Towards social and experimental design

posted in: news, prospective | 0
CC by Liz West
A pile of applications Image by Liz West (cc)

In the last weeks I had the honor to be jury member at the Arts Promotion Center – Finland (Taike Taiteen Kehitämiskeskus). Taike is one of the organizations in Finland that give grants to design and artistic endeavors and multicultural organizations. I was in the Design and Architecture board and participated as expert adviser in the Multiculturality board.  The activity was quite exhaustive. I read more than four hundred (400!) applications in a short time, but also inspiring. It was great to have a the opportunity to read and learn about many exciting projects and initiatives all around Finland. Normally I get to know mainly what happens in Helsinki.

I want to share a couple of insights that came from this work in relation to service and interaction design:

  1. Service and Interaction designers are in general not applying for these grants. Maybe twice within the 400 applications I read the words “service design” or “interaction design”. This tells something about the development of these fields. My interpretation is that as at the moment there are many positions open for service and interaction designers, most of us have already stable incomes and we do not need to rely on grants. However, grants allow designers to do experimental and non-commercial work. These fields could greatly benefit of more experimental work not attached to commercial results. This is a path that we here in Suo&Co want to follow more to  continue imagining futures, without having only the brief of a client. This is work that can be done in parallel to providing services for organizations, and actually complements these actions quite well.
  2. In the applications for multicultural projects, for example,  there were lots of artists planning all kind of activities with immigrants, refugees or asylum seekers: drawing and writing comics, painting, theater, dancing, circus, making music and videos and others. Mostly these activities were planned as part of workshops, which is also a usual frame for design activities. However, there was none in which service or interaction designers were planning to do collaborative work with immigrants or refugees. This does not mean that there are not such activities, because for example Open Knowledge Finland have organized successfully a hackathon in which they have kick started design work with/for refugees. But my point is that we need more activities in which design is put into use for social change in the context of migration challenges.

If you are eager to work on these issues, let us know. We are looking for partners to set up new social projects that could be also experimental.