June 30, 2009



Below you will find short descriptions of the main projects we have produced since 2000. We also publish Doors of Perception Report, a free monthly email newsletter here.

Four Days Halifax (week of sustainability events, Halifax Nova Scotia, 2009)

The Landfill Designers (Programme for BBC Radio 4, 2009)

2012 Imperative Teach-In (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2009)

Off-Grid Water (Service design clinic, Stanford University, 2009)

Sustainable Daily Life (Projects Clinic, The Planning Center, Southern California, 2009)

Travel Without Moving (Design clinic on ‘sustainability immobility’ at Pixelache Festival, Helsinki, 2009)

City Eco Lab (Sustainability festival, St Etienne, France, 2008)

Eco Design Challenge (Schools’ sustainability competition, North East England, 2006-2007)

Designs of the Time (Dott07) (Sustainability festival, North East England. 2007)

Food systems: the design agenda (Doors of Perception 9, New Delhi, 2007)

Aspen Design Summit (international conference, Aspen, 2006 )

Social Innovation Observatory 'Emude" (European design research consortium, 2005-2007)

Platforms for social innovation (Doors of Perception 8 on “Infra”, New Delhi, 2005)

Tools For Citizen Services (Project Leaders Round Table, Amsterdam, 2004)

Time In Design (24 hour workshop on time and sustainability, Delft. 2003)

Fused Space (A competiton about new ways to use new media, The Netherlands, 2003)

Mobility, Geography, Access (DoorsEast2, Bangalore, India, 2003)

Interaction Design Institute Ivrea (Helping set up a new instituion, Ivrea, Italy, 2000-2003)

Design and Local Knowledge (Service design conference, Oslo, 2002)

Hong Kong Design Task Force (Expert advice to government task force, Hong Kong, 2002)

Amsterdam Medical Centre (AMC) (Participation in think-tank, Amsterdam, 2002)

Post-spectacular tourism (Eco-tourism workshop, Narva-Joessu, Estonia, 2002)

The design challenge of pervasive computing (Doors of Perception 7 on Flow, Amsterdam, 2002)

Life in the learning economy (conference for 1,000 professors, Amsterdam, 2001)

The design challenge of pervasive computing (vision development for European Union research consortiumConvivio 2001-2003)

Design and Innovation Research Centre (DIEC) (Planning a new design and innovation centre. Newcastle upon Tyne. 2001)

Quality Time at High Speed (Service innovation workshop, Breda, The Netherlands, 2000)

Local knowledge: the design and innovation of tomorrow’s services (DoorsEast 1, Ahmedabad, India, 2000)

Doors of Perception 6 on “Lightness” (international design conference, Amsterdam, 2000)

Design Clinic for Entrepreneurs (Workshop, Highlands and Islands of Scotland)

Virtual Platform (Advice to Dutch government on new media policy, 2000-2003)

E-Culture Fair ( Marketplace of new media prototypes and research projects, Amsterdam, 2000)

Doors of Perception (Doors) began life in 1993 as an international design conference, in Amsterdam. Since then, Doors has brought together grassroots innovators, entrepreneurs, educators, and designers to imagine alternative futures - sustainable ones - and take design steps to realize them. From 1993-2000, the conference was a project of the Netherlands Design Institute, a government-funded think tank. In 2000, Doors of Perception bv was founded - a small private company. Doors now acts a bit like a film producer: We conceive and organize projects, for the most part at a city-region scale, in which multiple partners use a variety of techniques to explore a meaningful question and design practical responses.

Posted by John Thackara at 09:17 AM | Comments (0)

Four Days Halifax (week of sustainability events, Halifax Nova Scotia, 2009)


Doors of Perception helped to organize Four Days Halifax - a time-compressed mini-festival whose aim was to help the city get its hands muddy in a green economy

Our starting point in Four Days was that many elements of a resilient Halifax already exist in embryonic form - but not all of them are visible in their own backyard. The most important preparation work was to identify these local assets: people, mainly, but also projects and places.

Peter Wuensch and Rachel Derrah from Breakhouse, a Halifax a design firm that's headed strongly into social innovation, and Joanne Macrae and Sera Thompson from The Hub Halifax, duly rounded up some inspiring people and projects.


We told Peter and Rachel to think of Doors of Perception as a "Hubble Telescope turned backwards" - the idea being that it often takes an outsider to help grassroots people and groups, who are the acorns of a sustainable future, become better known or visible in their own backyard.

Our next step, and the value-creating element of the week, was to figure out what practical steps might help these projects improve and multiply.

First off, we kick-started five "social innovation charrette" teams from Nova Scotia College of Art + Design (NSCAD).

Next, we did a Dragon's Lair event in which social enterprise start-ups pitched their case for investment to local entrepreneurs; the pitchers included a car-share start-up, and a chef with a roof-top herb garden.

The next evening, a local team staged a mini TEDx conference.

This was followed by a Four Days workshop for politicians, officials and business people.

Friday night there was?a Pecha Kucha in which, inter alia, the design student teams reported back.

The final event was a street party where we exchanged stories about who we'd met and what steps needed to be taken next.


Posted by Kristi at 09:13 AM | Comments (0)

June 25, 2009

2012 Imperative Teach-In (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2009)


Designers have an important role to play as enablers of the a transition to a sustainable system. As a society, we have the capacity to create systems that will allow us to live within the limits of the earth’s ecosystem. But the necessary changes are not being made - or not fast enough. How might we help design education focus more urgently on the transition to sustainable One Planet Living? Jody Bohnert conceived and produced 2012 Imperative Teach-In as "a massive social learning project" - based on the example of a similar teach-in, held in 2007 at the New York Academy of Science, that reached a quarter of a million people from 47 countries. The idea was to embed ecological literacy in design education by 2012 - to help students, faculty and staff re-frame design in the context of resource depletion, loss of biodiversity, and climate change. Doors of Perception contributed a speaker and promotional support to the event.

Posted by John Thackara at 01:31 PM | Comments (0)

May 26, 2009

The Landfill Designers (Programme for BBC Radio 4, 2009)


The term 'planned obsolescence' was coined in the 1950s but has never been more relevant. Our desire to possess the latest style can mean more in landfill, and more children in China and India sifting through toxic waste. But some argue that a fast turnover in products stimulates innovation in new technologies and reusable materials. So, are scientists and designers deliberately planning for failure? John Thackara was commissioned by All Out Productions to help write and be the presenter of The Landfill Designers, a thirty minute documentary for BBC Radio 4.

Posted by Kristi at 01:32 PM | Comments (0)

January 29, 2009

Off-Grid Water (Service design clinic, Stanford University, 2009)


Together with Banny Banerjee, the new Director of Stanford University’s ’Design For Change programme, we ran a professional design clinic on the theme of “off-grid water”. Our Stanford clinic focused on entrepreneurs in the Palo Alto region who were developing tools to help citizens manage water sustainably.

Rainwater Hog has won lots of prizes, but its designer and producer, Sally Dominguez, wanted our advice on the best way to translate celebrity into sales.


Our worldly design experts concluded that people will pay better money to save their house, than to save the planet., and advised Sally to re-brand the system as an on-site emergency water supply.

Seven per cent of all US energy use is to process waste – thereby causing 30m million of tons of emissions. Charles Zhou mesmerised us with his story about the use of smart micro-organisms to optimize sludge digestion, and of microbial fuel cells to recover clean energy from wastewater. Ninety-nine percent of current wastewater treatment facilities do not recover any energy from wastewater. Zhou seems set to become the Bill Gates of sewage.


Professor Banerjee reflecting on the event, told me that the three criteria by which their projects are selected are: beneficial impact, scalablility, and urgency. Our clinic scored well against those criteria. President Obama’s new energy secretary, Steven Chu, stated on the day we arrived that “we're looking at a scenario where there's no more agriculture in California”. Immediately following our clinic, a state-wide water state of emergency was declared.

Posted by Kristi at 01:30 PM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2009

Sustainable Daily Life (Projects Clinic, The Planning Center, Southern California, 2009)


“What would life in a sustainable world be like?” Together with The Planning Center, we organized this workshop in Southern California for participants from grassroots organizations. Each presented case studies in which they use resources in a creative, original way.

Jules Dervaes is a pioneer in urban edible gardens; he calls them “urban homesteads”. Jules has launched a social networking site to help disseminate what they have learned, and to multiply the groups involved. His practical concern was that planners might make it illegal to keep chickens in urban areas.


California is spending more than $20bn on “green” school buildings. The state spends $65,000 per classroom seat for the building - versus $1 per child per year for garden upkeep and support. Mud Baron whose job is to help L.A. schools develop gardens and nature projects, wanted our help to persuade planners and architects that "contact with nature" - not just buildings – is a crucual ingredient of "green" schools. We proposed re-labeling school gardens as “outside classrooms” and thereby solve Mud’s resource problem at a stroke.

Another one of our case studies, Proyecto Jardin, is an inspiring example of a bario-based economy. Irene Pena told us that this community garden for food and medicinal herbs must daily confront issues of land-use, group self-organisation, food coo-ps, seed storage, and green jobs – to name just a few.?

Project Hope provides scholing to some of Orange County’s 16,000 homeless children. The project began in 1989 when a teacher began educating local homeless children from the back of her car. A huge issue is mobility: the foundation spends $8,000/month moving students around. We asked whether churches, hospitals and universities, with their often under-used spatial and human resources, could be added to the empty strip mall spaces, and half-abandoned motels, that are on offer now. ?

Brian Biery explained the concept of “place-based philanthropy” which was new to us. The Flintridge Foundation, of which Brian is programme director, closed its Conservation, Theatre and Visual Arts programmes in order to focus all its efforts on the community where Flintridge's endowment was created, and where it is headquartered—Northwest Pasadena and Altadena.


The two workshops in California were small-scale versions of the model we developed for Dott 07 in the UK, and for City Eco Lab in St Etienne in 2008.

Posted by Kristi at 01:30 PM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2009

Travel Without Moving (Design clinic on ‘sustainability immobility’ at Pixelache Festival, Helsinki, 2009)

Many of us are confronted by a painful dilemma: the only way to reduce our ecological footprint of flying is to stop flying - and yet we feel we need to travel for our work, and to see loved ones. Can modern transport and tourism ever be sustainable? After all, the movement of people and goods around the world consumes vast amounts of matter, energy, space and time - most of it non-renewable. To explore substitutes for mobility, we co-produced a design clinic on Traveling Without Moving together with the Pixelache Festival and Juha Huuskonen.


A version of John Thackara's talk was published by Adobe Think Tank under the title The fake-space race: Design and the future of travel

Posted by Kristi at 01:33 PM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2008

City Eco Lab (Sustainability festival, St Etienne, France, 2008)


City Eco Lab was a two-week festival of projects that took place in November in St Etienne, France. These 50-plus projects involved productive urban gardens; low energy food storage; communal composting solutions; re-discovery of hidden rivers; neighbourhood energy dashboards; de-motorised courier services; and a wide variety of software tools to help people share resources. This blog post is a summary. Detailed stories about City Eco Lab are to be found here. The event was hosted by the St Etienne Cite du Design; its designers were Exyzt and Gaëlle Gabillet.

As with Dott07 which we programmed in England in 2007, citizen co-design of projects was at the core of City Eco Lab. Among its highlights:

Mathieu-Benoit-Gonin's installation on urban permaculture:


Magalie Restallo designed a prototype vital flows dashboard for an eco-quartier in St Etienne:


Hugo Bont and Olivier Peyricot built an urban fish-farming prototype; (I'm not sure the cutest baby in the shed knew the fish were to be eaten):


Emanuel Louisgrand designed an urban garden toolkit:


Avinish Kumar collected sounds and images of bicycle-based merchants in Delhi for an installation on the delights of de-motorised transportation:


Bethany Koby and Ellie Thornhill created this tool shed with resources to help people improve their projects: tools for designing, tools for modelling and making things, tools for monitoring local flows, tools for finding and sharing resources.


Francois Jegou's "story scripts" - shown on small screens in City Eco Lab - in which people from St Etienne imagined their current life using solutions that reduced their impact on the environment and also regenerated the social fabric around them.


In the middle of this market (it was in a 5,000 square metre former gun factory) was an 'Explorers Club' for encounters between citizens, project leaders, tool makers, and designers. Here, for example, food producers and citizens discuss ways to enhance the AMAP system of community supported agriculture:


Posted by John Thackara at 10:25 AM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2007

Eco Design Challenge (Schools’ sustainability competition, North East England, 2006-2007)


In Dott07's Eco Design Challenge, more than fifteen thousand school students used custom--designed calculators to measure their school's eco-footprint. They then ran projects to design lighter alternatives to the systems (food, water, transport, energy and waste) operating in their school. Many schools, with some modest help from Dott, invited professional designers in to help with these second phase projects.


The Dott07 campaign involved 80 schools; the winning school went on to present its project to parliamantarians in London.


Posted by Kristi at 01:35 PM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2007

Designs of the Time (Dott07) (Sustainability festival, North East England. 2007)


Doors of Perception's director, John Thackara, was programme director of Designs of the time (Dott 07), a year of community design projects in North East England that explored what life in a sustainable region could be like - and how design can help us get there. It was an initiative of the UK Design Council and a regional development agency, One North East.


More than 200,000 citizens engaged with Dott, including 20,000 who came to the concluding two week festival on the banks of the River Tyne, and 15,000 school students who responded to its design briefs and projects. Seventy percent of Dott's public commission projects continued with new partners once the biennial season was over. WorldChanging published extracts from the Dott Manual here and here. The book may be purchased here.

HIGHLIGHTS (each project summary below is linked to the main Dott site)

The Move Me project tackled the need for mobility and access in a rural community in Northumberland.


In policy terms, the project looked at transport intensity, rural access and resource efficiency. In Dott terms, Move Me involved the exploration of practical ways to improve daily life for one community, in one place, and the co-design of a reliable and sustainable transport service.


The aim was to improve access without adding more cars or building new roads.


The design company live|work developed several service proposals; these were plotted on a region-wide shared-transport dashboard (below):


In a project called Urban Farming more than 1,000 residents from Middlesbrough grew fruit and vegetables in containers around the town.


Senior Producer David Barrie brought together community groups, allotment holders and other citizens together to grow their own food in previously unused public spaces; he also persuaded Middlesbrough Council, 15 primary and secondary schools, and numerous local community and voluntary sector organizations and existing allotment growers to participate.


These 'new urban farmers' brought their harvested produce to "kitchen playground’ events where they shared advice on how best to prepare and cook dishes using these ingredients. The project culminated in a Middlesbrough Town Meal, where over 6,000 local people were fed.


Walker School of Technology was one of the first schools in England to receive funding as part of the government’s £70 billion Building Schools for the Future (BSF) national programme. The money is to improve and upgrade its buildings. Together with Dott 07, the school community launched OurNewSchool to identify the design priorities for their school before the architects came on board.


Senior Producer Engine created an in-school design laboratory at Walker; this enabled all members of the school community to become ‘design ready’.

Engine then put together a design brief in the form of a professionally published book titled ‘Dear Architect.’


Dott 07’s Alzheimer100 project set out to explore ways in which the daily lives of people with dementia and their carers might be improved.


Working with the Alzheimer’s Society’s 13 regional branches, Senior Producers ThinkPublic helped people to record their experiences of dementia using video, interviews, drawings and the written word. They discovered that six issues were of particular importance: First experiences ; Early stages; Stigmatization; Enabling and assisitive technology; End-of-life (including issues to do with care homes, palliative care; family support; end-of-life directives; support for carers before and after death).

A series of co-design workshops focused five service scenarios, including a ‘time bank’ scheme for volunteers to make it easier for friends and family to help; and a Dementia Concierge Service to help guide people through the early stages of dementia. This latter project is still ongoing (below) three years after Dott07 itself ended.


In Dott 07’s Design and Sexual health (Dash) project, service design techniques were used to develop a sexual health service blueprint. This was a live project to meet a real need. 40 professionals and more than 1,000 Gateshead citizens were engaged.


DaSH was led by Design Options together with Gateshead Primary Care Trust (PCT) and the Centre for Design Research, Northumbria University. People on the street and among high risk groups were a particular focus; Design Options spoke to many young people, gay and bisexual men, and other groups who find it harder to use health services.

The DaSH team published a blueprint which set out strategic recommendations for service networks, information management, clinical leadership, ongoing monitoring and workforce development, and a < a href="http://www.dott07.com/go/health/healthwise/dash-conclusion/design-and-sexual-health-dash-conclusion">service experience blueprint which set out guidelines for the promotions strategy, clinic environments and care journey experiences.

Low Carb Lane set out to explore what it would take for one residential street – Castle Terrace in Ashington - to reduce its carbon footprint and save money on energy bills. Dott's senior producers, live|work, ran a series of co-design exercises; these led to three main concepts: ‘Saverbox’ – a financial product designed to remove financial barriers; Nesco (North East Energy Service Co-operative) - a not-for-profit, energy utility; and a Home Energy Dashboard that would take display information from customers’ household meters on their resident's televison screen.

A project called Welcomes explored ‘welcoming’ in various locations at the region's edges. Small groups worked with independent media company Media 19 to make images, films and audio/written material on their ideas. These ideas were presented in a special exhibition on the Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough.

Mapping the Necklace involved the use of design to re-focus attenton on the forgotten qualities of a place. Dott 07 teamed up with The Durham Necklace Park team to co-produce a four day mapping exercise along a 12 mile stretch of riverside that runs through Durham (a world heritage city). The Durham Necklace Park involves local people in efforts to gain more access to this stunning riverside environment. Twenty original films were made from the mapping weekend and displayed in the Dott 07 Festival.

In Dott07's Sustainable Tourism Design Camp, led by Steve Messem, young designers and visual artists from eight countries investigated how sustainable tourism might be developed and implemented in four specific locations.


An Urban Camping team transformed a disused urban space beneath Byker Bridge in Newcastle Gateshead into a temporary, sustainable accommodation for visitors to the Dott 07 Festival. A second group created night-time outdoor light installations that evoked Allendale’s lead mining heritage. A third group investigated the concept of power generation as visual spectacle and tourist attraction. In Landlines, a section of land the size of three football pitches was ploughed in a way that created a remarkable but temporary landscape design for train passengers on the East Coast mainline to see as they passed through the area. 15,000 people per day saw the Dott 07 pilot.

Dott07 also participated in Picture House. Curated by Judith King, the event brought together film directors, artists and designers who were invited to transform English Heritage’s Belsay Hall in Northumberland. A series of cutting edge art installations featured fashion, sculpture, music design, electronic art and video installations - incuding this magic mirror by UVA:


In Vital Signs Alnwick’s award-winning town crier John Stevens, and performance art group Lone Twin, were commissioned by Forma to create a series of proclamations to be ‘cried’ across North East England. Each proclamation told stories of places, events and communities, compiled during a period of research in the area, and gave a sense of the eclectic nature of local life by combing hearsay, first-person accounts, factual narrative and fictional construct.

The Dott 07 Festival brought the Dott 07 projects and their participants together so that a broader public might learn from and be inspired by their projects, processes and results. 22,000 visitors were attracted to the festival's programme of workshops and demonstrations -such as this one of 'ThingLink', a system for tracking the history of a product using a mobile phone as the interface:


A highlights of the festival was the Dott 07 Creative Community Awards which celebrated and awarded individual and community achievements in the various projects. A series of set-piece debates reflected on ways sustainable design can provide solutions to complex problems. And throughout Dott07, Explorers Clubs met in which citizens and designers developed ideas and prototypes together:


Posted by John Thackara at 10:09 AM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2007

Food systems: the design agenda (Doors of Perception 9, New Delhi, 2007)


Global food systems are becoming unsustainable in terms of environmental impact, health, and social quality. Up to 40 percent of the ecological impact of an 'advanced' city can be attributed to its food systems.

But what to do?

Doors of Perception 9 - on the theme of “Juice” - explored issues at the intersection of food, fuel and design. We went to India in a search for inspiring new models and tools.


Our event - which was more of an expedition and a camp than a conference, brought together experts from all parts of India, together with social innovators active in live food-related projects in: Miami, New York, Portland, Toronto, Vancouver, Santiago. Havana, Florence, Dyestad, Newcastle, Middlesborough, London, Brussels, Amsterdam, Helsinki, Frankfurt, Naples, Dubai, Istanbul, Gaza, Jerusalem, Melbourne, Beijing, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkota.

During the day, mixed groups of Indian and international experts went on expeditons to explore markets, crocus farms, and street food culture.


Each evening, they related these experiences during discussions of food information systems; food miles and energy use; localisation of food systems; Community Supported Agriculture; urban farming; sustainable packaging and distribution; agritourism; and street food.

In Food systems: the design agenda John Thackara reflects on some of the lessons we learned in Delhi.

Our partners for the event were the Centre for Knowledge Societies, culiblog.org , PixelAche, the Royal Society of Arts, and Designs of the Time (Dott07). Feel free to download the Doors 9 poster, designed by Abishek Hazra.

Since Doors 9 in 2007, interest in the subject has exploded. Architects and city designers the world over are exploring ways to put food and water systems at the heart of city planning and design. Doors of Perception supplied a speaker and gave communication support to a seminar in The Hague to launch Foodprinting The City, a two-year project, organized by Stroom to explore the possibilities of food production in the Dutch capital city.

Posted by Kristi at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2006

Aspen Design Summit (international conference, Aspen, 2006 )

AIGA, the US professional association for design, and IDCA, the International Design Conference at Aspen, invited John Thackara to chair the Aspen Design Summit.

Conceived as "a new type of gathering for a new century", this celebrated event brought design-minded leaders from around the world to Aspen, Colorado to make positive, measurable impacts on the global concerns of today. A

Using the design studio as a model, featured presenters at the ASummit initiated challenges as "Aspen Action" items--much like a client would approach a designer with a project.

Multi-disciplinary groups, lead by design industry leaders, were sent off to create and execute programs addressing these various social, economic and environmental issues.

In this way, the Summit served as an incubator and catalyst for strategic partnerships between design leaders and leaders from business, education, civic life and culture.

Posted by Kristi at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2005

Social Innovation Observatory 'Emude" (European design research consortium, 2005-2007)


Someone, somewhere, has designed some of the services or situations that we will need in a sustainable society - so why repeat things? Novel ways to share food, move around, or care for each other, already exist - but they are often off the radar and therefore unavailable for the rest of us to copy or adapt.


Doors joined a Europe-wide research network, Emude, that was created to be an observatory of social innovation. An ongoing blog features cases of social innovation promising in terms of sustainable development.


Posted by Kristi at 01:36 PM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2005

Platforms for social innovation (Doors of Perception 8 on “Infra”, New Delhi, 2005)


What does it mean to design a platform for social innovation?


Doors of Perception 8 on the theme of "infra" took place in New Delhi, India. The event involved designers and entrepreneurs from different parts of the world. Highlights included Margrit Kennedy, a world authority on complementary currencies, who anticipated the 2007- gobal financial crash. Kennedy went on to describe how non-cash economic systems are where a genuinely new economy is being born; networked mobile communications can be repurposed as enabling infrastructures for systems like local and complementary currencies.


A special session compared new design strategies in New York with those of New Delhi - two fast-changing, people-packed cities wherein diversity and relative disorder are key assets. Also notable was Debra Solomon's ongoing quest to enable "nomadic banquets" - a journey round the city from street vendor to street vendor. There were presentations from Nokia, Intel, and Motorola on the the use of social research in the design of communication services.


Our partners in Doors 8, Centre for Knowledge Societies (CKS), presented an exhibition called "Used In India" with a collection of twentieth century media artefacts that told the story of evolving media cultures in India and South Asia.


Doors 8 concluded with a memorable (well, we remember some if it) Holi spring festival party.


Posted by Kristi at 01:35 PM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2004

Tools For Citizen Services (Project Leaders Round Table, Amsterdam, 2004


What are the key success factors in setting up design research projects? In November 2004, jointly with Virtual Platform, we organised a meeting in Amsterdam for sixty project leaders from 10 countries to discuss this question. When inviting participants, we focussed on projects that addressed real-world issues or situations; were collaborations between more than two organisations; and which treated technology as a means, not as an end-in-itself.


The format was a series of short project presentations interspersed by round tables. We divided the projects into three themes: Tools For Citizen Services; Resource Ecologies (eg Food, Space, People); and Design And Local Knowledge. Running through the day was the idea of project organization as a design research activity in itself. In learning from each others' projects, we ended up with a list of ways to do things better in the future.

Posted by Kristi at 01:36 PM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2004

Want to be a design metropolis? (International symposium, Montreal, 2004)

What is a design metropolis? Should a city aspire to become one?

A symposium called New Design Cities was organized by Marie-Josée Lacroix for the Canadian Centre for Architecture; Doors contributed a speaker and communications support.

The event cast a critical eye over the policies and programs of Montreal, Saint-Etienne and other aspirant design cities, and compared them with established international design capitals.

Francois Barré (France) and Saskia Sassen (United States) were keynote lecturers. There were also presentations from Antwerp, Times Square New York, Lisbon, and Stockholm.

A book of the symposium was later published.

And here is a version of John Thackara's Montreal lecture, Creativity and the City.

Posted by John Thackara at 01:37 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2003

Time In Design (24 hour workshop on time and sustainability, Delft. 2003)

If the throw-away society is over, how do we design for longevity in products and services? Eternally Yours, a Dutch foundation, organised a round-the-clock, 24-hour event to look at this timely question. Eighty different projects, case studies and scenarios - all dealing with time in design – were presented. The event experimented with a range of formats and tempos - from one-minute films, and 100-word lectures, to slow-food dinners and leisurely fireside chats.


Doors of Perception, and The Long Now Foundation, supported the event by helping with speaker selection and publicity. A gorgeous book of the event, edited by Ed van Hinte, was published later.

Posted by John Thackara at 01:40 PM | Comments (0)

August 09, 2003

Fused space (A competiton about new ways to use new media, The Netherlands, 2003)


Can you imagine a way to enable novel and exciting interactions in public space, using new technologies? A first prize of ten thousand euros was at stake in Fused Space , an international competition organised by the Dutch design foundation Premsela to find inspiring applications for new technology in the public domain. As a partner in the project, Doors of Perception helped promote the event, and John Thackara served on the final jury.

Posted by John Thackara at 01:41 PM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2003

Mobility, Geography, Access (DoorsEast2, Bangalore, India, 2003)


Our aim in DoorsEast2, in Bangalore was to learn how to design services, enabled by ICT, that meet basic needs in new ways – and to share this knowledge with citizens, education, industry, and professionals. This was our second international encounter in India. It built on the success of a previous event, DoorsEast 1, that was held at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad in February 2000.


DoorsEast2 had three parts: morning plenary presentations by experts and project leaders; afternoon small groups to deepen knowledge exchange; and informal evening show-and-tell sessions in-and-around the city. Designers, technologists, entrepreneurs, and grassroots innovators, shared their project experiences developing new kinds of services. They presented and discussed projects from India, South Asia, and the North, that deliver new ways to meet needs in daily life in the areas of home, work, learning, mobility, and sociability. Discussions addressed principles for the design of network-based services in new contexts; tools and methodologies for mapping local knowledge; lessons learned, and next steps

We called DoorsEast 2003 a "working party" because it was also a celebration of the tenth anniversary of Doors of Perception. It was organised by:
- Doors of Perception (The Netherlands);
- Center for Knowledge Societies (CKS) in Bangalore (India);
- National Institute for Design, Ahmedabad, India;
- Interaction Design Institute Ivrea (Italy)'
- National Institute of Fashion technology (NIFT) Bangalore
with support from Nokia.


Designers, technologists, entrepreneurs, and grassroots innovators, shared their project experiences developing new kinds of services. They presented and discussed projects from India, South Asia, and the North, that deliver new ways to meet needs in daily life in the areas of home, work, learning, mobility, and sociability.

Discussions addressed principles for the design of network-based services in new contexts; tools and methodologies for mapping local knowledge; lessons learned, and next steps. Although their contexts differ dramatically, both Europe and Asia face the same innovation dilemma: in order to innovate successfully, we need to learn about the emerging needs to which new technology might be an answer.

Posted by Kristi at 01:36 PM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2003

Interaction Design Institute Ivrea (Helping set up a new instituion, Ivrea, Italy, 2000-2003)


Doors of Perception's John Thackara was a member of start-up team (and of the Steering Committee until the end of 2003) that established Interaction Design Institute Ivrea. This new research institute in Italy was supported by Olivetti and Telecom Italia. The Institute's Director was Gillian Crampton Smith.


The specific tasks of Doors were to:
- help develop and articulate the institute’s basic concept and organisational form;
- define and articulate the roles of, and benefits to, industry sponsors;
- organize an international workshop of experts to refine the research programme;
- write job and person profiles for professors, researchers and students;
- create and implement launch phase communications and produce inaugural event;
- organize a workshop for industry on new business models for interactive products and services.


For Panorama,the Institute became “a point of reference for the generation of new ideas and a new design culture.” Prestinenza called Interaction Ivrea “a model for the moribund Italian educational system”. Francesco Gavazzi, in a cover story for Corriere della Sera, proclaimed that “at Ivrea, students design new ways of interaction between man and technology”.

In 2005, the Interaction Design Institute left Ivrea and moved to the new premises of Domus Academy in Milan. There, the two institutions developed devise a new Masters in Interaction Design, which started in 2006.

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October 15, 2002

Design and Local Knowledge (Service design conference, Oslo, 2002)


When traditional forms of work and daily life disappear from a locality, what is to take their place? In Spark!, multi-disciplinary design teams from five countries, together with local officials and citizens, conducted design scenario workshops in five very different European locations: Narva-Jõesuu in Estonia; Cray Valley in London; Forssa in Finland; Val d´Ambra in Italy; Nexø in Denmark. Here are the main design scenarios and other outcomes from the five locations The concluding conference in Oslo asked: What kinds of value reside in a locality? What tools are available for mapping communication flows, and for the notation of local knowledge? What are the success factors for design projects in real-world situations? Spark! was co-produced by Doors of Perception and UIAH (project leader, Project leader Jan Verwijnen) for Cumulus, Europe's association of design and art universities.

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June 07, 2002

Creativity and the City (International conference on ‘Creativity and the City’, Amsterdam, 2002)

An international conference on ""Creativity and the City" was held in Amsterdam's former gas works, Westergasfabriek. Westergasfabriek is the latest urban project to transform a former industrial site into a public and cultural amenity, and it wanted to share the lessons it has learned, and bring together comparable projects from around the world. Doors of Perception supported the event with speaker suggestions and advance publicity; John Thackara gave a keynote lecture, “The Post-spectacular city” which has been widely cited.

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April 10, 2002

Hong Kong Design Task Force (Expert advice to government task force, Hong Kong, 2002)


Doors of Perception's John Thackara was the expert advisor to the Hong Kong Design Task Force (chair: Victor Lo) which developed a new innovation and research policy for the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The task force plotted plotting the best way for Hong Kong and China to move up the value chain from a product-based to a service-and-flow based economy. professor John Heskett later wrote a report, Shaping the future: Design for Hong Kong, which is referred to here.

Following the Task Force project, Hong Kong launched an initiative called DesignSmart with the creation of a HK$250million (25 million euros) fund.

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March 08, 2002

Amsterdam Medical Centre (AMC) (Participation in think-tank, Amsterdam, 2002)

John Thackara was a member until the end of 2004 of a four person think-tank developing concepts for its Director of a next-generation national childrens hospital.

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February 07, 2002

Milan Triennale (Exhibition and conference on ‘tomorrow’s services’, Milan, 2002)

Doors of Perception was an advisor to this exibition and conference organised by Ezio Manzini at the Milan Triennale. "In tomorrow's communities, an obsession with things will replaced by a fascination with events." Manzini ran workshops in Brazil, China, and India to develop new design ideas for the show (the India one with assistance from Doors). An accompanying book, Collaborative Services: Social innovation and design for sustainability addressed questions that most of us confront: how to take care of people, work, study, move around, find food, eat, and share equipment.

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January 17, 2002

Post-spectacular tourism (Eco-tourism workshop, Narva-Joessu, Estonia, 2002)

"Tourism is fundamentally nothing more than the leisure of going to see what has become banal". Guy Debord wrote that more than 40 years ago in The Society Of the Spectacle - and today's mass tourism proves him depressingly right. Is there an alternative?


The answer is: maybe. A workshop in Narva-Joesuu, in far eastern Estonia, considered "post-spectacular travel" as one if its scenarios for this fascinating if troubled place.


Doors of Perception helped to organise Spark!, a series of professional workshops at small towns in transition in five European countries: Forssa, Finland; Valdambra, Italy; Narva-Joessu, Estonia (shown here); Cray Valley, UK; Nox Island, Denmark.


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January 16, 2002

Save the Bonholm Rooster! (Service design workshop, Bonholm island, Denmark, 2002)


The Bonholm Rooster, a superior kind of chicken, is a star product on “Food Island”. So is the legendary white salmon, a ghostly creature that passes quietly by this misplaced Danish island (it sits between Sweden and Poland) only in winter months.

Nexo, on Bonholm, is one of dozens of Baltic and European fishing ports where industrial fishing has become unsustainable.

This desolate but fertile spot was the location for the final workshop in Spark!, a service design project in response to the question: when traditional industries disappear from a locality, what is to take their place?

La 27e Region

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January 14, 2002

The design challenge of pervasive computing (Doors of Perception 7 on Flow, Amsterdam, 2002)


Trillions of embedded systems are being unleashed into the world. What are the implications of a world filled with all these sensors and actuators? Some of the world’s most insightful designers, thinkers and entrepreneurs addressed these questions at Doors of Perception 7 in Amsterdam in November 2002. The theme was Flow.


This new wave of pervasive computing technology confronts us with a design dilemma. We are filling our world with complex technical systems - on top of the natural systems that were already here, and social/cultural ones that evolved over thousands of years - without thinking much, if at all, about the consequences. We organised Doors 7: to think about the design consequences now - not later.

Our speakers included design specialists like Ezio Manzini (service design), Marco Susani (who develops advanced concepts at Motorola), and Janine Benyus, author of "Biomimicry: innovations inspired by nature". They looked at the transition from designing things, to designing systems and services - from a variety of perspectives.

Writers, such as Bruce Sterling, and philosophers, such as the rising star of European letters, Patricia de Maertelare, spoke alongside pioneers from the world of Open Source software who study how software designers work - such as Franziska Nori, and Felix Stalder. We had Ton van Asseldonk, who advises global companies about service design, and an interaction designer who specialises in marine navigation systems, Peter Boegh Andersen. A leading expert on scientific visualisation, Felice Frankel from MIT, spoke in the same session as prize-winning scientist, Natalie Jeremijenko, and leading next-generation architects: Ben van Berkel, and Stefano Boeri. Other seakers included the author of a cult book, "Fire and memory: on architecture and energy", Luis Fernandez Galiano from Madrid; the German pneumatiucs guru, Axel Thallemer, from Festo; and Jakub Wejchert, who runs "The Disappearing Computer " programme for the European Commission.

Alongside the main conference we staged Open Doors, a Grand Prix competition to find the best scenarios for pervasive computing from 20 design futures projects selected from around the world.


The winner of Open Doors was Jussi Angesleva (above) with his memorable project Body Mneumonics. Jussi won a trip to India to present at DoorsEast.

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May 05, 2001

Life in the learning economy (conference for 1,000 professors, Amsterdam, 2001)


How will we learn when knowledge changes so fast? Will there still be a role for teachers, when students can learn for themselves? These questions faced 1,000 university teachers at OrO|OrO Teacherslab, a unique event organised in 2001 by the Hogeschool van Amsterdam (Amsterdam University of Professional Education). As a key element of OroOro, Doors of Perception organised a three-day conference which featured 36 Dutch and international speakers from inside and outside education. The idea of our client, Caroline Nevejan, was to help them all get online and up-to-speed on new learning processes by the end of the event.

Oro-Oro had a simple structure: information plus inspiration in the morning, hands-on practice in the afternoon – in a software environment designed by our partners in OroOro, Mediamatic. Each of the three days had a theme: ‘Seeking and Finding’; ‘Editing and Interacting’; ‘Teaching and Earning’. It's in Dutch only, but here is the formal evaluation of Teacherslab

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March 03, 2001

The design challenge of pervasive computing (vision development for European Union research consortiumConvivio 2001-2003)

Doors was responsible for vision building during the first research cycle of Convivio – the European Union network for social computing; its early members included Xerox, King's College London, Philips, Deutsche Forschunhzentrum fur Kuenstliche Intelligenz, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Consorzio Roma Ricerche.

Posted by John Thackara at 01:45 PM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2001

Design and Innovation Research Centre (DIEC) (Planning a new design and innovation centre. Newcastle upon Tyne. 2001)


Doors of Perception was in a consortium that developed the initial specification and blueprint of an important new institution to be based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England. Our client was the UK regional development agency, One North East. Its title, at the time of our contribution, was Design and Innovation Research Centre. The project is now known as The Northern Design Centre - and here is a pic of its proposed new building:


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September 12, 2000

Quality Time at High Speed (Service innovation workshop, Breda, The Netherlands, 2000)

What would it mean to design for fast and slow speeds?


The High Speed Network Platform, an association of 15 European regions, and Urban Unlimited, a planning firm, asked Doors of Perception to organise a cultural expert workshop on the theme, quality time: design for multiple speeds.

Today’s high speed train (HST) travel is a marvel of speed and profligate resource consumption. It is transforming the experience of space and time of 13 million travellers who already use it each year – and of citizens who live in places where the trains deign to stop. Enormous infrastructure projects are under way, but we have not made space for reflection on the cultural consequences of it all.

To fill this gap, the expert workshop developed project ideas for services and situations that connect people, cultural resources, and places, in new combinations.


Posted by John Thackara at 01:40 PM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2000

Local knowledge: the design and innovation of tomorrow’s services (DoorsEast 1, Ahmedabad, India, 2000)

doorseast1.nid_workshop.jpg kopie.jpeg

The purpose of DoorsEast 1, a memorable week in Ahmedabad, was to accelerate the exchange of people, knowledge and experiences among Indian and European designers and internet entrepreneurs. We wanted to know: what can western interaction designers learn from Indian design and internet culture? and, what are the prospects for future joint work between the two communities?


Within a single week we discussed scenarios for using all manner of internet tools in different Indian contexts: producer and consumer cooperatives; smart distribution systems; horizontal markets; vertical nets ; enhanced information flows; auctions; reccer systems; desert-based WAP applications; cows with unique IP addresses. Name any internet fad: someone in Gujarat discussed it during our visits.

These were not sentimental or fanciful discussions: questions of access, and cost, cropped up repeatedly - but most of our Indian hosts believed technical solutions were feasible. Barriers were likely to be institutional, not technical. they said. And the best way to break down institutional barriers, we all agreed, was by showing policy makers working prototypes or persuasive simulations of the services we had in mind.


Our week in Ahmedabad lit a flame: it led to the Doors of Perception events we have done in India since....


Posted by John Thackara at 01:39 PM | Comments (0)

February 01, 2000

Doors of Perception 6 on “Lightness” (international design conference, Amsterdam, 2000)


A strange thing happened to the 'weightless' and dematerialised economy we thought the Internet would bring. It never arrived – or it hasn't yet. Finding ways of reducing wasteful flows of energy and matter in our daily lives remains an enormous opportunity for design.

Hence lightness, the theme of Doors of Perception 6 on the theme of Lightness

Lightness will drive the way we design every product, service, and place in the coming years. We'll need to re-think everything in terms of matter and energy performance – a profound transformation of design's 'operating system' that will affect us all. In the language of open-source software, lightness will be a new 'kernel' for design. Doors 6 was about what that new kernel means for design. The conference tackled many nettlesome issues: the role of open-source and file-sharing software on design methodology, the need for more strategic alliances in order to withstand impending ecological doom, and ways to dismiss the clichés that reflexively associate 'ecological' with, as moderator John Thackara put it, 'less stuff, less change, less fun.'"

Doors 6 was attended by 1300 people from 27 countries. They came to hear over 30 speakers from almost as many different fields of expertise. Our live webcast was watched by many thousands of people worldwide.

A large archive relating to the first eight Doors of Perception conferences is available here:


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January 02, 2000

Design Clinic for Entrepreneurs (Workshop, Highlands and Islands of Scotland)


The Highlands and Islands Development Board, in Scotland, exists to help hundreds of small and medium sized companies, over a very wide geographical area, innovate new products, services, and business models. Doors helped their Inverness office stage design scenario workshops in which entrepreneurs from different companies helped each other envisage radical scenarios and how they might be implemented.

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Virtual Platform (Advice to Dutch government on new media policy, 2000-2003)

Doors of Perception served until 2006 as a member of Virtual Platform. This advisory group to Dutch government on new media cultural policy.

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January 01, 2000

E-Culture Fair ( Marketplace of new media prototypes and research projects, Amsterdam, 2000 )


E-Culture Fair was an international marketplace of creative and innovative concepts, processes and products in the field of new media. The emphasis was on new forms of communicating, learning, and playing in a broad social and cultural context. E-Culture Fair was joint venture between Doors of Perception, IJsfontein and Virtual Platform - the latter being a club of Holland's eight buzziest new media organisations, including Doors.

Some 50 projects, selected from graduate design schools and new media centres from the US, Europe and South Asia, were presented in four themed zones:

Zone 1 Staging: audio, video and live programming (streaming media). An example was the Mixed Reality project, a network environment in which communication takes place with all the senses. Other projects included Klubradio, a commercial livestreaming channel on the Internet for Germany's most famous nightclubs.
Zone 2 Interacting: With the advent of mobile telephones, and so-called 'pervasive computing', exciting new ways to interact are possible - using voice, touch, movement, indeed all the senses. The project Living Memory provided members of a community with means to capture, share and explore their collective memory in multiple media, accessible in the public space.
Zone 3 Learning: New technology is leading to changes in the whole process of learning. This zone presented innovative applications for individual learning and examples of on-line learning environments. These include the results of the two-year international 'School of the Future' project (i3 net) in which scientists, artists and education specialists design and test visionary interactive learning tools and processes.
Zone 4 Playing: games developed in different contexts for different purposes and placed in a social and cultural context. Re:gossip is a multimedia online game about gossip and social status. The more you gossip the higher you climb up the social ladder.

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