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

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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.
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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.
doorseast2.nift-courtyard.png
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.

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Bangalore diary

Writing from India, where he encounters designers, digerati and Bollywood producers who want to put him in a movie, John Thackara considers the potentially thrilling future of IT in the subcontinent.
To Bangalore, India’s IT city, to speak at the first India Design Summit. The event is organized jointly by the National Institute of Design (NID) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
Business leaders here anticipate keen competition from China, in markets ranging from textiles to software, now that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has further opened up Asian and global markets; they are looking for new ways to innovate higher-value products and services. NID’s new Director, Darlie Koshy, persuaded CII to stage the summit as a signal that design will be one of those ways.
Koshy’s timing strikes me as excellent in two respects. First, India’s manufacturers and software industries are preparing to move up the value chain of the world economy, and they seem to have decided that design can help them do that. Secondly, NID graduates possess a unique combination of social responsibility – and entrepreneurial zeal – that are perfectly suited for these New Times.
For its part, the CII, too, is in the middle of a generation shift. Its new vice-president, Ashok Soota, is president of Mind Tree Consulting, one of India’s software powerhouses; Soota is a keen supporter of design as an alternative to what he described as the ‘LCP Raj’ – the stifling decades after independence in which Indian industry laboured under a regime of Licenses, Controls and Permits.
The Design Summit summit had a somewhat ceremonial flavour, with lots of senior people saying rather general things; but the CII will now set up a design working party to work out how best to turn this abundant goodwill into projects.
The day I arrive, a report by Forrester Research predicts that within five years the proportion of spending on offshore services in global IT budgets will rise from 12 to 28 per cent of total expenditure. As I comment at the conference, only America could describe a subcontinent with one billion people as part of an ‘offshore’ industry. But nobody seems to share my indignation.
People I meet are more engaged by a discussion of the different ways design can help them develop new kinds of services, supported by IT. My own talk is about the move away from tech-driven innovation towards a new model which I nickname ‘the re-engineering of daily life’.
Sir Christopher Frayling, chairman of the UK Design Council, made a well-received speech about design as one of the ‘creative industries’ that the British government (and, to my horror, the Dutch minister of culture), favours right now.
Personally speaking, I can’t stand the ‘creative industries’ concept: the words conjur up ghastly images of a world filled with advertising executives and rich design consultants. Creative industries thinking is redolent of a point-to-mass mind-set that may have worked in the new economy – but won’t wash in these New Times. The good news is that I have the strong impression that the follower generation, certainly in India, shares my distaste for the creative industries concept.
December 2nd
After the Design Summit Jogi (Panghaal, Director of Doors in India) and I visit the new campus of Bangalore’s National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). Bangalore NIFT is the latest in a nationwide network of seven educational and research institutions first established in the 1990s. (NID’s new director, Darlie Koshy, was previously at NIFT). NIFT’s Director in Bangalore, Hema Maya, and her senior academic, G. Somasundaram, a professor in fashion management studies, tell me that their task is to deliver the designers and managers (600 graduates each year) and business strategies needed to expand India’s share of the global textile and apparel market from one to at least five (and preferably ten) per cent by 2010. NIFT is such a buzzy and focussed institution that I’m sure they will succeed.
Another new design institute in Bangalore, Srishti, has been set up by Geetha Narayan and Poonam Buir Kastur. When I arrive there, Jogi is running a workshop about the mapping of communications in a network of nine villages somewhere in the countryside nearby.
Our next stop is Infosys where Sridhar Dhulipalar has aranged for me to give a talk. The Infosys campus is more like a small city state than a company. Within our first minutes on campus we bump into a crowded national delegation from New Zealand, led by its IT minister, and another group from AT+T, apparently including its chairman. The Doors of Perception delegation is more modest in size – namely, the two of us – but we’ve nabbed the lecture theatre first so the other guys don’t get to grandstand like we do.
Infosys City, as it’s called, is an enormous site: 28 buildings cluster among ponds, fountains, lawns and and shrubs. There are Food Courts, conference centres, and a huge gym. Mind you the latter, although filled with brand-new machines, is empty: I presume everyone is working. The only unsure touch is an expensive high-tech ‘presentation suite’ in the main corporate building where you are shut in a darkened room and subjected to a ghastly audio visual show about the digitally-enhanced lives of Indian yuppies. Speaking personally, I was a hundred times more impressed chatting to Infosys staff after my talk than by this automated sub-themepark experience. Infosys should chuck out the tech and replace it with a tearoom.
After Infosys we head for the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT). This élite postgraduate facility hosts 122 hand-picked students in an expensive, if rather hideous, building paid for by Singaporean investors. Our host – IIT’s director, Professor Sadagopan, who had been a speaker at the Design Summit – is besieged by two separate Chinese delegations and by phone calls from the the Chief Minister. So we don’t stay long.
Singapore is spearheading the development of an ‘IT Forum’ to coordinate strategy among an Asian belt of IT cities including Bangalore and Hyderabad in India, Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore. David Lim, Singapore’s IT minister, reckons there is complementarity in this ‘infocommunications ecosystem’ between China’s manufacturing base, India as a software powerhouse, Korea’s bandwidth capacity, Japan’s global leadership in wireless services, and Singapore as a test-bed for new services and business models. Pan-Asian rhetoric like this is persuasive, but I’m not convinced much will come of it. Most IT alliance action nowadays is company-to-company (B2B) not state-to-state (S2S).
December 3RD
Our next stop is General Electric’s equally lavish new campus, the Jack T. Welch Research Centre, which has just opened in another outskirt of Bangalore. The campus has been designed and built at amazing speed. Its Bangalore-based architect, Naresh Navasimhan, shows us round. Eleven hundred researchers are already busy in eleven labs developing polymers and synthetics, modelling new chemicals, engineering smart ceramics and metallurgy, and so on. Nearly everone here, we are told, has at least a masters degree or a PhD.
I’m reassured to see plenty of people in white coats putting powders into glass pipettes – and not just rows of young guys staring into computers. The team here evidently works together well; the duration of research projects has been reduced sharply by cutting the steps in GE’s standard process from 24 to seven. Research costs, as a result, have plummeted from an average of $2million per project to $200,000. Small wonder that GE has decided to enlarge the facility to 3,000 researchers as fast as possible (or that the company’s US-based researchers are anxious about their futures). Several thousand construction workers are hammerng away putting up a new group of buildings.
Welch-ville is impressive as an example of global-scale research production. But although the facility is brand new, the atmosphere feels resolutely Old Times. A vast sign over the food court exhorts us to ‘Welcome GE’s New CEO, Jack Immelt’. I learn that the (new) Great White Chief did not, in the event, show up in person, but manifested himself by telepresence instead. Inside the facility, otherwise bare walls sport policy exhortations in ghastly typography. A traffic sign at the entrance reminds visitors that the speed limit is not ten, and not 15, but 16 kph; 10 miles an hour is GE’s global on-site traffic standard. The acres of lawn with rows of powerful water sprinklers, full-on during the hottest part of the day, are also pretty shocking in a city which has a severe water shortage. I don’t imagine this will endear GE to environmentalists, but neither do I imagine they will care too much.
Back in the city I meet 40 designers and architects at an informal get-together organized by Jacob Matthew, an organiser, in his private time, of Bangalore’s Designers Friday network. Matthew’s 28-strong company, Tessaract, consults for big retailers, manufactures furniture, and runs an interesting design shop. Along with most of the professionals I meet, Tessaract seems to be doing pretty well – so the evening was hardly fertile ground for my talk about the need for design to re-invent itself. But once again I am struck by an openness to new ideas and the intelligent way designers and architects here plot their course.
December 4TH
For me, the major story in India is the potential for the design of services by, and with, rural and urban poor people. This is not about aid, but about a truly vast, un-met market that myopic TelCos, all of whom seem to be mesmerised by high-cost, high-bandwidth business networks, seem unable to focus on.
M. S. Banga, chairman of Hindustan Lever, pointed out in a press interview during my visit that India’s software industry has impacted less than 500,000 people among a one billion-strong population – but that more than 700 million people work in agriculture (living in roughly 700,000 villages). If the income of these people were to rise by a modest three per cent a year, overall GDP in India would grow by 1.7 per cent a year. And the country would also benefit from a reduced rate of urbanization. Mumbai (Bombay), I learn, is growing by 160,000 people a week – whereas the last time I was here the number was 60,000.
Connectivity is no longer the main obstacle to wealth creation via communication services. On my last but one day, an impressive programme to bridge the digital divide is announced. Under Plan 9000, Pace, a Hyderabad-based computer training company, will launch 3,000 self-sustaining computer centres in Andra Pradesh and 6,000 in the rest of the country. Each will be staffed by three computer science graduates who will be helped to procure equipment such as computers, scanners and software. Each centre, which will have cable internet access, will service 15,000 people – about 100 million in total.
As with the Public Call office (PCO) innovation of the 1990s, a combination of new technology and new business models is making serious inroads into the digital divide in India.
The crucial step is to accelerate the design of new services to take example of this more broadly available connectivity. At the Centre for Knowledge Societies(CKS) in Bangalore, Aditya Dev Sood’s team documents developmental ICT projects throughout South Asia. The Bangalore-Hyderabad area is probably the only region in the world where global-quality high-tech and Bible-age lifestyles co-exist, and I’m sure Sood is correct to argue that test projects done here can stimulate service innovation throughout South Asia and the African subcontinent too.
CKS and Doors have agreed to search for ways to support service design innovation in different rural and urban contexts. CKS is looking to expand its project documentation activity, while Doors will support pilot projects that involve collaborative mapping of communication flows, and the design of service scenarios, in diferent situations.
Institutes such as NID, where Professor M P Ranjan has pioneered scenario design techniques for several years, have started to train designers about the use of design scenarios for this kind of work, so plenty of qualified people are available once the projects get underway.
Bangalore operates at multiple speeds. GE’s huge research centre seems to have been built in less time than it takes to order a beer at the Bangalore Gold Club, where I am staying. Bangalore is less frantic than Mumbai, or even Ahmedabad, where we did our first Doors event in India last year. One reason for a certain tranquility is that the city contains several large parks. These are are owned and occupied by India’s army and airforce. India’s nearest external enemy, Pakistan, is thousands of kilometres to the north – but the British, who liked the climate here, turned sleepy little Bangalore into a a garrison city during the nineteenth century and India’s military never left. I saw hardly any troops or military vehicles, but their city-centre grounds are so extensive that there could be many divisions of them hidden away.
Speaking of the military, an article by Anuradah Chenoy in the Asian Age (30 November 2001) enlightened me more about the Afghanistan situation in 500 words than all the western media coverage I’d seen since 9/11. Chenoy’s ripping yarn includes these gems: By 2050, Central Asia is to account for 80 per cent of US oil and gas. The Taliban leadership was invited to Houston in 1997 and promised $100 million a year in transit fees when the Bakhu-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline is built. Vice-prez Cheney was previously president, CEO, and a major stockholder in Haliburton, a leading energy services group. Bush Senior is a member of the $12 billion Carlyle Group whose private equity investors have included … the Bin Laden family. Bush Senior is said to have met the Bin Laden family twice. Gripping stuff.
Only four million mobile phones have been sold in the whole of India, but everyone seems to have one here. People mostly use pre-paid cards, and a price war is raging between local TelCos and international networks such as Orange. There are signs everywhere for “MOTS” (Mobile On The Spot).
The tempo of business is determined by the use of mobiles: Jogi and I make appointments a few hours in advance; call from taxis or auto-rickshaws to say we are arriving; and a couple of times, people call minutes after we leave a meeting to confirm the points we just agreed.
Speaking of mobiles, Nirmal Sethia, a management professor from California, reflects at the design summit on the “lost 20 minutes” of his students. This is the amount of time they spend packing up their papers (and Palms) at the end of one lecture and walking across campus to the next one. “Five years ago, they would either chat to each other, or possibly walk alone reflecting – as I fantasized about it, at least – on what they just heard,” says Sethia. “Nowadays, most of them are talking on their mobile before they are even out of the lecture hall. I speculate not only about what they’re talking about – but also about what they are now missing from college life.”
December 5TH
En route back from Bangalore to Europe, I have one more day in Mumbai. Ravi Pooviah, a communication design professor at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, has organized a four-day conferece on interaction design at the Indian Institute of Technology and invites me to give a talk. Another group of very smart students and researchers. By now its 37 degrees, and I’m beginning to flag, but it’s tremendous fun to be there.
Since I last visited the Mumbai/Bombay IIT in 1994, a row of bizarre apartment blocks has been erected by the lake. Each one is at least 40 stories high and boasts either a Grecian temple, or some kind of Italianate cupola, on its top three floors. Las Vegas meets Milton Keynes – not the sort of thing they’d approve of back in Holland. During a break at the conference, I learn that the Mumbai/Bombay dot.com scene has been more badly hit than Bangalore’s larger software companies. If dot.com money paid for those blocks, they deserve it.
In Mumbai on my last evening, two young film producers approach me on the street and ask me if I want to be in a Bollywood movie. I say yes, of course – and then ask them what my role will be. Nobody mentions mentions the title, let alone the plot, of the movie. “You can choose between the police chief and the hotel manager,” they say. I say I’ll do the hotel manager, and ask when they start shooting. “Eight o’clock tomorrow morning.” Talk about just-in-time production. Sadly, I have a flight to catch – but just in case I’m throwing away a fortune, as well as a new career, I ask about the pay. “It’s 500 rupees before tax,” (about $10) they say. Five, perhaps less, after deductions. I tell them my agent will call them. Maybe.

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Trophy buildings are over

Three developments are putting an end to the boom in landmark buildings. The first is over-supply. This year’s Venice Architecture Biennale show-cased literally hundreds of large, glamorous buildings that will be built in the next few years. But, precisely because they are conceived as spectacles, these signature buildings have started to cancel each other out.
We accord them the same perceptual status as an Armani ad on a wall in New York or Milan: we look at them, judge them in a glance – and then move on. That’s not a great return on all the time, work and money invested to bring these totemic edifices about.
A second development: buildings conceived as tourist destinations are hard to sustain in business terms. City-hopping tourists seldom re-visit the Guggenheim in Bilbao, for example, where visitor numbers are now in decline.The UK, too, is awash in landmark cultural buildings – conceived politically as large and expensive signs, and paid for with lottery money – that seem doomed to go out of business once their novelty has worn off.
The third development is the emergence of “sociability” and “liveability” as new criteria for urban design. The French – who with their Grands Projets invented the craze for trophy buildings – have gone off in a new direction – towards the development of live, participatory events as ways of adding value to a place.
Describing itself as the “land of festivals”, the region of Provence-Aples-Cote d’Azur, alone, published a 194 page catalogue for 2002 that lists more than 300 events and festivals.These range from land-art and arborescence, ancient music and falconry, to festivals of laughter, rythm, and fanfare http://www.laregie-paca.com
Formal cultural festivals have been booming in France for years, but the new craze if forles arts de la rue. So popular has street art and performance become that festivals on the subject are now staged every summer – in Chalon-sur-Soane and Aurillac. These events, which bring together street-level theatre, circus, music and dance, have spawned now well-known acts such as Royale Luxe, Iltopie, and Generik Vapeur (http://www.generikvapeur.com/)
Eyebrows were raised this summer when the French minister of culture, usually the epitome of high (read: expensive) culture, attended the Chalon event for the first time. And a professional asssociation for street arts has been formed to represent the artists and producers, and festival organisers. http://www.lefourneau.com/lafederation
Jean-Marie Songy, director of the Aurillac festival, says these events expemplify what he calls the “open city – the utopian ideal that a city as an open stage that supports freedom of expression”. http://www.chalondanslarue.com/
Some artists have mixed views about the growing attention. Caty Avram, founder of Generik Vapeur, warns that “these festivals are indispensable for bringing performers and programmers together – but we must take care that our street-level interventions do not evolve into spectacles observed by a passive public.We should always be looking for new locales, and for people not accustomed to our kind of actions”.
Olivier Brie, Director of Art Point M, agrees: “there are two real risks for a festival such as Chalon: the rain, and paying visitors”. (Source: Le Monde 20 July 2002)
“Street artists are rightly suspicious of passive spectacle” confirms another producer, Catherine Lemaire, director of a dynamic Ganges-based agency, Eurekart. “The trend is away from set-piece performances towards smaller, more intimate interactions. The thinking now is that every spectator can also be an artist”. eurekart@club-internet.fr (00 33 (0)4 67 73 98 40)
Lemaire observes that street theatre is becoming less aggressive and provocative. “Artists seem to have become less confrontational and more humane – less hard”, she says.”We are seeing smaller, more intimate events – and the emergence of troupes of one, two or three people – in contrast to the 15 or 20 we’d have seen a year or two ago. It’s not unknown now for an artist to provoke an interaction with just one person on the street”.
A second tendency, says Lemaire, is that street art is finding new types of locations.”Performers seem to be moving away from decorative balconies in the town square, in favour of the workplace, the shopping centre, or the factory”,
Every November, Lemaire organises the equivalent of a Cannes Film Festval in Montpellier – Label Rue – which brings together a selection of artists, and commissioners of events from throughout France. Lefevre, who has realised street art events in dozens of towns throughout France, Spain and Italy, selects about 40 acts and invites city and festival programmers to come and view them.
The artists do their thing in car parks, outside cafes and on the streets of Montpellier. There is music of all kinds – jazz, steel drum, morooccan fanfare, yeti chanting. There are graffiti artists, fire performers, and a sculptor, Patrick Lefevre, playing the saxophone a top a 15 metre pyramid of his own construction.
end

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

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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.
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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.
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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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From shelfware to wetware: where next for design research?

In December 2002 I chaired a seminar in London, organised by the Design Council, which brought together 100 academics, designers and business people to discuss: “how to get the most out of academic design knowledge”. The Design Council will publish a formal report soon (I will link it from here) – but here are some half-formed thoughts (Philip Tabor) on the points that arose.
Designers and companies tend to understand ‘design research’ as:
– technology scoping
– market research
– product development
– trend forecasting
Most of the academics at the meeting said that these activities were not “research” as they understood the term.
Other kinds of value can be created by design research. Among these:
– knowledge about new processes and methods – to the extend that they can be documented and codified. People running large organisations generally value process innovations more than outcomes. But this is not a uniquely academic research activity: internet service companies like Sapient, and management consultants, do process innovation all the time.
– case studies and best practices: everyone wants them, but there’s a difficulty: a “best practice” is hard to document or make ‘objective’. Practices, by definition, are rooted in a social and technological context.
– Intellectual Property Rights (IPR): old-thinking companies want it, but an obsession with IPR stifles innovation.
– reflection, criticism, and evaluation of bigger picture: these lofty activities are badly needed, and are traditional tasks for academe. The problem arises: how to share the insights so gained with people on the front line whose attitudes and behaviours we want to modify?
– develop new business models: business school academics were active in this field during the early dot.com boom: remember “pure-play” business concepts? Nearly all these platonic concepts failed – precisely because they were not rooted in a context.
– develop new ways of working: the same proviso applies. Academic research can draw our attention to new ways of working (or “WoW” as Philips’ Josephine Green called it) – but I’m sceptical that academic research, by itself, can innovate methods out of context.
– understand people and communities: my tolerance for engineers and social scientists who claim to “understand people” is so low that I pass on this one.
– identify un-met needs and desires: the concept of an “un-met need” raises an equally large number of epistemological questions. That, too, is for another time.
It’s worth noting, too, that there is no single “design process”. Those words were used by different people to describe different steps:
– action research – iterative design in which build > trial > evaluate > learn > build repeat, continuously;
– scoping the domain – to identify broad-brush drivers and dilemmas;
– framing the initial question – on the basis that questions are more powerful than answers;
– assembling the actors – with an emphasis on the inclusion of people formerly known as users;
– obtaining resources – the process of designing and drafting project proposals, setting up projects, and co-coordinating them, is complex and very time-consuming;
– co-ordination and facilitation – the Sloan Business School’s Centre for Co-ordination Science (sic) reckons that coordination should be allocated 30% of time and money resources in many projects – but never is;
– sharing results – will never happen if left to the end of the project.
If I reflect, after the meeting, on success factors for design research, four of these stood out for me:
– locate at least part of the project in a real-world context. I heard no convincing examples of purely theoretical design research.
– Design research should involve the innovative re-combination of actors among the worlds of science, government, business, and education.
– If the results (and value) of design research are to be shared effectively, communication and dissemination methods need to be designed (and budgeted) in at the start.
– there’s an urgent (and so far not visible) need to develop peer-to-peer methods for research and investigations.
The list of barriers to the effectiveness of design research to emerge from the meeting was longer:
– limits of design knowledge; its epistemology (C Frayling);
– difficult to capture/represent – and thus share – a process;
(processes are often tacit and social, not objective);
– divergent ways of working (WoW);
– inadequate access to, or knowledge of, who is doing what;
– impoverished stores, or more properly flows, of knowledge and experience
– IPR/ownership issues stifle sharing;
– institutional constraints (professional associations, disciplinary divisions);
– funding bodies are too slow, too mono-disciplinary;
– lack of ways to measure effectiveness (Jamie Oliver story).
Conclusion
It was not clear to me, after the meeting, what the academy can or should do, that business cannot. I’m not persuaded that pure reflection, for example – “shelf ware”, as wittily described by Rachel Cooper – can be effective, or meaningful, if it is divorced from practice. I also fear that stores of knowledge, put together by academic researchers, may be less useful – remembering the recent failures of knowledge management – than flows of knowledge. I also wonder whether academia can, or should, deliver the just-in-time-research that fast-moving industries seem to need.
In the end, it is probably not a matter of either-or (academic vs. worldly research) – but of both-and. But even a both-and conclusion raises tricky issues. Systematic collaboration between academics and practitioners implies institutional and attitudinal transformation. Does this transformation process need to be designed?
On this last point, I was fascinated to read a paper by Yochai Benkler, Professor of Law at New York University, about Linux and the nature of the firm. Free software, or open source software, is a fifteen-year-old phenomenon in the software world. But, according to Benkler, free software, although the most visible, is one example of a much broader social phenomenon, commons-based peer production – a new mode of production in the digitally-networked environment.
http://www.benkler.org/CoasesPenguin.html
The central characteristic of this new mode of is that groups of individuals successfully collaborate on large-scale projects following a diverse cluster of motivational drives and social signals – rather than market prices or managerial commands.
This would be a worthy subject for a follow-up meeting.
See also my piece, Does your design research exist? at
http://www.doorsofperception.com/In+the+Bubble/details/50/

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From shelfware to wetware: where next for design research?

(In December 2002 I chaired a seminar in London, organised by the Design Council, which brought together 100 academics, designers and business people to discuss: “how to get the most out of academic design knowledge”. Here are some half-formed thoughts (Philip Tabor) on the points that arose)
Designers and companies tend to understand ‘design research’ as:
– technology scoping
– market research
– product development
– trend forecasting
Most of the academics at the meeting said that these activities were not “research” as they understood the term.
Other kinds of value can be created by design research. Among these:
– knowledge about new processes and methods – to the extend that they can be documented and codified. People running large organisations generally value process innovations more than outcomes. But this is not a uniquely academic research activity: internet service companies like Sapient, and management consultants, do process innovation all the time.
– case studies and best practices: everyone wants them, but there’s a difficulty: a “best practice” is hard to document or make ‘objective’. Practices, by definition, are rooted in a social and technological context.
– Intellectual Property Rights (IPR): old-thinking companies want it, but an obsession with IPR stifles innovation.
– reflection, criticism, and evaluation of bigger picture: these lofty activities are badly needed, and are traditional tasks for academe. The problem arises: how to share the insights so gained with people on the front line whose attitudes and behaviours we want to modify?
– develop new business models: business school academics were active in this field during the early dot.com boom: remember “pure-play” business concepts? Nearly all these platonic concepts failed – precisely because they were not rooted in a context.
– develop new ways of working: the same proviso applies. Academic research can draw our attention to new ways of working (or “WoW” as Philips’ Josephine Green called it) – but I’m sceptical that academic research, by itself, can innovate methods out of context.
– understand people and communities: my tolerance for engineers and social scientists who claim to “understand people” is so low that I pass on this one.
– identify un-met needs and desires: the concept of an “un-met need” raises an equally large number of epistemological questions. That, too, is for another time.
It’s worth noting, too, that there is no single “design process”. Those words were used by different people to describe different steps:
– action research – iterative design in which build > trial > evaluate > learn > build repeat, continuously;
– scoping the domain – to identify broad-brush drivers and dilemmas;
– framing the initial question – on the basis that questions are more powerful than answers;
– assembling the actors – with an emphasis on the inclusion of people formerly known as users;
– obtaining resources – the process of designing and drafting project proposals, setting up projects, and co-coordinating them, is complex and very time-consuming;
– co-ordination and facilitation – the Sloan Business School’s Centre for Co-ordination Science (sic) reckons that coordination should be allocated 30% of time and money resources in many projects – but never is;
– sharing results – will never happen if left to the end of the project.
If I reflect, after the meeting, on success factors for design research, four of these stood out for me:
– locate at least part of the project in a real-world context. I heard no convincing examples of purely theoretical design research.
– Design research should involve the innovative re-combination of actors among the worlds of science, government, business, and education.
– If the results (and value) of design research are to be shared effectively, communication and dissemination methods need to be designed (and budgeted) in at the start.
– there’s an urgent (and so far not visible) need to develop peer-to-peer methods for research and investigations.
The list of barriers to the effectiveness of design research to emerge from the meeting was longer:
– limits of design knowledge; its epistemology (C Frayling);
– difficult to capture/represent – and thus share – a process;
(processes are often tacit and social, not objective);
– divergent ways of working (WoW);
– inadequate access to, or knowledge of, who is doing what;
– impoverished stores, or more properly flows, of knowledge and experience
– IPR/ownership issues stifle sharing;
– institutional constraints (professional associations, disciplinary divisions);
– funding bodies are too slow, too mono-disciplinary;
– lack of ways to measure effectiveness (Jamie Oliver story).
Conclusion
It was not clear to me, after the meeting, what the academy can or should do, that business cannot. I’m not persuaded that pure reflection, for example – “shelf ware”, as wittily described by Rachel Cooper – can be effective, or meaningful, if it is divorced from practice. I also fear that stores of knowledge, put together by academic researchers, may be less useful – remembering the recent failures of knowledge management – than flows of knowledge. I also wonder whether academia can, or should, deliver the just-in-time-research that fast-moving industries seem to need.
In the end, it is probably not a matter of either-or (academic vs. worldly research) – but of both-and. But even a both-and conclusion raises tricky issues. Systematic collaboration between academics and practitioners implies institutional and attitudinal transformation. Does this transformation process need to be designed?
On this last point, I was fascinated to read a paper by Yochai Benkler, Professor of Law at New York University, about Linux and the nature of the firm. Free software, or open source software, is a fifteen-year-old phenomenon in the software world. But, according to Benkler, free software, although the most visible, is one example of a much broader social phenomenon, commons-based peer production – a new mode of production in the digitally-networked environment.
http://www.benkler.org/CoasesPenguin.html
The central characteristic of this new mode of is that groups of individuals successfully collaborate on large-scale projects following a diverse cluster of motivational drives and social signals – rather than market prices or managerial commands.
This would be a worthy subject for a follow-up meeting.
See also my piece, Does your design research exist? at
http://www.doorsofperception.com/In+the+Bubble/details/50/

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Trophy buildings are over: French turn attention to arts de la rue

Bad news for aspiring Frank Gehrys: buildings conceived as spectacles soon turn into white elephants. Mayors around the world are looking for alternative ways to develop their locality – ways that do not involve spending vast sums of money on trophy buildings designed by brand-name architects.
Three developments are putting an end to the boom in landmark buildings. The first is over-supply. This year’s Venice Architecture Biennale show-cased literally hundreds of large, glamorous buildings that will be built in the next few years. But, precisely because they are conceived as spectacles, these signature buildings have started to cancel each other out.
We accord them the same perceptual status as an Armani ad on a wall in New York or Milan: we look at them, judge them in a glance – and then move on. That’s not a great return on all the time, work and money invested to bring these totemic edifices about.
A second development: buildings conceived as tourist destinations are hard to sustain in business terms. City-hopping tourists seldom re-visit the Guggenheim in Bilbao, for example, where visitor numbers are now in decline.The UK, too, is awash in landmark cultural buildings – conceived politically as large and expensive signs, and paid for with lottery money – that seem doomed to go out of business once their novelty has worn off.
The third development is the emergence of “sociability” and “liveability” as new criteria for urban design. The French – who with their Grands Projets invented the craze for trophy buildings – have gone off in a new direction – towards the development of live, participatory events as ways of adding value to a place.
Describing itself as the “land of festivals”, the region of Provence-Aples-Cote d’Azur, alone, published a 194 page catalogue for 2002 that lists more than 300 events and festivals.These range from land-art and arborescence, ancient music and falconry, to festivals of laughter, rythm, and fanfare http://www.laregie-paca.com
Formal cultural festivals have been booming in France for years, but the new craze if forles arts de la rue. So popular has street art and performance become that festivals on the subject are now staged every summer – in Chalon-sur-Soane and Aurillac. These events, which bring together street-level theatre, circus, music and dance, have spawned now well-known acts such as Royale Luxe, Iltopie, and Generik Vapeur (http://www.generikvapeur.com/)
Eyebrows were raised this summer when the French minister of culture, usually the epitome of high (read: expensive) culture, attended the Chalon event for the first time. And a professional asssociation for street arts has been formed to represent the artists and producers, and festival organisers. http://www.lefourneau.com/lafederation
Jean-Marie Songy, director of the Aurillac festival, says these events expemplify what he calls the “open city – the utopian ideal that a city as an open stage that supports freedom of expression”. http://www.chalondanslarue.com/
Some artists have mixed views about the growing attention. Caty Avram, founder of Generik Vapeur, warns that “these festivals are indispensable for bringing performers and programmers together – but we must take care that our street-level interventions do not evolve into spectacles observed by a passive public.We should always be looking for new locales, and for people not accustomed to our kind of actions”.
Olivier Brie, Director of Art Point M, agrees: “there are two real risks for a festival such as Chalon: the rain, and paying visitors”. (Source: Le Monde 20 July 2002)
“Street artists are rightly suspicious of passive spectacle” confirms another producer, Catherine Lemaire, director of a dynamic Ganges-based agency, Eurekart. “The trend is away from set-piece performances towards smaller, more intimate interactions. The thinking now is that every spectator can also be an artist”. eurekart@club-internet.fr (00 33 (0)4 67 73 98 40)
Lemaire observes that street theatre is becoming less aggressive and provocative. “Artists seem to have become less confrontational and more humane – less hard”, she says.”We are seeing smaller, more intimate events – and the emergence of troupes of one, two or three people – in contrast to the 15 or 20 we’d have seen a year or two ago. It’s not unknown now for an artist to provoke an interaction with just one person on the street”.
A second tendency, says Lemaire, is that street art is finding new types of locations.”Performers seem to be moving away from decorative balconies in the town square, in favour of the workplace, the shopping centre, or the factory”,
Every November, Lemaire organises the equivalent of a Cannes Film Festval in Montpellier – Label Rue – which brings together a selection of artists, and commissioners of events from throughout France. Lefevre, who has realised street art events in dozens of towns throughout France, Spain and Italy, selects about 40 acts and invites city and festival programmers to come and view them.
The artists do their thing in car parks, outside cafes and on the streets of Montpellier. There is music of all kinds – jazz, steel drum, morooccan fanfare, yeti chanting. There are graffiti artists, fire performers, and a sculptor, Patrick Lefevre, playing the saxophone a top a 15 metre pyramid of his own construction.
end

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Does your design research exist?

An internet sage once said that a web page never accessed does not really exist. Does the same logic apply to your design research? If nobody ‘gets it’, when you present your results, has anything been achieved?
Over recent months, I have seen years of work by design researchers almost wasted because they did not communicate well. Here are a couple of stories about such near-disasters, plus 15 highly-opinionated tips for design research presentations at the end.
In Amsterdam, in February, I attended the seventh bi-annual exhibition of Young Designers and Industry, The show’s sub-title – “the unknown meets the unknown” – turned horribly true. Thirteen European companies, ranging from Heineken to Forbo Linoleum, had given research projects to groups of talented young designers from all over Europe. Their task was “to conceive of new concepts for products, services or strategies of the future”. A fascinating brief, good partnerships, plenty of time. How could they fail?
Here is how. The exhibition and presentation in this five month project took place in a splendid and theatrical loft in Amsterdam docklands. On entering, I was confronted by 13 mini-exhibitions, in bays down each side of the space. These exhibits were impossible to interpret or understand. Numbers were stuck on columns – but nothing told the visitor what these numbers referred to. Each bay contained jumbles of posters and objects – but there were no titles or captions to help the visitor understand what these jumbles were about. Groovy-looking young people hung about; but it was not clear whether they were visitors, exhibitors, or just lived there.
I asked each person in turn, I hope in a friendly way: “what am I looking at here?” “to what question is this project an answer?” and “what lessons did you learn from this project?”. After two hours I realised that, once again in this excellent series, some great work had been done. In one project, websites and wireless devices were used to help Dutch citizens find nature – which is often hidden away here. Noffit Yelloz, in another fine project, developed an elegant structure to hold potted plants vertically inside a stairwell for Europe’s largest plant distributor, www.waterdrinker.nl. A third team worked with Forbo Linoleum to produce terrific lamps and bowls. But I had to find all this out for myself. Nobody framed the event for people like me walking in literally from the cold. Many of the men and women in suits for whom the whole event was staged clearly had no idea what to make of it.
A few weeks after Young Designers and Industry, I found myself at HomeTech, in Berlin, an enormous trade fair for domestic appliances. Whirlpool Europe, who have a dynamic new design director, Richard Eisermann, had worked with design futurist Francesco Morace on a major lifestyle trends study. This inspired Whirlpool’s centrepiece at the trade fair, a beautifully produced exhibition of design prototypes called “Project F” in which large glass cases contained intriguing and well-executed…. objects. But it was utterly unclear what we were looking at – or why. I happened to tour the exhibit with a British design journalist who has eight million appliance-buying readers back in London. She walked right past the Project F exhibits with barely a glance; “what are they?” she asked – without stopping. These objects, I later discovered, were the results of months of investigation, by talented design professionals from several countries, into fabric care futures. Upon reading Whirlpoolls interesting book, which I discovered in a dark corner, I learned that the objects were “an open exploration of the washing process and the new relationship between products, spaces, and humans”. (The book is available from ray_isted@email.whirlpool.com)
Both Young Designers and Whirpool forgot to put themselves into the shoes of their audience. They focussed on what they had to say, at the expense of asking: what will it take, in this noisy and crowded environment, to engage a passing stranger’s curiosity and interest?
JT’s TIPS FOR POTENT PRESENTATIONS
It’s awful to see such interesting work head, unnoticed, for obscurity – so here are fifteen tips for presentations which I reckon apply equally both in a small presentation, such as a research crit in a university, or in a large, noisy, distracting trade event, like HomeTech.
Tip 1 Design the way you will present and publish your results at the beginning of your project, not at the end.
Tip 2 Budget generously for publishing results.I reckon the ideal is 30 per cent of the total, including people costs – but hardly anybody allocates that much. A budget for publishing results below ten percent means you don’t care if anyone outside your project ever knows what you achieved.
Tip 3 Assume I know nothing. NOTHING! The first two minutes – of my visit, or of your presentation – should answer the following questions that are rattling around in my addled mind:
“Where am I, and why am I here?”
“Who are these people?”
“What’s in it for me?”
“To what question is this story an answer?”
Tip 4 Always answer that last question! State, explicitly, the insight, discovery or invention you have made, that you are giving me to take away.
Tip 5 Kill your darlings. You will always have more things to tell me than time to do so – so tell me less. Never try to cram everything you know into a limited time by speaking fast, or in bullet point-ese. Inform about the things you have to leave out of your verbal presentation in a handout. If you make a good presentation, I will probably read it later. if you’ve bored or confused me, I won’t bother.
Tip 6 Avoid using the words “we are very interested in….”. I don’t care what you are interested in. I care what I am interested in.
Tip 7 Only tell me about your process or methodology if the process or methodology is the valuable thing I am going to take away. Otherwise stated: don’t tell me how you got there, tell me what you found when you got there.
Tip 8 Reassure me you have thoroughly scoped the territory, and that you are not about to tell me something 500 peoople already investigated.
Tip 9 Never, ever, present for more time than you promise to in the programme. If that’s ten minutes, do it in ten – not a second more.
Tip 10 For every minute you propose to present, allow one hour of preparation. For a ten minute presentation, in other words, you need to plan in ten hours of preparation before the Big Day. (I was taught this unlikely-sounding rule by Carol Harding Roots, who trains the Doors team how to present. She’s right).
Tip 11 Never rely on designed objects or media to tell your story on their own – whether they be posters, prototypes, videos, computer simulations, or exhibits. Real people, properly briefed – and ideally you, yourself – are far more interesting and effective than the glossiest poster or video in the world.
Tip 12 Don’t commission a special video for a public exhibition: they add noise, and hardly anyone watches them. If you have a big budget, spend the money hiring a celebrity chef to cook exhausted visitors delicious snacks – as Gaggenau did at HomeTech.
Tip 13 Treat PR consultants politely but with the utmost suspicion. They almost never get it, whatever it is – but will act as if they do. If your company insists you use a PR team, use them as support – but never give them complete control over your communications.
Tip 14 At the end of your presentation, or my visit, find a way to make sure we stay in touch – for example by saying, “may I call you next week?” or, “may I put you on our mailing list?”. (And don’t put my visiting card in a large goldfish bowl with all the others: study it with respect and awe, and then put it in carefully in your wallet.).
Tip 15 Get help. There’s no logical reason why a good designer or researcher should be a good presenter or communicator. Many great writers became great thanks to dedicated editors behind the scenes. Get an editor to finish your text. Pay a trainer to teach you how you to present.
Tip 16 Send me more tips. You surely know better tips than these (or disagree vehemently with mine) – so send your comments in to . I’ll put the best ones online here, and credit you. I particularly want to add the names of books, sites and people that have helped you become a better presenter or exhibitor. Let’s put an end, together, to failed research presentations.
Useful contacts:
The Doors team recommends Carole Harding Roots at Executive Presentations in London. Carole comments that it’s “better to look ahead and prepare than look back and regret.Good speakers create a spark to ignite the fuel of anticipation; they capitalise on their platform presence; they look the part; they stand and move with ease; they sound the part chr@executivepresentation.com
A good book on the subject is Getting Started In Speaking, Training or Consulting by Robert Bly (John Wiley paperback, 2001). Bly’s site, www.bly.com, contains a small arsenal of tools and services.

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Is carbon-based energy yuppy crack?

This article was written for Tornado Insider, the European business magazine, for publication in its November 2002 edition.
On a recent visit to Telluride, in Colorado, I was terrified to see a huge black Humvee draw up at the gates of a kindergarten. At the time, American newspapers were full of stories about a gun-toting maniac who had attacked a school, so I flashed to the image of a re-run. My heart raced as out of the Humvee hopped … a blond-haired, seven-year-old girl. Fear turned to indignation: who the hell takes a 30 kilogram child to school in a 3.5 ton, eight feet wide vehicle that does eight miles to the gallon? The answer is: lots of people, in the US at least: civilian sales of the Humvee are booming. The lease price is an affordable $350 a month, and if you ask about fuel consumption on the Humvee website the charming answer comes back:” who cares!” And you wondered why the US government had to invade Iraq?
Carbon-based energy is to yuppies as cocaine is to crack heads. We don’t need it, but we are addicted to it. The carbon dioxide emissions of someone in the industrialised north average 8,467 kg per year. Experts state that, globally, our emissions of carbon dioxide must be reduced by at least 60%. On this basis Friends of the Earth propose a target of 1100 kg per person.
How might that happen? Any ‘jump’ to renewables will be the result of cultural, rather than technological, transformation. By this I do not mean ecological gloom mongering, which tends to be counter-productive. An over-supply of bad news leads to denial, not to change. During a recent visit to Hong Kong, the story broke about the discovery of an “Asian brown cloud”. A team of international climatologists, led by Professor Paul Grutzen, whose work on the ozone hole won him the 1995 Nobel science prize, said that they had identified a10 million square mile, three kilometre thick, fluctuating haze of man-made pollutants that was spreading across the whole Asian continent and blocking out up to 15% of the sunlight. The cloud was described as a “dynamic soup” of vehicle and industrial pollutants, carbon monoxide, and minute soot particles or fly ash from the regular burning of forests and wood used for cooking in millions of rural homes.
This horrendous story only made page two of the local press and disappeared after a couple of days.
The academics were y reluctant to attribute individual weather phenomena to the cloud, even though it is clear the Asian climate has been disrupted in the past decade with a series of unseasonable and erratic rains, severe droughts, and fierce storms in Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, and elsewhere. This year the monsoons in many parts of India and south east Asia have either not arrived or have been particularly severe.” The Asian cloud is man-made so it can be eliminated”, said Klaus Toepfer, head of the UN environment programme.” To do so needs better burning technologies and we need to have cleaner traffic, and sustainable energy”. But Hong Kong shrugged, and went on with its business.
Many of the technology ingredients for a post-carbon energy regime are already in place: photovoltaic fuel cells, solar power, geothermal, wave energy, hydrogen, and the like. But these saplings will only grow into viable trees when some kind of eco-shock – to match the oil-shock of the 1970s – sweeps aside extraction industry vested interests and the institutions that support them. I thought this year’s floods might do the trick, but from a US perspective, at least, it looks like George Bush’s dog will have to drown before change happens.
Looked at from Europe, changes in attitudes towards energy issues are more evident. In Germany’s general election, the remarkably strong showing of the Greens indicated that the environment had been a central concern. And this was not just a protest vote. The Greens first four years in government delivered a tax on fossil fuels, an agreement to phase out nuclear energy, a huge increase in wind power, and an enforceable commitment to a fall in carbon dioxide emissions. German commentators argued that a key factor in the Greens’ success was the summer’s extensive flooding in southern and eastern Germany.
The US boycott notwithstanding, ratification by EU countries of the Kyoto protocol on limiting green house gases, accompanied by ambitious government targets and tax incentives for renewable energy, are good news in the long run for sustainable energy ventures which otherwise still face a distorted market with strong subsidies for conventional energy.
In Germany, environmental goods and services are now a larger sector than the steel making which once epitomised the country’s industrial strength. The global market for environmental goods and services is estimated at $335 billion and is forecast to grow to $640 billion by 2010, according to the UK’s Department of Trade and Industry
Interviewed in The Guardian, Rolf Westenhagen, energy and private equity analyst with Sustainable Asset Management, described how he reviewed about 1,000 business plans in setting up Sam Private Equity Energy Fund (the Energy Fund), which focuses specifically on sustainable energy opportunities. “We noticed some particular characteristics of the European VC market. Compared to the US, where 50% of our deals still originate, there is a lot of technological know-how in European companies, but the business side is often less developed. Part of it may be that European companies face smaller home markets, so they anticipate slower growth rates than their US counterparts, but it is probably also a cultural issue. As a result, the average size of deals is smaller in Europe than in the US. On the other hand, the current regulatory environment, specifically for sustainable energy, is definitely more encouraging in most European countries than in the US.
Our physical state of affairs is easier to analyse than the psychological one. Whatever kind of economy we are in – old or new – almost everything we design and consume stimulates wasteful flows of matter and energy. We buy more hardware than ever – especially new devices, however pointless. We print more paper, especially now our personal computers and laser printers are networked. We package more goods, especially now they have to travel so far. And it’s not just the objects we buy that weigh us down. According to Paul Hawken, in Natural Capitalism, only six per cent of the vast material flows in the US economy actually end up in products. In most of the so-called advanced or developed economies, he writes, the overall ratio of waste to durable products is closer to a hundred to one. This waste is enabled, fuelled and accelerated by information technology. The promise was that digital communication would bring lightness and dematerialization. But as Paul Hawken discovered, the amount of wasted matter generated to make one laptop computer is close to four thousand times its weight on your lap. And that’s just the wasted stuff. George Gilder predicts in his book Telecosm that, by 2006, internet computing will use as much power as the entire US economy in 2001 – some three trillion kilowatt hours.
“What is happening is not by intention” says Hawken, “so we can put aside the theory that there are ‘bad’ people that we can get rid of to make everything OK.The fact is that the rate of loss is deeply embedded – a systemic problem inherent in assumptions that have only recently begun to be questioned”. In other words, it’s a design issue, not an ethics issue. We are using the earth’s resources faster than we replace them. Design can help reverse this trend by changing the processes behind products, as well as the resources used to make them and use them. In this sense sustainable design is a driver of innovation. In the UK and France, for example, many companies companies already do so. Many are acting defensively, to meet customer demands or in response to regulation. Others, such as Sweden, Germany and The Netherlands, are more proactive, aspiring first mover advantage’ in an inevitable trend. Design for sustainability has been integral to innovation in Swedish policy for 20 years now.
The Jump

Incremental change can only be a warm-up, like the ride down the ramp of a ski jump, prior to a jump from one energy-using paradigm to another. Optimistic experts believe that innovation processes now emerging will deliver a twenty-fold improvement in our matter and energy performance by 2040. Dutch scientist Leo Janssen, for example, thinks in terms of multiple, interacting cycles of change: “better treatment of today’s stuff and energy usage can be achieved within a five year time frame. Cleaning and improving existing plant takes ten years. Replacing old plant with new, cleaner equipment is a 25-year process. Introducing completely new categories of product and service are a 30-40 year process. Re-building basic infrastructures, for reorganised infrastructure for example, mobility systems, takes 50-100 years”.
It took from the beginning of human history to the year 1900 to build a world economy that produced $600 billion in output. Today, the world economy grows by that amount every two years. Once implanted in culture and the economy, principles of sustainability can deliver rapid transformation – for example, `minimising the waste of matter and energy’ or `reducing the movement and distribution of goods’, or `using more people and less matter’. Once we shift from covering up symptoms, to the re-design of the systems that deliver us necessities, the possibilities are immense.
One of Europe’s leading experts on service design, Ezio Manzini says of the passage from today’s systems of production and consumption, to sustainable ones, that it will be “like changing the engines of an aircraft while it is still in flight. We need to move beyond the implementation of clean processes and technologies towards systems whose utilisation of natural resources is reduced to 10 percent of present levels. He says. “It may appear a difficult task”, understates Manzini, “but consider this: during two centuries of innovation until now, we reduced the role of labour in production by even larger proportions than those required now for matter and energy. We have done it before”.
There are four scenarios for the transition to energy and resource sustainability. Scenario one describes a step-by-step improvement of present products, the so-called “end-of-pipe” approach. A second scenario involves the radical redesign of products and services based on existing concepts. In scenario three, we develop alternative products and systems. And in scenario four, we re-design of all our agricultural and industrial systems to meet the goal of a fully sustainable society.
Re-designing whole business according to a service-and-flow model is a good example. In this system, manufacturers – and the designers and users they work with – stop thinking of themselves as being in the product business. They become, instead, deliverers of service. These services are enabled, or carried, by long-lasting, upgradeable, durable, things. In this book I call these material things, which are currently known as products, equipment. Mobile phone handsets are equipment; so is an Airbus 330. In design, we need to think of equipment is fetishized end-in-themselves. That said, equipment is nonetheless made of stuff, so it has to be designed to be to be materially light as well as light in the ways it is used.
Wall Street, never one to step too soon out of line, sees eco as a tech issue – but a promising one nonetheless. In an interview about ‘eco-tech’ with the Wall Street Journal in August 2001, equity strategist Mark Howdle was confident that “concern over environmental factors will generate a long-term trend among corporations to throw money into technology that could alleviate such problems as air pollution and energy waste, allowing companies to turn a profit from the exercise”. Howdle said he expected a critical mass to be reached that allows eco-tech “to blossom from an assortment of small business making windmills into a stand-alone sector” Such firms are less than 0.1 percent of European market capitalization right now but according to several analysts the sector has the potential to grow to as much as three to five percent of the European market over the next few years. “We are using the earth’s resources faster than we replace them” reported the UK Design Council in 2002; “design can help reverse this trend by changing the processes behind products, as well as the resources used to make them and use them. In this sense sustainable design is a driver of innovation”.
The global market for environmental goods and services is estimated at $335 billion and is forecast to grow to $640 billion by 2010, according to the UK’s Department of Trade and Industry. In Germany, environmental goods and services are now a larger sector than the steel making which once epitomised the country’s industrial strength. Design for sustainability has been integral to innovation in Swedish policy for 20 years now.
From end-of-pipe to whole-of-life

Many big companies, which think more naturally about processes, have gone further towards a whole systems approach. Their environmental management policies stress the importance of metrics – measures of success – so that green strategies can be justified to shareholders and investors.
At the whole systems level, environmental management encompasses the whole business framework, and thinks in terms of product lifecycles. It is no longer considered eccentric to promote basic principles of sustainability that would have sounded wacky in boardrooms a few years ago – for example, `minimising the waste of matter and energy’ or `reducing the movement and distribution of goods’, or `using more people and less matter’. In Natural Capitalism, Paul Hawken is blunt: we have to use less stuff, molecule; we have to use more people; we have to restore and improve, not just protect, the environment; and businesses have to make money. (> White House/Clinton story).
Our problems are invisible. Most of our collectively wasteful behaviours are hidden from view. As Jane Elder of the Sierra Clubs put it,” pollution never goes away, it just goes somewhere else”. Most of the loss and waste behind products we take for granted is hidden from view. Every product that enters our lives has what Paul Hawken calls a “hidden history” – an undocumented inventory of wasted or lost materials. Industry, says Hawken, “moves, mines, extracts, shovels, burns, wastes, pumps and disposes of billions of pounds of material in order to deliver the products we take for granted, but which are needed for roads and buildings and infrastructures”. Hawken goes on to list waste in the form of tailings, gangue, fly ash, slurry, sludge, slag, flue gases, construction debris, methane – and other wastes of the extractive and manufacturing processes. “The problem is not the limits of human nature”, says Hawken, “it is the limits of human perception, especially our perceptions of time and process. Copernicus took us out of the centre of the solar system; we now need to take ourselves our of the centre of the biosphere”.
Business is moving for self-interested reasons, which is fine. Delivering what consumers want is a powerful driver of innovation. Consumer demand for ‘green products’, services and infrastructures has grown strongly from the 1980s onwards. In his book Green Gold, business expert Curtis Moore describes these changes, as is the tip of an attitudinal iceberg. Moore found back in 1992 that nearly two out of three voters in Houston Texas, of all places, believe that “humanity is approaching the limit of the planet’s resources”. Respondents in numerous other polls since then say they are willing to pay more for environmentally sound products, but have difficulty finding them. Mintel, a market research company in the UK, found consumers willing to pay 13 per cent more for ‘green’ products.” The greenest of green consumers are also the richest”, according to Frances Cairncross of The Economist. Writing in her book Green Inc she quotes a ORI opinion poll that more than half of consumers earning over $18,000 a year are classified as “environmental activists”. Curtis Moore also quotes a Golin/Haris poll that 87 percent of respondents would boycott a company that is careless about the environment. Says Moore: “these results barely scratch the surface of a massive and compelling body of polling data that point to a commitment to environmental protection so deep and enduring that is it reconfigures global business”.

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