Terraforming tomorrow: the Innovation School
We might be tempted to think of the students who are graduating from B.Des/MEDes Product Design this June as “the Covid year,” unlucky folk who have experienced a fluke misfortune, poor souls picked upon by Fate. However, to do so would be wrong, even foolish – and maybe even insulting. Instead, it may prove wiser to view these young designers as pioneers, the first to set foot in a strange new land, or even world. Certainly, Corona Virus has changed the planet we live upon, the world of Covid-19 obeys different laws governing social, cultural and economic interactions than the one we had previously inhabited. Only the laws of Nature remain unchanged, the rules governing human interaction have been transformed: the previously unconsidered behaviours that made up daily life are now fraught with complication, and even danger. Habit, the unthinking historical inheritance of ways of living, is now to be viewed with suspicion.
And, who better to interrogate habit, to transform behaviour and re-invent experiences than designers trained in creating products, services and interactions? The graduates of 2020 may just be the most valuable resource our shaken society has – smart young minds possessed of fresh eyes and new ideas. So, as we travel from a pre-Covid world to a post-Covid world, the challenge for designers and entrepreneurs is not how to put electric cars on Mars (seriously, Elon, what were you thinking?), but, instead, how to make the world safe for ourselves, our families and friends, the elderly, the infirm and those seeking social shielding. We are continually told about the “new normal,” or that there will be no going back to how things used to be: inevitably, then, the imagining of the future, the creation of the world of tomorrow is a labour that requires to be undertaken.
Product Design’s class of 2020 have explored the role of data in allowing citizens to shape the city they wish to live in; they have worked with inter-disciplinary experts from the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network to re-imagine the relationship between Global North and South. Their project work is built upon the capacity to collaborate, utilise the expertise of others, work in inter-disciplinary teams, appreciate cultural and contextual sensitivity, combined with the ability to visualise complexity, give form and materiality to ideas, to prototype and refine. These are the skills required to turn fear of contagion into new forms of co-operation, to rid the world of “lockdown” and replace it with innovative ways of living. That planet lost to global pandemic will not be re-discovered, instead, we must build a new world, a world after Covid-19, where we will all live. And it is lucky for us that it is these young graduates who will have the task of designing this better tomorrow.
Dr Gordon Hush
Head of the Innovation School, GSA