The Future of Design Stanford Conference

I’m going to give a 5 minute talk on the future of design on Friday to spark conversation within a terrific group of design thinkers from around the world. Banny Banerjee, director of the Stanford Design Program is putting it on. I first met Banny at a conference in India put on by the National Institutes of Design.

Here are my thoughts on where Design/Thinking is going and should be going—and what is needed to get there. They are designed to provoke. Let me know what you think.

Point of View: Designing A Post-Liberal Arts Paradigm—Innovation Arts

The creation of a new belief system—Innovation Arts—to replace the prevailing Liberal Arts paradigm should be the next stage in the evolution of Design/Thinking. A world of constant, cascading change and the failure of existing social organizations requires a shift from the prevailing Liberal Arts paradigm that trains individuals how to make sense of an existing world based on past knowledge and reifying society to a new paradigm that trains people how to build new social systems based on deep knowledge of current cultural rituals and behaviors while embedding action in social, economic and political context. An Innovation Arts paradigm would also form the foundation of a post-Neo-Liberal economic theory that reconnects elites to real business context rather than the quantified financialization of business functions, focuses on value in network relationships and group social behavior and educates people to make rather than consume. Three Future Directions for the Advancement of Design

1—Develop a mature culture of criticism. If it is to evolve into a mature intellectual system of thought, Design has to create a critical, self-reflexive literature. Design’s public discourse remains aspirational, narrow and secretive. Despite an emphasis on the importance of failure in prototyping and learning, little actual discussion of failure exists. Despite a focus on practice, very little is revealed of what really occurs in consultancy or corporate design practice. The RCA and SVA have just started MFAs in Design Criticism. We need more challenging conversations on both Practice and Theory. And we desperately need a powerful HBR of Design Thinking, anchored in an academic institution. Suggestions? Business or Design School?

2- Build Human Centered Design Tool Kits for Political Policy Makers. Design has focused recently on creating how-to design kits for NGOs to operate at the Bottom-of-the-Pyramid level in Asia and Africa. Building how-to kits for policy-makers at the Top-of-the-Pyramid level in the US, Europe, Latin America and Asia is equally important and challenging. The First World is the new Third World and needs Design Thinking to redesign itself. Design’s venue is expanding from product to experience to systems to policy. Policy is the new edge in Design and it speaks to domestic as well as foreign human needs.

3- The “as if….” perspective of ritual, serious play and the making of the new embodied in the Innovation Arts paradigm is already dominant in much of Generation Y culture. Gen Y has much to teach and much to do. In an effort to understand and activate the Gen Y demographic, Parsons is launching a Gen Y Research Institute. It will focus on deep understandings of Gen Y culture as represented by the global student body at Parsons and provide a public stage and financing for the products and services created by these students. A global collaborative of Gen Y research efforts would be hugely productive.