Design brought on to agenda at Davos

Debates are being held to bring design on to the agenda at the World Economic Forum annual meeting which starts in Davos, Switzerland, today.

The overall theme of this year’s meeting, which runs until 1 February, is ‘shaping the post-crisis world’.

Design critic and former Design Museum director Alice Rawsthorn will be curating two debates focused on design.

The first, What is Good Design?, held tomorrow, will feature contributions from Tim Brown, chief executive of global consultancy Ideo, and industrial designer Yves Béhar, founder of Fuse Project.

The members of the panel will present one example of good design and one of bad design, and discuss the reasons for their selection.

Brown says he will concentrate on system design, using Pure Digital’s Flip video camera, which is smaller than a mobile phone and plugs into computers through a USB, as the example of successful design, and Amazon’s Kindle electronic reader as an example of less successful design.

He says, ‘We have a habit of focusing on specific items when we talk about design, but I think the design challenge is systematic. For example, in the case of the Kindle you have something which at the high level is a good idea, but at the design level hasn’t worked, because some bad choices have been made.’

Béhar says he will compare two cars, the Hummer and the Smart car. He describes both models as ‘iconic’, but says the Hummer has ‘little insight into a changing world’.

At the second debate to be curated by Rawsthorn, Design for Good, which is scheduled for Friday, Béhar will present a working model of his XOXO computer. This is the successor to his XO laptop for the One Laptop per Child project, which won a Design Museum Brit Insurance Design Award last year.

Rawsthorn, a member of the WEF council for design, says, ‘Design was introduced to the agenda three years ago, and this has now expanded to regular design sessions.

‘But it is equally important that design should be involved as part of the wider discussion outside the design debates.’

Brown, who is also a member of the council for design and the WEF council for alternative energy, says, ‘Designers are good at helping people and coming up with ideas. I think it’s very important for design to contribute to the wider debate.’

Design debates attendees

What is Good Design?
Fuse Project founder Yves Béhar; Ideo chief executive Tim Brown; Hilary Cottam, founder of Participle; Paola Antonelli, design curator at New York’s Museum of Modern Art; Liz Diller, co-founder of US architect Diller Scofidio and Renfro; and architect and sustainability expert Bill McDonough

Design for Good
Cottam, Brown and Béhar; Architecture for Humanity founder Cameron Sinclair; and Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme

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