Design moves ahead

The CONNECTING’07 World Design Congress – Connecting to People and to Ideas was held last week and according to the write up of the conference by Business Week – Making Connections By Design – the design community is in a buzz:

Designers, not regularly hailed for their shyness or lack of confidence, were in their element. The atmosphere was ebullient and the consensus clear: Design’s moment is now.

I would like to think that is true. But in order for that to happen, “design” needs figure out what it wants to be now that it has grown up:

How exactly designers might take advantage of business’ new-found interest in using design to improve bottom lines was, however, less clear. “The design community is faced by unprecedented opportunity to chart a new course—and most of us aren’t sure what to do with that opportunity,” admitted Peter Mortensen of Jump Associates, the San Mateo (Calif.) innovation consultancy, which sent eight people to the conference. “We’ve spent so many decades arguing with businesspeople that we need a seat at the table. It was a war to make that case. And now we’ve won the war, people are struggling with how to win the peace.”

For me, design has to move well beyond “cool” and certainly beyond simply coming up with new gizmos and gadgets — however cool or useful. (BTW – if you are into that aspect of innovation and design, see GizMag.
Fortunately, there are signs that the design community is way ahead of me:

Academic figures Patrick Whitney, director of the Institute of Design at IIT and Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management in Toronto, were on hand to elucidate how designers can learn to speak the language of business. In quite possibly the highlight of the conference—certainly the only keynote to provoke a spontaneous standing ovation—British academic adviser and creative ambassador Sir Ken Robinson outlined the need for all members of an organization to be encouraged to think creatively, to bridge the divide between the “creatives” and the “suits.”

Sounds like the right direction to me.

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