On business, design, and futures

Last week we managed to get to a very interesting conference that was situated right on the intersection of our main interests:  futures, design, and business. It was also situated in the newly opened Design Museum in Kerkrade that we visited not so long ago.

The program of the conference is still online and you can read more about its purposes (and the lineup of speakers) – the official title of the event was Business Meets Design.  Below I will share just a few random impressions about different presentations we’ve seen.

The event was opened with the stories about the Past: Gerard Caron, a veteran of advertising industry, shared some memories of 1976.

A collection of images that helped many in the audience to recollect their memories, and to some to perhaps see the first the some of the (graphic) designs of that time.

Jan Oldenburger was another speaker from the past (or at least about the past). This was more or less “How good was our Golden Era!” kind of story. Interesting, because he shared some first-hand experiences, but not really insightful. But interesting.

The story by Ton Borsboom who is currently a design director with Philips Lighting, was interesting for me but in a very different way.

I spent 10+ years with Philips Design, and basically knew the story upside down and inside it (I was in many ways a co-creator of this narrative, or ‘people-driven’ and ‘future-focussed’ innovation.

So, what was interesting for me were the nuances. Those tiny changes that happens with this story over time.  For example, the fact that Philips Design has lost its autonomy (and thus a potential to act as a lever for a larger Philips) and it’s completely integrated into the main body. Where it was, and where it wasn’t able to do much in the past. Let’s Make Design Great Again, oh yes.

But it was a good (often nostalgic) presentation (very multimedia, too, when Ton started to change the colors of the light in the room – see above)

The presentation by Mikko Koria, from the Institute for Design Innovation at Loughborough University, was really a fresh and interesting take on the things.  I liked his metaphor, of ‘inflection points’ (as you can see on the slides, they can be both leading ‘up’ and ‘down’ – it is important for my story about the next speaker.)

Mikko mentioned five of these ‘inflection’ points that we have consider when talking about the modern state of design. I don’t recall all of them, but they can be all distilled to one central theme: Life is complex. Don’t apply stupid ‘simple’ solutions to it (in other words, don’t do ‘trumping’).

Which was a very relevant background (or should I say, antidote?) to the next speaker, Cate Trotter, “The Head of Trends” from London. Her presentation was a epitome of what we are against at Summ()n: incredibly simplistic, technocratic and populistic take on the future. She is a neophyte of the ‘singularity camp’, with their ‘exponential stories’.

I was writing about our opinion about all these ‘singularities’ many times, including in this blog. But it seems that yet another Big Rant is due, as this wave of con-futurists is raising again.  And of course the bulbs, and bulbous innovation. Why do these silly stories are always illustrated with the most cliche images?

The story of Kristoffer Lawson, a Finnish hacker aka founder of the Solu, a social computer as they call it, was nice. He didn’t take much about the computer (or rather it OS system) itself, since the audience wouldn’t be able to follow any technical details,  but it was a good ‘pitch’ nevertheless.

All in all, a very interesting event, inspiring many new thoughts.

And then the Egg; it was nice to ‘meet’ it again 🙂

NB: We invited Michiel van der Kley, the designer behind the Project Egg, to participate in our strategic session with AGC.

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