By Mary McBride
The April conference in Milan was an attempt to surface and discuss 21st century challenges that are relevant to design leaders. Speakers addressed how designers might influence change to our economic systems, shape our sustainable future, facilitate cross-functional collaboration, and better integrate design into corporate culture.
Speakers included, Stefano Marzano, CEO and Chief Creative Director at Philips Design. Marzano provocatively suggested crises also bring opportunities. As businesses and society face increasingly difficult choices, design is an important strategy in positioning brands within a changing market. Designers, armed with an intimate understanding of the business and a deep understanding of people, are uniquely positioned to apply their creativity to build positive customer experiences.
A highlight of day two at the conference was speaker Marco Steinberg, who is Associate Professor of Architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design and the Strategic Design Director at Finnish Innovation Fund. In his presentation, Strategic Design: Solving Complex Challenges, Steinberg said that society is facing a broad range of complex challenges—healthcare, sustainability, education—that reside at the intersection of what we know. Because key decision makers cannot always visualize and synthesize the complete picture, they are often blind-sided by unintended consequences of their actions, which ultimately produce no net improvement. As an integrative discipline, he suggested that design is uniquely positioned to fill this strategic need.
In addition, the conference entertained the “Design Magic of Milan” and why there is such a unique and continuing Milan design history.