We already know that design stretches further than just creating stuff. DDW18 really demonstrates that designers are steering far-reaching social changes. Changes in our consumption behaviour, legal systems, agriculture and even geopolitics. The participants this year show that they are essential and vital boosters of a new paradigm. We see society and systems through the eyes of the designer. Who are the stakeholders? What resources do we have at our disposal? How can we deploy them as effectively as possible? And which processes can be rethought? The designers take the visitors by the hand through the various facets of our society.
Is e-commerce taking over the offline world?
A good example of the first system that designers bring to our attention: an e-commerce business originating in the super power China. ‘Alibaba From Here to Your Home’ is an exhibition initiated by the Design Academy Eindhoven (DAE) and the Van Abbemuseum. All based on the Chinese platform Alibaba, famous for its controversial handling of user data. The rise of this Chinese variation of Amazon implies that more products that violate human rights are entering the European market. What does this mean for our worldwide network of online web shops? And what are the consequences for the offline world? And our local stores? Nine DAE graduates were invited to study the Alibaba operational model. Everyone focused on a part of the mega e-commerce platform. The arrival of Alibaba has an immediate effect on the local markets, on the geopolitics, infrastructure and copyright. All the projects increase our awareness of online versus offline sales.
Human rights and design
During DDW, visitors could learn about heavy topics like illegal arrests, absence of an independent press and assaults by the police. What does design have to do with this? Stichting We Are is a design agency that uses collaborative design to redesign social and legal systems. The We Are designers including Bernhard Lenger introduced visitors to these controversial themes with an audio tour ‘We are Human Rights’. What can a designer do for these kinds of subjects? How can design contribute to the creation of a higher level of awareness for these essential social themes? You can read more about this project in the first Hidden Gem article. Back in 2016, Bernhard Lenger called for new legislation to facilitate prosecuting environmental violations with his public awareness campaign ‘This is Ecocide’.
The dilemmas of contemporary farmers
More audio stories with a message could be found on the Ketelhuisplein. Under the banner ‘Schuif aan tafel bij de boer’ (Pull up a chair at the farmer’s table) the public could learn about three inspiring discoveries by designers. These designers took a look at various farms and scrutinized various processes. How can a farmer protect his crops using natural methods? Designer Mies Loogman learned about the daily decisions in agriculture from a farmer in Lierop. How do dairy farmers tackle milk production? Are consumers prepared to invest in sustainability? Or should the dairy farmer pay for it all himself? Designer Sietske Klooster from De Melksalon is the obvious person with whom to brainstorm about this. Another dairy farmer, Karin de Brouwer, explored with the designer Merle Bergers the dilemmas of a drastic change: moving cows to the field that are currently in the barn all year round. This sounds easier than you might think. A 15-minute experience, stimulating all your senses, provides you with an insight into the decisions facing contemporary farmers.
New mindset required for textile waste
During DDW18 T-Slagerij presented a new consumption model for textiles based on a collection of ropes and workshops. What if we transformed our own textile waste into useful products? Through courses the designers from co-design studio Bron van Doen and textile designer Victoria Ledig shared tools like scalable methods for redeploying textiles as a product.
DDW visitors learned about awareness campaigns, the design of human rights, the moral choices the contemporary farmer faces and new ways to process waste. This year’s participants exposed topics that many consumers and citizens are hardly even aware of. They demonstrate that design is undoubtedly of added value for stimulating public debate and the redesigning of social systems.