Thirty Conversations on Design (www.thirtyconversationsondesign.com), an annual, online discussion to further the role design plays in shaping everyday life, gets underway for 2010 this week. Since its launch in 2009, the initiative has attracted the attention and participation of some of the world’s most influential creative professionals and commentators in modern design. A montage of this year’s early submissions can be viewed at: http://www.littleco.com/thirtyconversationsondesign.html
“Thirty conversations has taken on a worldwide life of its own,” says Joe Cecere, creative director, Little & Company, the design firm behind the launch of the discussion. “And that’s what we intended. This is an open platform for designers, architects, writers, thinkers and people who recognize the increasing importance of design on both a macro and micro level. We can’t wait to see the direction this year’s discussion takes or the issues it identifies.”
Thirty conversations on design asks 30 participants two simple questions: “what single example of design inspires you most?” and “what problem should design solve next?” Responses are returned in video format and added to the thirty conversations on design website (www.thirtyconversationsondesign.com) where the public can post comments and join the discussion. The ultimate goal of the project is to build an online archive that will serve as a source of inspiration for designers and marketers for years to come, and to remind all of us that design is not merely a mechanism to sell stuff to consumers, but rather, in its truest sense, design is a means to improve people’s lives.
Issues Identified from 2009
2009 program participants pointed to the vastly increased role design is playing in reshaping societal issues such as childhood obesity (Greg Hoffman, Nike) or how information is spread by redesigning the role of the book (Ellen Lupton, Cooper Hewitt Design Museum). Others highlighted vast macro issues by posing further questions to enhance the design community conversation, including Ed Fella from the California Institute of the Arts who highlighted the need to redesign not just Google but the way we search.
Trends Highlighted for 2010
Participants also pointed to coming trends for the future of design in 2010 and beyond. Edwin Chan, architect, talks about the need to manage the “urge for excess” and the how designers must find a balance between waste and maintaining quality in the products consumers by and use. Design legend Massimo Vignelli sums this thought up, pointing to the need to give people only what they need in society, not necessarily everything they want.
Many designers from 2009 talk about the need for sustainable design moving forward. Patrick Whitney of Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology argues sustainability needs to come from a redesign of the way society functions as populations grow. Energy consumption needs to be managed as an increasing number of people desire a higher standard of living that depletes natural resources. It’s a trend addressed by Minneapolis-based designer Joe Duffy too who cites nature as design inspiration and the need to protect it going forward. Fast Company editor Linda Tischler calls for a need for smarter urban design while Eric Ryan, Method argues the case for widespread grass roofs to beautify urban jungles.
“There were just such a wealth of perspective opinion and insight from contributors,” says Cecere. “And in areas that typically aren’t thought of as design. One of the most interesting trends identified has to be the evolution of communications – things like how the role of the book is changing that Ellen Lupton talked about, or Facebook’s contribution to how the world communicates highlighted by Miguel Vasquez.”
Participants in the 2009 thirty conversations on design project also included design legends Erik Spiekerman from Germany and Massimo Vignelli from Italy; Ed Fella from the California Institute of Design and many more. The 2010 initiative, now underway, includes skate and snowboarder Tony Hawk, leading business philosopher Daniel Pink, up-and-coming young designer Jessica Hische, and New York Times web design director Khoi Vinh. The 2010 conversation goes live September 1, 2010.
“This year is all about hearing from thinkers and influencers who design our everyday lives” adds Cecere. “It will be incredibly illuminating judging from the submissions we’re already starting to receive.”

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