The world has moved on since British Design & Art Direction launched SuperHumanism, in a blaze of glory, on the creative community. The event, held in May, aimed to throw up ideas of how creativity can improve our lot as people. It promised much more than the usual conference, with a glittering array of international speakers from US-based luminaries John Maeda, ad man Dan Wieden and the feisty No Logo author Noami Klein, to UK design great Malcolm Garrett and Oxford professor and philosopher Theodore Zeldin, and a pre-event emphasis on interaction with the audience. This was to be no ordinary event, we were told.
It turned out to be ordinary enough, despite the high calibre of the speakers and the audience. There was no real debate. Meanwhile, the interaction and the manifesto mooted at the outset of the initiative proved to be little more than pipe dreams. Events since, from the drawn-out decline in digital business to the destruction of New York’s Twin Towers and subsequent war in Afghanistan, have had a far more radical effect on all our lives – more even than SuperHumanism activists might have anticipated.
But what SuperHumanism did do was identify, if unwittingly, that if there is a way of making life better for more people, the key lies in design rather than in other creative arenas. The role of advertising and marketing is only as strong as the message they are promoting and increasingly that message comes from design, and most obviously from 3D thinking.
It is interesting, therefore, that the Design Business Association should pick a similar theme for its Design Challenge this week. Though that event will inevitably be more modest than SuperHumanism, it has the advantage of being a practical exercise, rather like Seymour Powell’s Designs on your TV series, and it is concerned solely with design.
Appreciating that there is a lot of great creative talent in design, as much on the thinking side as on the doing, we are also seeking to stimulate that side of the business, aiming to pick up where SuperHumanism left off. Like the DBA challenge, our effort is limited in its scope, but we don’t want the impetus to stop here.
As we approach the end of a difficult year for most folk, we aim to set an agenda for 2002 that promotes design for what is really is – a small, but influential business sector peopled with truly great individuals and teams. If you wish to add your ideas, theoretical or practical, to those expressed by participants in this issue, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will give them a wider airing.