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It is rare for me to give the same talk three times within the same day. It was one of those rare occasions last week at Media Evolution. We had the opportunity to talk to a large crowd regarding Future Living from the perspectives of Design, Tech and Sustainable Society. It was truly a fun talk with my colleague Johanna Tunlid who is our Sustainability Manager at Above.
We covered a wide spectrum of topics that are in tangent with our topic but keeping true to the future challenges ahead with a growing world population. Automation - one of the hottest topics right now - was one of the pivotal focal points. Have you ever been in an automated vehicle? How about an elevator? It is not a very known fact that society had a hard time adjusting to "driverless elevators".
We also covered many other subjects such as urban farming, sustainable living and technology. Why do we cluster together as human beings? You can clearly see this tendency from the gorgeous photos taken from ISS. How does the future cities look like? Are they still going to resemble hub-and-spoke patterns if none of us have to actually "go" to work?
Another interesting sub-topic is crypto-currencies. In the afternoon session, we were addressing all of the regional colleagues of Swedbank. One of the largest banks in the Nordics. We maybe scared them a little bit with the provocative question of "What if Uber starts their own bank?".
The noon session was for our colleagues at Above Malmö who all showed great interest to all the discussion points and made sure that we got a great round of applause. All in all it was a fantastic day with lots of stimulating dialogue and future connections. Thanks Media Evolution for the opportunity and amazing food also!
Last Friday I was at Media Evolution Salong#3. It was an absolute pleasure to be invited to the this event. The format of the day is quite cool. There are multiple sessions going on at the same time in the afternoon and the audience gets to listen to a short pitch about each session accompanied by delicious sweets and coffee. Everybody can decide which room to go to. Obviously there are drinks and music well into the evening, too.
As a speaker, I was a little bit intimidated by having to make a pitch at first but to my surprise the breakup between the two rooms (there is sometimes three) was quite even and nice.
I talked about the sweet relationship between Physical and Digital Design, also extending my subject to the beautiful harmony between Design and Engineering giving examples from the things that we made at HOWL & Frankly.
Ever since I was a kid, I had the urge to take everything apart in the house. I realized that everything around me was designed by somebody, somehow. This was an amazing revelation. Today I also know that in the eyes of the user, there are no boundaries between design, engineering, digital or physical. A product is only there to enable an experience with all its parts.
Design started as a way to hide the clunky, heavy, noisy and ugly face of industrialization. It started as an exercise in ornamentation. Today, design has a transformative power. It changes things, it changes experiences, it changes communities and it changes us. As designers, how do we best wield this power?
The ornament in design aimed to create an expression for the shell that the core did not possess. The mid-century design that we all like and cherish, wanted to challenge and tweak our impression of things. I think the new century design needs to shape the effect and ultimately the impact of experiences.
During my session, we had a fun exercise about designing an imaginative smart seatbelt for a commercial jet. The thought exercise starts with adding a simple sensor to each seat buckle. Easy enough, right? Not really. How about the empty seats? Ok. Let's add sensors to seats, too. But how to relay that information to the flight attendants who are out and about and don't typically have pockets for portable devices?
The participants came up with amazingly imaginative and big-picture ideas. Lots of people thought to use the power of the crowd to check the seatbelts rather than putting all the pressure on the flight attendants. There were a ton of ideas around social hacking such as shaming the unbuckled passengers or locking their In-Flight Entertainment systems until they got buckled up. I loved all of the ideas including having airbags instead of seat belts.
Of course 20 minutes was not enough to solve this difficult problem. Although I believe that it gave everyone a new perspective into solving real problems with real teamwork without boundaries between disciplines and specializations.
Thanks again to the MEC family and the brilliant participants for their hospitality, foods, drinks and the music. Let's do it again, soon.
Last week was a special week for me. Not only did I reach one of those scary ages that end with a large zero but also got to visit my home country.
It was the Design Week in Turkey and I was invited as a guest. It is always an honor no matter where you get invited. Though, this time I had the extra honor of being a jury member for Design Turkey Awards which I also was involved in the making of. Of course I was one of many that worked on this Herculean task but thinking about the rules and process was a mind-bending experience even as a member in a group.
Turkey is — and always been — in the heart of an unstable region. It was always on the verge of something. Never at rest and never at complete peace. Which also makes it a country that is dynamic, young, tough and hungry for success.
To see my native country only a few months after a failed coup attempt with such grace and hope was awe-inspiring. I also was very happy to see so many international jury members and speakers joining from all over the world. They seemed to be enjoying Istanbul fully as well as the fireworks of creativity from all around us.
The design week consists of Istanbul Design Biennale, Istanbul Design Week and Design Turkey Awards, as well as many other side events that paint the city to vivid colors. Of course, the design week is still not at the same scale as London or Milan but the increase in scale, content and interest in less than a decade was simply spectacular.
The most important and significant aspect of the Design Week Turkey was the fact that it was sponsored directly by the Ministry of Economy. Now, many people has a wide range of opinions about the government in Turkey but whatever you say about the politics, the fact that a Minister of Economy spared his time and focus for a design event is significant by any measure. His speech touched a wide range of subjects but honed in on the undeniable value of design. He recognized important Turkish designers around the world such as Murat Gunak who lead the design language of Peugeot and VW Group, as well as Ayse Birsel who created some amazing office furniture for Herman Miller. Turkey wants to create 10 global brands by 2023 which coincides with the first centennial anniversary of the Turkish Republic. It is an ambitious goal. But not impossible.
On Saturday, I was invited to talk to a large crowd in a panel about the values and the future of design. It was the last event of the design week and also maybe the most difficult topic of all. What really is the value of design? And why should we care about the future of it. I know the moderators don’t like it but I prepared a presentation anyway. It started as a cheat sheet for me but it turned out to be a great conversation-starter for this tough topic.
As I researched more into the subject, I started to learn more that the added value of Industrial Design might actually be measurable. Did you know that 54% of UK’s exports come from design and innovations closely tied to design? A new metric I learned was ‘dollars per kilo’ especially for developing countries. It measures the value of exports by how much they cost compared to their weight. Funny, if you think that the delta between two equal goods with differing prices is simply design or innovation. Overall, it was a stimulating but grounded panel that made me think about some issues deeper as a panelist.
Back to Wednesday. I was hopeful and truly excited as I sat among the large audience during the award ceremony and saw young designers accepting their awards with the biggest smiles I have seen in my life. Suddenly, I felt a warm optimism growing as I thought about how political differences divided the crowd invisibly but it seemed for a moment that all 1900 people in that audience united around a common cause and forgot about ideologies. I know that no issue should be strong enough to divide a nation and — in my heart — I know that it takes much more than politics to push a divide into a country with so deep roots and a fantastic drive for success.
All photos courtesy of Design Turkey Secretariat & Dream Design Factory.
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I love design, I love people and I love technology. And this is an account of why I chose to be a designer.
Ever since I was a child, I had the urge to take things apart so I could see how they worked, how they were made and why they seemed interesting to people. I became deeply obsessed with industrial objects from an early age. I was absolutely stunned when I realized that everything around me was “designed” — one way or the other — by someone.
Designer as a matchmaker between the object and the user
I saw that when some of these objects came alive, they even took a life of their own and start affecting people around them. Sometimes this relationship was a beautiful one and sometimes it was painful to the users. To me, this is almost like a marriage between the object and the user. Design stands in the middle of this marriage as a matchmaker. At its best, it enables people to find the best match to their needs and desires, then leads them to meaningful experiences in the form of objects and interactions.
After design school, my first stop in Turkey was DemirDokum — a locally well-known company belonging to a giant conglomerate. Trying to explain the value of design to an engineering oriented organization was much more challenging than any exams or school projects. I had to start learning how to influence technically minded people with compelling design stories. As the next stop I was the first hire in a brand-new consultancy Can Yalman. I was designing a boat for the first time in my life for a brand new shipyard which was making boats for the first time. There, I tasted the intoxicating passion of learning new things.
From millimeters to inches
This passion fueled me to go all the way up to Umeå Institute of Design — one of the best design schools in the world and about 250 miles south of the arctic circle (yes, it was cold). I got hired by Sony Ericsson right out of school. Just like the Institute, this company was an incubator of good design and innovation. Just a handful of designers, we believed that we could change the world for the better. In 2006, I came to be known as Mr. Walkman. This was one of the most challenging but the most fulfilling tasks I have ever had. With an exceptionally creative team, we made amazing products that captured the imagination of millions of people. This was the first time I had the chance to influence a giant like Sony. When Android was first introduced, we marveled at the novelty and openness of the platform, but we knew that the initial hardware (G1) was too complicated. We created a new paradigm complete with simplified symbols and fewer keys for XPERIA. Jumping from mm scale to inches, I landed at TEAGUE — the world renowned “original design consultancy” where I experimented with user-experience-based design and new creative methodologies for maybe the biggest scale in a product — commercial aircraft. Here I learned the valuable lesson of understanding status-quo before attempting change. Trying to move a giant like Boeing was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
One of the goals in my professional life is to be the creative leader for an innovative organization, but this is just a prelude to my stretch goal, which is the lavishly ambitious dream to redesign the profession of Industrial Design. I believe that design is the only creative tool that can bring technology closer to the humans and help companies be profitable along the way. I learned through my experiences that the power of influence that comes with design should be used with utmost care and always to improve something for the guests of this planet or the planet itself. My passion is to nourish the seeds of meaningful innovation wherever they stem from. What I want is to convert this passion to a fruitful continuum that will bear useful, beautiful and meaningful experiences for the users, together with like-minded people.
I made peace with my role as a designer…
Up until a few years ago, most of my years as a designer were dedicated to convincing people that I was a worthy hire, a worthy project member, a worthy colleague or a worthy leader. No more of that. I made peace with my role as a designer and what my contribution might look like. I set realistic but ambitious expectations and find joy in things that make a change — however small. Being ambitious does not mean beating yourself up constantly. I also re-discovered the joy of learning. As a consultant, I have the luxury of working with a diverse set of problems, technologies and users. I get to research and learn about things I would not have though about otherwise.
Today, I am a Senior Designer (of Industrial, User Experience, Strategy, and more) at HOWL and I feel like I am where I am supposed to be. It is a fast-moving environment with super-inspiring people and even more inspiring projects. For the first time, it feels like my creativity has no boundaries. I am not just saying this. Call it wisdom. Call it experience. Call it ignorance. In the last few years, something has changed. Still, there are limitations, problems and roadblocks around me but, for the first time, all of it seems surmountable.
Yesterday, I was in Umeå Institute of Design for a lecture about UX and ID. I talked about the relationship between these fields and the future of design in this context.
As always, I was very impressed by the creativity oozing out from every inch of the school and its students, as well as the competence of the staff. I spent almost 3.5 hours before and after the lecture, reviewing student portfolios. Amazing work and great skills all over. The depth of the content and the research, together with the topics chosen, made every minute worthwhile.
If I had any general observations from this experience, it would be that there is a new generation of designers on their way who care deeply about the impact their work might have on this world. So much so that most of the questions posed after the lecture were concentrated on how to deal with situations that might potentially be unethical or too profit focused at the expense of the user or environment.
It was delightful also to see that many students in the portfolio review were more focused on getting relevant feedback on their work more than selling themselves as potential employees.
I owe a big big thanks to Pernilla Sandberg and Marije de Haas for arranging the whole logistics and accommodating my last minute requests, Thomas Degn for his amazing hospitality and constant stream of chocolate and coffee appearing on my desk as well as the timekeeping, Niklas Andersson for inviting me over as a speaker and of course, all the students for making my day.
Tomorrow, I will be in Umeå for a Wednesday Lecture at the Institute of Design. I will be talking about the relationship between ID and UX Design. More about that soon on the blog.
Really looking forward to meeting old friends and the students. Everytime I go there, I come back with a renewed belief in design and it's power.
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