The third edition of What Design Can Do!, an international conference celebrating the power of design and its ability to solve problems, will take place on Thursday 16 and Friday 17 May in Amsterdam’s Stadsschouwburg theatre. The New Institute will question design’s problem-solving potential in two critical debates featuring leading international designers, architects and design professionals from the Netherlands and abroad. What added value can design – in the broadest possible sense of the word – bring to society? Tickets to the conference are still available. As a friend of The New Institute you can order them with discount. Use code BP6195.
What Can Design Do? #1: Claims and Promises
Thursday 16 May, 2pm, Rabo Foyer, Stadsschouwburg
In this breakout session, we'll examine design's potential to genuinely solve problems and its significance for society. An opinion piece written by Timo de Rijk and published in the NRC Handelsblad and Archined recently sparked a debate in the Netherlands that makes the gulf between engineer-designers and artist-designers appear unbridgeable, especially when it comes to claims, promises and expectations of problem-solving. What role do the media play in the disagreement? They appear to be more of an arena for attention than a site of validation and discourse. Where does designers’ responsibility end? And should we hold design critics to account?
Timo de Rijk – A professor of design cultures at VU University in Amsterdam and head lecturer in design history at Delft University of Technology, De Rijk has curated a dozen exhibitions and chairs the Association of Dutch Designers.
David Kester – A board member of London publishers Thames & Hudson, Kester was chief executive of Britain's Design Council for almost a decade. He is affiliated with various educational institutions and spent years on the council of London's Royal College of Art. He will give the keynote address on the first day of What Design Can Do!
Jan Konings – Konings, a public space designer, studied at the Design Academy Eindhoven and is currently affiliated with its contextual design master's course. He worked with the designer Jurgen Bey for seven years and cofounded Schie 2.0.
Tim Vermeulen, exhibitions manager at The New Institute and member of the What Design Can Do! editorial board, will moderate the debate.
What Can Design Do? #2: Redefining Results
Friday 17 May, 2pm, Rabo Foyer, Stadsschouwburg
Many designers and architects are shifting their focus from results to processes, since fixing problems and constructing big master plans have often proven to be the wrong strategies.
This breakout session will look at new strategies for dealing with the complex, urgent problems the world faces today and new, better ways, a new vocabulary to talk about results. We'll shift the focus from finding solutions to creating possibilities and improving processes – from master plans to minimum viable products and grand visions to grand adjustments, in Rahul Mehrotra’s terms. How can we redefine results? How can we best shape the design practice and design education of the future? What can we learn from other countries, and what are some interesting new models? Which forces will we have to reckon with?
Rahul Mehrotra – Mehrotra is the founder and director of RMA Architects, which maintains offices in Mumbai and Boston, and a professor and head of the urban planning and design faculty at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He will deliver the keynote address on the second day of What Design Can Do!
Anthony Dunne – A professor and head of the design interactions programme at London’s Royal College of Art, Dunne also co-owns Dunne & Raby, a studio that uses design to spur discussion of the social, cultural and ethical implications of existing and emerging technologies.
Alastair Fuad Luke – A professor in emerging design practice at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture at Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland, Fuad Luke is also the author of The Eco-Design Handbook and an activist. He is affiliated with various academies, social groups and commercial companies.
Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, a programme coordinator at The New Institute, will act as moderator.
What Design Can Do! is an initiative of Richard van der Laken of Designpolitie and receives support from numerous sponsors and partners, including The New Institute.