Design is humanization

The DesignSingapore Council International Advisory Panel (IAP) recently concluded their seventh annual meeting by holding a press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel to announce their latest findings and discussions. This year’s focus was on how design can be harnessed for new opportunities presented by rapid advances in digital technology. The panel that addressed members of the press were Christopher Bangle, Dick Powell, Richard Seymour and Hael Kobayashi.

Prof. Richard Seymour opened the panel with his conclusion that we are being “Slowed down not by the technology but by our imagination.” The panel had spend the better part of the week visting an Interactive Digital Media (IDM) research center and meeting with developers, researchers from other institutions and companies. The panel have come to realize that in terms of skill levels, the developer and designer communities have “Huge potentials in Singapore on both sides, but even greater potentials if we can get the two to work together,” was how Christopher Bangle put it. And to put his point across, he showed a quick sketch that symbolizes what the underlying problem was. Designers and developers don’t necessarily work together.

“So the work that has been happening for the last few days here has been around what types of approaches are there to bring these two sides into better confluence,” summarized Bangle.

Talking on the suggestions to help bring the communities together, Kobayashi mentioned that “We have incubators, accelerators and if we add prototypers to this where we are actually able to, as a catalyst, drive the incubators and the accelerators by bringing ideas to the surface more readily. Some of them will succeed, some of them will fail but we need to be able to do this, be able to illustrate our thinking. And if this were to really work, it could create that kind of effect where we see that in this fast reactor model we are able to push forward and this gives an advantage.” The fast reactor model is explained by Kobayashi as one “where we can rapidly engage with people and do a fair amount of designing.” A sort of fast iterating model which is focused not only on the tech, but also on consumer usability.

So the formula of the solution would look something like this:

“Work at a higher speed + more accurate way + more cost-effective + bringing ideas to market much faster = enhanced ROI”

The panel presented a work-in-progress model on how they believe the solution would look like on how specific and wonderful technologies can be better applied and end up as a great product. “The way to do that is to generate a lot of exciting visions upfront before you start handing out large amounts of money,” says Dick Powell.

Powell talks about combining new technologies with human-focused designs that could involve a foreign-based party to create an “open-sourced” model of vision sourcing. There will be matchmaking events and online facilitations to group these people from both communities together at the early stage of the idea conception. The program would then see these ideas through various stages of pitching and funding as they prototype the product that is both equally thought out on the technology and also the design aspects. This would help ensure that the products are not only strong in the tech side, but also on the usability aspect as the products are designed for the users. Imagine it here, Create it here, Develop & Make it here would be the three steps for the skeleton of the program.

Seymour also noted that when it comes to interpreting the word “design”, “Singapore needs its own language. It needs its own way of defining things and the very useful way of thinking about that is “designing” the verb rather than “design” the noun.” Seymour had also emphasized the importance of getting design right at the beginning of the press conference by stating, “Design is humanization.”

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