Can design change the world?

What does design mean to you? Aesthetic and individual objects, something desirable but too expensive, classic furniture created by the big names, luxury that improves your status? Or something that surrounds us in our everyday life and has an enormous power?

The organizers of the What Design Can Do (WDCD) conference believe that design can make the world a better place. This international event about the impact of design is held for the fifth time on 21–22 May in Amsterdam. It celebrates problem solving abilities of design and its power in tackling the challenges of today’s society. Richard van der Laken, the initiator and director of What Design Can Do, states that we live in the Age of the Designer. In his column for Helsinki Design Weekly, he says that everything is design. “Wake up in the morning, check the time on the alarm clock, sit on a chair at a wooden table, eat some cereal out of a blue or white bowl, cycle to work, send messages via WhatsApp: all of that has been designed.” For van der Laken the Age of the Designer also means that designers seize the initiative, shape their own sector, and join with government, business, consumers, users and the public at large to change society. He lists some interesting examples from the humanitarian sector, such as Better Shelter refugee houses developed by The Ikea Foundation.

As the situation in Nepal is very topical, WDCD’s website also introduces other innovative solutions for areas suffering from humanitarian crisis, such as unmanned drones delivering help. And design can show its power in many other sectors: economy, energy, food, health, learning… The list is perhaps endless. We find this view on design very interesting and hope that the fifth What Design Can Do conference will have many positive outcomes. Follow the interesting blog of WDCD.

Photo credits: What Design Can Do, Better Shelter

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