If it wasn’t for design, you’d be naked right now, sitting outdoors, on a patch of raw ground. You wouldn’t have an iPhone to call for a ride, and even if you did, the person on the other end wouldn’t have a car to pick you up (they’d be naked and sitting outdoors too). You wouldn’t even have constructed a shelter from whale bones and moss. It would suck.
From what we wear to the spaces we inhabit to the communication devices we use, design is omnipresent. With this in mind, Reykjavík’s annual DesignMarch festival emphasises the importance of design. From open studios to new product launches, exhibitions, and debates among design thinkers, DesignMarch aims to express Icelandic design to the industry and the public alike.
A key component of this mission is DesignTalks—a day of seminars, debates and discussions that bring together various creatives, buyers, and a melee of interested folk, from enthusiasts to government officials, to talk over the issues of the moment.
Show and tell
“One of the main goals of DesignTalks is to reach out to people and show them how design affects their own lives,” says Hlín Helga, the curator and moderator of the day. “It acts as inspiration for the industry, sure; but it’s also this show-and-tell about what we do and what we’re capable of. Design is often about collaboration, so it’s essential that people realise that we’re here and know what we can do—and that people maybe take design more seriously.”
Designers’ work includes responding to the emergence of new materials, new technological capabilities, and fluctuating societal tides; sating individuals’ changing needs and desires; and catering to the mores of the industry itself.
“Design is always evolving,” says Hlín Helga. “Everything is changing, really, in society. In cities, countries, and the whole continent of Europe, we can see changing demographics, with people moving between countries, and governments struggling to provide everything for everybody. We need a lot of rethinking. Design has been exploring that space—not only because things are changing, but also because fundamental systems are broken and uncertainty is increasing. Also, there’s a louder voice about sustainability now. It doesn’t make sense for product designers just to think about tangible products. Design can and should contribute to the larger conversation forming—and informing—the future.”
Exploration, collaboration, development
This process of rethinking also involves a deep examination of what the discipline of design can be, and what more it has to offer.
“Speaking about new ways of approaching things doesn’t just mean new technology,” says Hlín. “There is an increasing interest in social innovation. There’s a momentum in collaboration—urban planning, process design—dreams and desires even—all going through design as a medium. And I think people are increasingly open to that exploration.”
The online world has also birthed a new frontier, with designers looking past how a website looks, to whether the interface feels intuitive to use. “We have so many companies right now—Facebook, Airbnb, Uber, and of course Apple—that use systems,” explains Hlín Helga. “They’re technology-based, tapping into desires, needs and behaviours to improve life, and evolving with people. These companies are directly based on design thinking. Design is embedded within the concept, and it’s not just a skin applied to make things pretty.”
“So, designers are impacting our everyday lives in more ways than ever before,” she finishes. “We’re rethinking and reinventing everything—asking, ‘We have access to all this technology—now what else can design do?’”
Learn more about DesignTalks here.