At DesignMarch, design education comes first: inspiring talks and visionary speakers

An attempt to understand how to address our creativity as we aim for a more sustainable future

Design Talks are a fundamental part of the design education. During the last edition of the Icelandic major design event – DesignMarch – the theme was “The relation between nature and our will and ability to reconnect with it“.

A means of stressing how much we need to adjust, more and more, to the rhythm of nature, its spaces and its rules. For ages, we have attempted to modify and take control of nature, even though it would be much easier to respect it and maximize its potential.

Nature has so much to offer, especially nowadays, through the use of ever-advancing technology and the endless opportunities it holds. DesignMarch therefore, is not purely Design, but an attempt to understand how to address our creativity as we aim for a more sustainable future; it is thus, a real Design Experience.

DesigMarch - Design Talks - Harpa Concert Hall // Staircase
© DesignWanted / DesignMarch Talks

Design Talks in a Wonderful Frame

The talks were held in the spectacular Harpa Concert Hall, designed by the Danish studio, Henning Larsen, in collaboration with Danish-Islandic artist, Olafur Eliasson. The end result of such collaboration has become, without a doubt, a symbol of Reykjavik.

Steel and glass shape the structure, allowing for an abundance of natural light, making it the perfect place to welcome guests to the Talk program, presented by Hlín Helga Gudlaugsdóttir, Design Thinking Consultant at Capacent.

DesigMarch - Design Talks - Harpa Concert Hall
© DesignWanted / DesignMarch Talks

Feeling our Future through Creativity

The first lecturer at DesignMarch was Paul Bennett, Chief Creative Officer of IDEO, also co-moderator of the Design Talks. The talk was thoroughly impressive. He is clearly a very charismatic figure, as well as a visionary and a story teller able to inspire change.

During his talk he was able to induce tears and laughter, and he made us ponder how a creative approach can lead to change, not only in products, but also within people and society as a whole.

He basically takes design to a different level, becoming a driver of change and innovation through an emotional path. He spoke about his “design” experience in Congo, the story of his family and the place where he was born, Singapore; he uttered words of appreciation for his father who encouraged him to cultivate his passion for design and creativity, and told us how this passion has grown within himself.

Creativity has become much more than just a work. It is the key to establish a real connection between our present and a better future. It’s no surprise that Paul has been appointed the moderator for subsequent talks.

[ Read also DesignMarch 2022: Celebrating creativity and optimism ]

Design Talks at DesignMarch Paul Bennet
© DesignWanted / DesignMarch Talks

Melting Borders, from Data to Visual

Folder Studio, founded in 2011 by Marco Ferrari and Elisa Pasqual, is active in the field of design and research in the public and private sector. Its purpose is to take ideas and concepts and transform them into visual exhibitions, in Italy and abroad. They transform what is often just considered simple data into a more significant concept through visual works of art.

Among the project presented to DesignMarch, a special note goes to Italian Limes, an ongoing research project and an interactive installation that explores the most remote Alpine regions, where national borders are “movable” due to drift, caused by global warming and shrinking glaciers.

It shows how natural frontiers are subject to the complexity of continuous ecological processes, depending on the type of technology and norms used to represent them.

Huge concepts, which are usually invisible to individuals, but are actually relevant to every citizen of the world. For this reason, they encourage cultural discourses on our geopolitical approach in the near future.

DesignMarch - Design Talks - Studio Folder by Marco Ferrari
© Studio Folder / DesignMarch Talks

Fast and Slow, The Evolving Designer

Alexander Taylor, from London, is an industrial designer and innovative consultant for Adidas. His London-based studio was established in 2002, and places a strong focus on research and development of manufacturing techniques, material processes, and technical collaboration.

Thanks to the collaboration with Adidas, he has worked on the creation of a shoe made from recycled plastic collected from the sea. The so-called Adidas Parley has been created as a limited edition (only 50 samples) using procedures already in existence, with the purpose of showing how an experimental approach can have a hugely positive effect on the environment.

Marginal improvement such as this could lead to much greater positive impacts if applied on a larger scale. As a matter of fact, Parley for the Oceans is an initiative committed to saving and protecting oceans and marine life.

DesignMarch - Design Talks - Adidas Perley by Alexander Taylor
© DesignWanted / DesignMarch Talks

Documentary Design, knowing where “Things” come from

A talk held by Christien Meindertsma at DesignMarch, solo designer from the Netherlands. She tackles a very peculiar topic: her book PIG 05049 illustrates all the products that can be obtained from a pig, and not only addresses the final market but also the third party industry.

I admit that at first it seemed to be a bit of a macabre subject, but after thinking it over, I realised just how much we take most things around us for granted. We look at the final product without questioning where it comes from, or even considering that at the beginning of the production chain there is always somebody who gets their hands dirty by experimenting.

On reflection it became clear that it is not right to simply judge, without gaining profound knowledge of things, and considering our relationship to them.

The message the designer wishes to convey is that by digging deeper and understanding, we can, in fact, form greater respect towards nature, and sometimes look for alternative solutions. Christien is a brilliant speaker, smart and funny, and is able to tell stories with extraordinary and captivating irony.

Not surprisingly, her work has received international awards and been exhibited in MOMA (New York), The V&A (London), the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum (New York) and the London Design Museum, where she currently has an installation exploring the potential of recycling textiles, once again demonstrating how much design can contribute to shaping a better reality.

DesignMarch - Design Talk by Christien Meindertsma
© Christien Meindertsma / DesignMarch Talks

Shame / less, against Ordinary Taboos

The first impression I had of Michèle Degen’s talk was that it dealt with an “out of the ordinary project”, somewhat slightly off centre. However, the only thing that is out of ordinary here is her tremendous ability to make you reflect upon highly sensitive matters.

‘Vulva-versa’ is the name of her smart project which gave birth to an apparently simple product, with a very strong meaning and purpose.

The product itself is a mirror for women to reflect their own vagina, Michele’s profound intention being to invite every woman to discover and appreciate her own unique and perfectly-imperfect identity.

We live in a time where there is a strong focus on the aesthetic concept, and where the spiritual movement is playing a central role. Both aspects are aimed however, at getting to know ourselves better as a whole, in terms of body, mind and spirit.

A very “simple” product which, in my opinion, identifies a psychological and market need. An approach that, leaving old society taboos behind, alludes to an intimate subject almost never publicly addressed.

The World Beyond Our Senses

DesignMarch Talks’ last presentation was by visual artist, Ersin Han Ersin, from Turkey, creative director of the Marshmallow Laser Feast (London based), a study that makes use of technology for interpreting the function of the human senses and therefore the perception we have of the world.

Among its clients are U2 and Nike. Ersin creates sensory installations that interactively redefine our expectations of technology and its power to offer emotional experiences and the ability to instill a sense of wonder.

DesignMarch - Design Talk by Ersin Han Ersin // Marshmallow Laser Feast
© Ersin Han Ersin / DesignMarch Talks
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