Monthly Archives: September 2012

Exploring the Outer Limits of Design (Sydney DMI Night Out event)

Last Thursday evening I attended Sydney’s DMI Night Out at the University of New South Wales COFA (College of Fine Arts) campus. DMI Night Out is a quarterly event that takes place not just in Sydney but around the world bringing together the DMI and broader design community to discuss critical issues in design locally and sharing that globally. This quarter’s DMI Night Out focuses on ‘The boundaries of design: Exploring the outer limits.’ In more detail DMI write:

The outer boundaries of design today may become the core competencies of tomorrow. In which directions must design firms grow to find value for clients, society, and themselves? How can clients and society inform these new directions? What is the “adjacent possible” of today, and the impossible but inevitable of tomorrow? Join us for a forward-looking and wide-ranging discussion of the evolving practice of design.

The night’s speakers included:

There was a noted fourth speaker, Tom Key, who was unable to make it. Each speaker presented for 10-20 minutes and there was a panel discussion at the end. In brief, Eric Folger spoke of his experiences to date, as the only designer in a huge financial services organisation, attempting to integrate strategic uses of design (commonly known as ‘design thinking’) from within. Steve Baty spoke of three key issues the design profession will have to contend with (if not already contending with them) and Bob Nation gave us insight into the plans for Barangaroo, the controversial $6 billion development on the foreshores of Sydney Harbour that will be completed in 2015.

DMI Night Out speakers L-R: Bob Nation, Steve Baty and Eric Folger

For me, the most interesting thing about the night was the critical questions the speakers made me think about for the design profession and discipline. Some of the questions were raised in the presentations, but most of them I noted down as I was listening. I believe these questions are important for the design community to address to move the profession forward into the ‘outer boundaries’. Here’s a list of questions I noted:

  • How do we create advocacy for design within business organisations, public sector and government
  • How do we integrate design into non-design organisations, that is scale this idea of ‘design thinking’ to all areas of the business, public sector and/or government so others can use this ‘toolkit’ to address their complexities and intractable problems
  • How do we empower and motivate others to use such a ‘toolkit’
  • How do we create the evidence base for design, how do we speak the vocabulary of business and government to help them understand the value design and designers can bring (not just a hypothetical process model and bunch of methods)
  • How do we educate business and government that good practice is the use of appropriate methodologies, not a set process model or set methods, because in this design space, nothing can be directly imported from one context into another and function the same
  • How do we educate young designers for the kinds of jobs that don’t exist yet
  • How do we move away from the craft of design (the chairs, posters and toasters) but still maintain and progress the craft of designing (the practice of what we do). This came up at the end of the night when a young student raised the issue that the current design education curriculum taught the craft of design (the chairs, posters and toasters) and not other skills that the panel had spoken about such as facilitation, mediation, co-design and championing design excellence. Personally, I think one needs to learn the craft of design to get really good at the craft of designing

So those were my take aways from the night’s event. It will be interesting to see what other DMI Night Out cities discuss under this this quarter’s theme. There are 6 more cities to go this month. My apologies if you visited this blog to find out content of what the speakers presented, but I think these questions are going to be important to address if we want to see design move progressively into the ‘outer boundaries’ and create a positive impact at scale.

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Filed under Design events, Design thinking, Sydney and Australia