunch, the precise effects that design has on wealth creation have become more pertinent than ever. Both the state and many design industry professionals feel that design needs to justify its contribution.

Economic growth is a key issue for our manifesto, not least because designers have been poor at theorising their relationship with innovation. In our view, design could do more to promote and implement scientific and technological advance. At the moment design often fails to grasp the opportunity presented by innovation – by being too focused on surface, incremental improvements. That can mean it ends up being marginalised as a result.

The problem with design and growth runs much deeper than rates of remuneration, royalties, intellectual property and all the rest. It is impossible to put a value on design without clarifying and improving the role designers play with regard to innovation. Can designers, by themselves, stimulate economic growth by creating new demand through the design of new products and services? Or are such products and services best realised when designers link up closely with scientific and technological innovation? Conversely, is design’s real role less about creating new growth per se, and more about persuading people to consume more through marketing and branding existing products and services?

FINAL PLENARY: REVIEW THE MANIFESTO
Introduced by one of the Manifesto team, the plenary will gather audience feedback on all of its chapters. In the week running up to the symposium, we will have released a draft copy of all the chapters, to give all attendees the chance to read it before the event. At the plenary we will ask all attendees to feedback with their opinion of both the debates at the symposium and a their view of the whole manifesto in its draft form.

Provocation by James Woudhuysen, professor of forecasting and innovation, De Montfort University, Leicester

Response from Barry Sheerman MP, the Labour and Co-operative member of Parliament for Huddersfield

Response from Pam Alexander, non-executive director of Crest Nicholson and a trustee of the Design Council with CABE

MANIFESTO TEAM
Iain Aitchison, product strategist and educator
John Boult, independent consultant in design strategy, associate Professor of Design strategy at Brunel University
Alex Cameron, editorial art director and design writer
Alex Dale, graphic designer
Jim Dawton, designer, leader, parliamentary adviser and speaker
Richard Eisermann, innovation, design and business strategist
Colum Leith, educator and pamphleteer, programme leader BA Hons Graphic design, University of the West of England
Nico Macdonald, Spy: media innovation consultant, chair of Media Futures programme
Kevin McCullagh, Founder of Plan, the product strategy consultancy, writer and speaker
Jason Mesut, leader, manager, advocate and critic of user experience based innovation
Martyn Perks, writer, speaker and consultant in design, innovation and technology
Frank Peters, designer now leading the professional body for designers and design sector consultant
Colin Searls, Associate Dean for teaching and learning at the Faculty of Arts, Plymouth University
James Woudhuysen, professor of forecasting and innovation, De Montfort University, Leicester