I was invited to this Design forum by a good friend of mine who told me that- “ If you are interested in the future of design then you must head to this conference”. Well, I am a student of Interaction design with a background in Architecture, of course, I was curious to know my future impacts on the world.
An added incentive was the fact that it was curated by IAM ( a group of talented researchers who get me at the edge of the seat every time they present). It was a two-day event addressing four sectors that had a direct impact ‘on design’ and was directly impacted ‘ by design’ — Human | Society | Industry | Values.
The conference was more than just a few sets of researchers sharing their theory and understanding of design. The conference, on the whole, was designed as a dialogue between not just the speaker and the audience, but it sparked a conversation with each person especially if you were a designer.
It was true that designers often forget to ask ourselves what 50 years ago Dieter Rams started questioning — “ Is my design good design?”. In the current digital age where designers are participating in newer territories, are we speculating enough in our current practice? Are we thinking of what it means to address ethics in design? Are we aware of the explicit and implicit impacts of our design to society, economy and ecology? But the question that really hit me hard was —
Am I too selfish to call myself a “Human” centered designer and not a “ Humanity” centered designer?
Wait, Design Does * Forum not just preached these ideas, they went one step ahead and teased you by inviting us to participate in their interactive exhibit.
The exhibition comprised of 15 questions that reflected upon issues ranging from identity and the future to materials and data, it asks what design does and makes no attempt to define what design is. I was given a “Doer Pass*” in order to collect my responses to those fifteen questions and gave me a chance to take a stance regarding designing for better and for worse.
I am going to share three projects that stood out to me as a genius piece of narrative and questioned my existence as a human in the world of design. One of the most enticing and thought provoking exhibit was -
Who is controlling who?
It was interesting because it wasn't man controlling machine or machine controlling man. It was man controlling another man. The artist ( the person in white)was wearing a VR headset and was in a simulated environment. He was completely unaware of the physical surrounding or the protagonist in this narrative.He seemed to be interacting with the simulated environment that he was in. But little did he know that he was mimicking the exact pattern that was “ commanded” by another human being.
As an Interaction designer, we are in a field of design that tries to understand behavioral patterns of human beings and modulate their experience or sensation of a product or a service. This narrative clearly made me realize that this is a great power that is handed to me and if not used responsibly , millions of people would mimic my mistake and lead to larger implications.
The second exhibit was- Virtual X kit. They addressed the question of
Can Design pose moral challenges?
Virtual X kit looks at how extreme pornographic experiences, such as rape simulation, can become mechanisms that evade the moral and legal simulations of the real world. The project comprises three objects that emulate the parts of the body most commonly involved in sexual activity. It opens the debate on the use of virtual reality in the pornographic industry, questioning to what extent these practices should or should not be regulated.
This was a narrative to me that questioned apart from morality, the idea of human connections. As we all know, due to our increased engagement in social media, we have lost the value of physical interactions with people. With this new branch of simulated pornography, are we intervening natural human systems? Would people find love in simulated environments or would it be a new playground for sexual violence?
The last exhibit I want to share is by Domestic Data Streamers.
Should Everything be automated?
This exhibit gave me the chills. they created an environment similar to the border situation where automated human killing machines were installed. The killer robots detected the presence of the countries “ enemy” and shot them automatically.
When I entered this space the daunting laser beam aiming at my chest not knowing what kind of a person I am- Am I really your enemy or a victim of politics? Was I assigned to destroy you or bringing a message of peace? The presence of these robots was a symbolism of perpetual war. Can there never be a negotiation? This thought constantly ran through my head as I tried to dodge and confuse the machine of my presence.
The exhibit had twelve other similar exhibits that asked very relevant and thought-provoking questions. It forced you to engage with the future of design.
As I proceeded to exit the exhibit in a haze, at the exit they used a Creative Decoding Tool to help me evaluate or “decode” my creative profile by answering some questions that respond to the key competencies of a design process.The system was developed within the framework of the European Union Decoding European Creative Skills project.
But to me, this was a self-assessment and speculation of my intervention in the world as a designer. I will share my results with you but I must say it wasn’t very different from the results of few Design leaders in the world.Well, I do not want to be bragging as I am no judge of what their impact of leadership had on design ‘for better or for worse’.
What I gained from this experience is that even though I call myself a T- Shaped designer, I realized, I should dwell more on the horizontal section of the ‘ T ’ rather than penetrating deep along the vertical line. Because the horizontal section would help me engage as a design collaborator rather than a design expert ( The vertical line of the -T). These exhibits clearly teach you the value of trans-disciplinary thinking and letting go of our own expertise and harnessing the power of a beginners mind. Because it is that phase that leads to critical thinking and asking ourselves — “ Is my design good design?”.
If you are in Barcelona during 7/4/2018 to 13/5/2018, do not forget to experience the exhibit showcased at the Museu del Disseny, Barcelona.