Interview in Designboost magazine 2011
-How has the role of the designer changed over the last couple of years?
In times of disruptive consumption the designer’s responsibility has been heavily questioned. Being a designer today you need to understand and take responsibility for the whole process. The need for understanding the whole value chain has affected the role in that sense that you on the one hand must be like a Swiss army knife and be able to get into areas that you did not had a clue of before. In that sense the role has shifted towards more like a project-manager in which you need to be able to work with many different competences. It is not enough to only focus on the product. In that sense the role has become more pro-active than re-active. Instead of asking what the design world can do for you the designer is today asking what they can do for the world as whole. On the other hand as we live in a society in which everyone more or less is branding him or herself, branding the designer is more difficult today than it was ten years ago. In the world of individual brands anyone can be a designer. It’s just a matter of time when we will see the next blog/Facebook-furniture designer that will come from the blog/Facebook-world. The reason is because companies value those who have built up a customer relationship and are aware of what the customers wants. This means that the role of the ivory-tower designer is gone. You need to be connected and to find the right interpreters of the future.
-Our world is multifaceted and problems are getting more and more complex – how can hybrid thinking and an open-minded holistic mindset take design into a new dimension?
By facilitating it in the right way to occur. For example, put the designer in teams that involves competences that they usually not work with in the working process. When did you involve a biologist last time you where up to design a new chair? To get started use the design thinking process as a tool for everyone involved. Empathy-prototyping-abductive logic is key words in the process. Risk and Fail is necessary ingredients to create a success and do not forget the analytical dimension. Make use of ethnographic methods to get as close to another person’s situation as possible. In the end you will probably end up with a design that is more relevant to the needs of your customer and not only a new product that reminds you of the last furniture fair you went to.
-How can we better use storytelling as tool when changing the predominated notion of ’objects’ into more memorable and sensuous experiences?
Storytelling as tool is used more and more, especially in marketing. Just take a look at the commercials on TV – The popular notion of creating characters and intrigues that you can follow. The best ones is when you do not realize that you look upon it not as an ad. You have empathy for the characters and do not take notice of the products. Bingo! Storytelling is what it is; Stories. And there are good ones and there are bad ones. It’s like when you go to a wedding or a 50-year anniversary party. Some speaches are terrible, others are brilliant. But you can learn. Some companies teach their staff to become storytellers. But the best storytellers are of course the customers. When that happens, you will probably hear some kind of a memorable and sensuous experience that they had. The trick is That experience must be good. Otherwise you have problems. The most well known storytelling book ever written is of course the bible. And how has these stories been kept alive during all the years? Better example of telling stories about memorable and sensuous experience is hard to find. So you need a certain place or forum to talk about them. Not necessary a church. I believe Facebook is better though it has no atmosphere.
Finally, companies tend to objectify experiences. Probably because they see it as a product. If that so, one way to improve the use of storytelling as tool is to translate the experience into the story. Use it as a metaphor.
-How can we design with a more humanistic perspective and thus contribute to cultural and social changes?
- Join independent platforms that will open your mindset for possible sustainible futures. For example such as; www.sustainable-everyday.net
- Involve designers and make use of design methods within your company to explore and develop whole value chain, from the coffee bean to the espresso cup.
- Develop your methods how design can improve customer needs. Design needs to be more connected and contextualized to the overall societal and cultural changes that is now happeninge. Companies need to understand this process in order to know how to deal with design within their company. Days are gone when you could say design is a competetive advantage. Today its just a ticket to the game. So the challange is to get to know what is to come. Unfortunately the trendspotting trend that is exploding at the moment is not the solution. Its more like a quick fix. You do not create competetive advantage by runing in the same direction as the rest of the gang. To become a leader you need to take risks. Trendanalysts is the safe ride.
- Educate management teams the importance of having a design strategy that is solid and will survive future generations of potential customers.
-How can you be part of shaping the future?
As a rector/president of a art and design school my role is of course to built a platform that meets the challenges for the future society in our fields of interest. How we as a school connects to the society , how we develop our curriculum and research. I will also take the opportunity to say that we need to be much more aware of than we are today, especially when you take notice of what is happening in Europe today in terms of economic cuts within education, that education and research is the most important tool to built a humanistic society with competitive advantages.
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