D&AD takes the stand to defend SuperHumanism

I am writing in response to the ‘open letter to the organisers of SuperHumanism’ (DW 23 August).

This forum involved leading practitioners from design and advertising. It started a debate on the role of the individual in society, corporate and state responsibilities and, in particular, imperatives for designers. It attracted 450 senior folk in business, design, Government and academic circles and generated lengthy and informative articles in many journals.

I hesitate to engage with some of the personal criticism of individuals, as voiced in the letter to Design Week. However, as the views expressed are so wildly inaccurate I would like to deal with some of the factual points.

First, the author quotes Richard Seymour out of context. Seymour did talk about the need to ‘pull technology towards our emotional needs’. But it is a misunderstanding to interpret this as an argument for non-human engagement. Quite the reverse. Seymour actually cited phone queuing systems as an example of technology which has led us in the wrong direction.

Second, the author attempts to take a pop at John Warwicker and Tomato, attempting to cast them in the role of corporate apologists. What the author failed to comprehend is that the SuperHuman

ism conference was a forum: we invited many speakers to represent a wide spectrum of views. For instance, we had Dan Wieden, whose agency Wieden & Kennedy acts as brand architect for Nike, but the keynote address was made by Naomi Klein, the anti-corporate writer of No Logo fame. Bringing together contrasting viewpoints on one podium is what good forums are all about.

Third, we are told that the fee was too much. Admission to SuperHumanism was £450. As a charity, British Design & Art Direction priced the event so that it would break even while covering all expenses. Thanks to our sponsors we were able to secure well-respected speakers, while keeping the admission price down. In addition, D&AD is currently adding all the transcripts and articles on to its website. This will ensure that all the thinking is distilled and made available at no cost. The service will be launched at the Design Council’s Design in Business Week in October, by Richard Seymour.

Finally, SuperHumanism was not just a forum. The challenge to save humanity in one day was loaded with irony – something that nearly everyone, I believe, understood. The long-term motive was to raise important issues and hopefully stimulate positive change within our industries.

The forum started a process of engagement, one that D&AD is looking forward to continuing through the forthcoming website, and in future events and forums.

David Kester

Chief executive



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