Turin design conference sets global agenda

The first-ever conference on global design policy has set an unprecedented macro approach in raising awareness of the worldwide design industry.

It sounds lofty, but according to delegates and organisers of last week’s event – Shaping the Global Design Agenda: The International Conference on Design Policy Opens Up – sharing best design practice and knowledge internationally is the best way to tackle issues affecting all countries, such as sustainability and economic recession. ‘It’s never been more important for governments to better understand design’s potential to formulate national policies that can integrate design appropriately into mainstream innovation, cultural and industrial policy,’ says programme director and president of the Bureau of European Design Associations, Michael Thomson.

‘One of the practical outcomes is that design – and indirectly, the design industries – will, in the future, get access to far greater funding streams than is currently possible. The idea is to effectively influence policy-makers as to how design as a strategic approach can be a catalyst for good. Design can help to solve key issues such as economic competitiveness, job creation and better services – for example, in healthcare,’ he says.

While national design events such as Barcelona Design Week, taking place this week, touch on design policy relative to their homelands, Shaping the Global Design Agenda, which took place from 6-7 November, brought together an international delegation of academics, government representatives, business leaders and policy-makers to share experiences, knowledge and different design approaches for global good.

Beijing Municipal People’s Congress representative and director of the Beijing Industrial Design Centre Song Weizu, founding chairman of World Design Capital Peter Zec, and managing director of the Arab Engineering Bureau in Qatar Ibrahim Al Jaidah were among representatives from countries that included Finland, China, Costa Rica, Italy and the UK.

Thomson says, ‘We heard how Qatar is facing rampant development in its construction industry at the risk of losing its national identity, while China voiced its need for global support in combating the tremendous environmental challenges there. China is also affected by the global economic downturn, with hundreds of factories closing. While we’ve lost our manufacturing industry, they’re faced with the challenge of finding something else.’

Keynote speaker and chief executive of the UK Design Council David Kester explained how policy translates into more practical terms. He says, ‘By and large, design policy is all about design within national policy at a strategic level. Ultimately, areas like education, competitiveness, innovation, healthcare, urban planning and investment is actually where design fits in.’

Capital Ideas for World Design

• Shaping the Global Design Agenda took place as part of the Turin World Design Capital 2008

• Turin officially handed over the designation of World Design Capital to Seoul for 2010

• Peter Zec, founding chairman of World Design Capital and International Council of Societies of Industrial Design senator, launched the bid process to select a city for 2012

• Agence Pour la Promotion de la Création Industrielle will hold a two-day conference in Paris in January 2009 on design promotion and policy at EU level

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