Necessity is the mother of invention,
but is there a cost?

My thoughts on Designing for Emergence: Cities, Networks and Platforms from Alvaro Marquez, Head of Service Design, ABC

As an emerging UX and Experience Designer, I have always been curious about people’s career trajectory involved in this realm of design. In hearing Marquez speak at University of Sydney, I was struck by the breadth and depth of his design insights.

I was particularly curious regarding his thoughts on how spaces, relationships and dimensions are continually being redefined by innovation, and how technology strives to bridge the gaps between these topics.

Here are my key takings from his talk:

This approach is definitely valid particularly as people become more engaged with technology. We all have ideas, and as technology is now becoming more easily accessible; any of these ideas can turned into viable products.

What I enjoy being a UX Designer is that I make sure that these ideas connect back to serving a need, or that it relates to improving peoples’ behaviour. Technology should serve as a tool towards the solution, not exacerbate the problem.

Moving digital realm beyond the screen is an area that I am personally excited to see happen. In my former life of jewellery, there is a beauty towards tactile objects that you cannot receive from a 2D perspective. This comes from the connection with our five body senses.

It also comes from a desire to increase the existing potential of products and spaces, in order to optimise what we currently have. As digital integrates into the real world, it allows us to connect back to our bodies, one of the necessities in our own identity.

The increase in accessibility of technology is advantageous for everyday people. The low barrier to entry for startups allows the exploration of new ideas that can challenge the level of innovation of established business.

However, in his talk, Marquez speaks of exploration from the democratising forces of technology. Cheaper technology gives the knowledge back to the people, which is increasingly available to people in developing countries. It shows the advantages of open source information and enabling others with the tools to solve their problems from obtaining money loans to accessing medical data.

Disruption works best on a magnifying on a smaller fundamental problem than creating the next big thing. Given that there is no such thing as an original idea anymore, good innovation does not mean invention in isolation. This insight is definitely makes design more achievable and provides design with a practical perspective. It also helps distinguish between art and design. Design is about improving the world around us through problem solving, not just through the expression of ideas.

It is interesting how technology have impacted on our social interactions and our public behaviour. When the mobile phone was introduced, there was a stigma attached to talking on the phone in public. Our private conversations were able to be heard, yet now this disruption is a social norm. Given the growing popularity of wearable technology and ubiquitous computing, the future of platforms will again challenge the lines between private and public spaces of communication. It will raise further questions about what behaviour is considered acceptable or not.

It ultimately comes down to who we are as human beings, and the choices we make. This requires being informed as better citizens but making those decisions which show what you stand for.


In general, Marquez’s talk was compelling, covering a lot of unknown topics and ideas such as Yiwu’s embrace of refugees to the Pollution detection app and mask. Nevertheless, his talk also leads to more questions about the waves of innovation and about the problems that will need to continually solve.

I am definitely curious to find out his insights will impact upon a public entity such as the ABC, and tackling the challenges in addressing broadcasting to the Australian public.

By the way, these are my thoughts. If you want to hear the talk itself, it is available to watch here.

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