I had the incredible opportunity of attending a talk given by Ezio Manzini, during the Sir Misha Black awards at the Royal College of Arts, London this week. Mr. Ezio was present there to receive the Sir Misha Black award for his incredible work in the area of design and social innovation. Ezio Manzini’s work has held me captivated since my first year as a design student back in 2000 and I am thrilled to have finally met him and spoken to him.
His talk was very inspiring and however hard it was, every now and then I did manage to peel away and take some quick notes on my phone…
Ezio spoke about some very big ideas and it is difficult to summarise them with ease or even understand their depth without studying them carefully. I can perhaps do more justice to them in person however he is a quick summary. Mr. Manzini raised some key questions on our approach as designers and more importantly about the value service design can add to our everyday. I am certain we all encounter these questions as designers in to day practice. Since a lot of our design approach is user centric, one has to often question the nature of the role that users play in a creative process.
What is the extent of the role a user plays in a user centric approach?
Is he merely a node for information gathering and idea testing or is he/she a collaborator?
Give people tools that guarantee their right to work with independent efficiently and that allow the user to express his meaning in action.
Ezio Manzini’s work as been ground breaking in the area of social innovation and he set up ‘DESIS’ (Design for Social Innovation towards Sustainability) which is a network of design labs, based in design schools and design-oriented universities, actively involved in promoting and supporting sustainable change. Endorsed by the United Nations Environment Programme. The vision of DESIS and I quote from their website here, is…
In the complexity of contemporary society, social innovation is spreading and its potential, as a driver of sustainable change, is increasing. To facilitate this process, the design community, in general, and design schools, in particular, can play a pivotal role.
As designers and more specifically as service designers, our processes are the same. The tools that we use are similar and our inspirations overlap dramatically. Mr. Manzini rightly points out.
‘All designers in this area are working in the same way. We can enable systems but we have a weakness in incorporating sustainable qualities. We can talk, show how things might work but we lack the real culture.’
And it is this’real culture’ that we need to define and strengthen in the way we deliver our outcomes.
Like I mentioned earlier, it is hard to summarise all his thoughts in a short blog post, however, it is surely worth thinking about how our process fit into the greater environment and as designers how can we create systems and ideas that empower us as a society.
Lao tzu writes in the Tao Te Ching
‘Give man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifestyle.’
And finally I want to end with one of his last slides. One of our fundamental needs and a fundamental principle for us to remember in everything we create and every idea we germinate.