How to measure the value of design is a complex but vital question. It’s a complex questions because there are a number of sides to it. For example, how do you measure something that is intangible and irrational (i.e. creativity), what do we mean by ‘value’, who are we measuring for, should we be reducing design to a simple set of metrics and what does this mean for policy makers, investors and small businesses?
These are some of the questions that were at the heart of the 15th annual Design Management Institute conference last week. The conference attracts a couple of hundred designers and design managers from some of Europe’s leading businesses such as BMW, Nokia and Carrefor. I went to the conference with one question in mind – “How can policy makers and small businesses better understand the value of design and act accordingly”.
Recently I came across a TEDx video on empathy which really struck a personal chord, bringing me back to a subject that particularly intrigues me – empathy. During the talk Sam Richards asked the audience to take themselves out of their shoes and put themselves in the shoes of someone else. I found it quite powerful – have a look and see what you think.
While I admit I can be impatient and I do struggle with my listening skills, empathy is something that has intrigued me for a long while. I would argue that a true understanding of each other and nature is key to ecodesign. This is not the norm at the moment.
In the age when we frequently hear ‘collaboration is the new competition’ moving towards this behaviour of greater societal empathy becomes more pertinent. Without empathy I would argue that co-operation is possible, but effective ecodesign through co-creation, the new collaboration, is not.
Empathy is key to building trust, something that I have long argued is crucial for ecodesign.
Hence I jumped at the opportunity to submit a title for my talk with the word empathy, so I’d make the time to give this some further thought. I chose ‘joined up thinking and ecodesign require empathy’!
Now the time has come to prepare the talk, the event is on this Thursday 19th, and I’m undecided on how to approach this. Any ideas are very welcome.
Below is an article I wrote back in November 2010 for publication in the second volume of Articulado’s book, which I was invited to contribute to by Sanserif Creatius. The brief was as follows:
“The idea is to ‘speak’ on paper about the profession with total freedom and with the goal of transmitting to society what our profession is really all about, or perhaps addressing some other issue of concern to you, for instance ecodesign, the creative process or your sources of inspiration.”
I dug the article out last week to explore with our intern illustrator Nathan how illustration could be used to convey some of the messages (that’s a work in progress). Its always feels strange reading something you wrote a while back, and it was the first time I included some of my haiku poetry in a publication, but funny enough, while I could update parts, I still feel comfortable with it …. The article describes how life, people and ecodesign inspire me with the title inspired by many of the amazing books explored in Tom Butler-Bowdon’s guide to ‘50 Spiritual Classics‘. In particular Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power of Now‘. I was left intrigued by the idea of designing while in the present. Any comments very welcome.
After organising Frank and Simon’s trip to the Intersections 2011 Conference, I felt a little bit envious of their visit to the Eden Project. That’s a lie, I was very envious , and within a couple of days had booked my own trip to visit Cornwall.
I have now just returned from my own trip and the Eden Project was everything I could have wished for and more. It began in 1996 as a sketch on a pub napkin and has grown into a great example of sustainable and sociable entrepreneurship. See examples of some interesting projects www.edenproject.com/whats-it-all-about
I was particularly taken with the giant construction of WEEEman designed by Paul Bonomi. He is made from approximately 3.3 tonnes of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. This is the suggested amount that the average person throws away in their lifetime. He has a great set of teeth made from mouses (or should that be mice!)
Everything from the biomes, and the sculptures to the freshly baked bread and even the gift shop made for a very enjoyable, eye-opening day out and I would recommend it to everyone.
Yesterday I visited HM Treasury for Visual Camp. This was an event that brought together designers and policy makers to explore how we can use visualisation to improve what we do and how we do it. Prior to the event I submitted two options/scenarios to explore. The organisers asked me to introduce one of these – “explaining policy to designers and design to policymakers”.
There were three parts to this scenario.
There is a broad lack of understanding of design in policy circles. Policy makers understand innovation (especially technical innovation) but they don’t have the tools to understand design from a policy perspective.
Designers don’t really understand policy. As designers are moving into new spaces such as social innovation it is becoming clear that there is a lack of understanding of policy process and delivery (power & control)
Policy makers could benefit from design. We need to innovate on how we shape and deliver policy and strategic design tools can help with this.
Visiting one of our key clients, the Welsh Assembly Government, which happens to be a major regional employer, and in the current round of ‘definitions and redefinitions‘ (to borrow Simon’s phrase) they would be termed an anchor organisation. I was reminded of the challenges of delivering on their ambitions of their One Wales: One Planet scheme.
While the closest train station (Treforest Industrial Estate) is only a mile or 2 from their large QED Centre base, I was reminded by the train conductor that the most trains don’t stop there, and I should try and aim to catch the Merthyr train. So if you want to go by train there, take this advice, and arrange your meeting around the Merthyr train, make sure you allow time then to walk the long way around through the industrial estate, when a footbridge across the Taff river would get you directly there.
Sharon’sopening post kick-starting this EDC Share blog (we have been playing around with a trial blog these past few months whose content, graphics etc. will be merged eventually with this one …) prompted me to go with one of my many Ecodesign Centre highlights this week, the session on skills with Lawrence Hallett. (I know Simon eventually got in first with his blog post ‘definitions and redefinitions’). The talk on skills is incidentally connected back to our intern illustrator Nathan, who Sharon introduced earlier (I am really excited about the newspaper Nathan!). I’ll explain the connection later.
Sharon’s old portfolio and CV (created on CarbonMade) highlights her perceived skills at the time. It raised the question which was my first reaction to her post: what would this skills list look like now Sharon? My guess is greatly different. Something to think about! And how difficult it is to define what anyones skills are?; how difficult is it to develop them further? Even more so when one gets actively involved with, or even embedded in, ecodesign, particularly given its many guises and to borrow Simon’s phrase ‘definitions and redefinitions’!
To build on Simon’s previous post, I agree with “we need to bring clarity around the definitions we use for what we do but more importantly we need to start focussing on what is actually important i.e. purpose, process and impact.”
We see that the terminology we use around ‘innovation’ is becoming a blur. Eco-Innovation, Sustainable-Innovation, Social-Innovation and Technological-Innovation are commonly used at the Centre. With our new Interreg-project KARIM, we can add ‘Responsible Innovation’ to our glossary.
Rather than clarifying the glossary, we want to clarify our story on innovation. Aiming to get all the words correct would bring a boring story. Stories should build on people’s imagination and therefore bring tacit knowledge across. We started to develop an overview of the spectrum of innovation.
The stories are not finished yet and it would be good to see how different people interpret it according to their tacit knowledge.
The beginning of the week has brought to me a new experience.
New city, new office, new colleagues.
New learning, new understanding, new sharing.
After leave Italy and spend one year in Birmingham (that, for most of people, seems an unreasonable and masochistic choice) learning a bit more about place making and built environment, I decided to move again: my attention on Ecodesign, myself in Cardiff.
So, I am ready to be involved in the centre’s activities, to learn more about “Ecodesign”, and to contribute!
I know that most people struggle with definitions. They either put too much rigidity on a term without understanding its underlying meaning or they don’t really understand the term and just apply it to lots of things it isn’t. Design and Innovation are two areas where this is rife. We have some people thinking they know what they are talking about when they don’t and lots of people thinking that others know what they are talking about when, in fact, they don’t.
It has been another week of definitions for me and it started out with an interesting and insightful ecodesign workshop with EDC, a Welsh manufacturer and a plastic supplier. The workshop was led by Sharon and was linked to her PhD. The workshop, unintentionally, largely revolved around Cradle to Cradle and the limitations of how it is currently applied and understood. I got the sense that too much focus on the definition of Cradle to Cradle created barriers to exploration of the important questions. What everyone was really interested in was impact and outcome and we needed a new way of thinking on how we achieve that.