What Design Can Do

Much of our focus at Design Public has been on understanding innovation processes and how they can be unleashed to serve the public interest. But design is an intrinsic and essential part of any such innovation process, a subtlety which is often difficult to explain to non-specialists. To some extent, I must admit, our focus and thematic has been guided by strategic considerations: many people in India want to talk about innovation. Only a very few want to talk about design — and those that do want to talk about Design seem only to care about lifestyle, fashion and home decor.

These two terms, innovation and design, come to us from different discourses and different trajectories, even though they have recently collided and folded into one another in complex ways. In different parts of the world, their insides and outsides, their intricate imbrication, may be organized in different ways. In the Netherlands, unlike in India, design is the primary conceptual category, and under it innovation and other related forms of activity are subsumed.

This coming week I’m off to the What Design Can Do conference in Amsterdam, organized by Premsela, the Netherlands Institute for Design and Fashion. Their evangelical mission is perhaps clearer than ours was at Design Public: they want to find stories and cases where design has made a difference and celebrate this, so as to educate Europe and the world about how to do more of this. Expect occasional updates!


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