Article Review

‘The Design Economy’ from Design Council is a series of commissioned articles that exploring how design is transforming the way we live, work and play in a rapid changing world of advanced technology and creative revolution. The topics that are discussed the most, also known as the ‘key issues that will drive the design economy of the future’, are social problems. Of which, journalist James Pallister has mentioned about in his article published in May, 2015: “The Design Economy primer: how design revolutionizing health, business, cities and government”.

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Read the assigned article here: The Design Economy primer: how design is revolutionising health, business, cities and government

James’s article posed the question of design’s function in each of the four critical issues in the UK that are: health, business, cities and government.

John Mathers, Chief Executive of the Design Council, asks us to pause for a moment to consider, “How has design, which many still associate largely with style and consumerism, come to be something one might look to for solutions to the most complex and challenging problems facing humanity today – problems requiring not just local fixes using clever design objects, but solutions that reimagine systems themselves? Are we, at this point, really even still talking about the same discipline?”

The questions, perhaps, boil down to one: ‘What should design do?’

Starting with Heath, James then went on in an order of which overview information, specific issues and further reading references were provided in each field, giving the readers a general yet clear idea of what he discussed about. Generally, the article was exciting to read. It has not only addressed several problems that the society was currently facing but also suggested some compelling design-led solutions from leading companies, research institutes, designers and creative thinkers to each. However, I’ve personally found that some of the problems only existed in the first-world countries. Hence, their associated solutions didn’t sound appealing or even realistic to me.

Considering the fact that where I’m from – Vietnam, is a developing agricultural country in South East Asia, the urgent social issues that the people are facing everyday aren’t really about having their health checked in a fancy innovative hospital, or even more exciting, having a sort of creative system that would help them generate ideas or a good decision for everyday life concern. Such question like “How can we support people to make effective choices for their own care needs or those of a loved one?” from one of Jame’s suggested further reading articles “Design For Care” is truly out of the question for a country in which design council or design institute have not even existed yet. It’s fair that people stated that the utmost mission of ‘design’ is to solve social issues. But it is also very hard to be innovative towards first-world problems without facing the truth that on the other half of the world, people are still struggling with poverty, with the lack of even the most basic needs like food, clean water and education.

This article has caught me pondering about my role as a citizen, a student who is currently majoring in Design Management & Cultures and a person who sees herself working in the creative industry in the near future. Using social problems as key element for design in the feature – ‘design as a creative catalyst for social changes’ is no doubt the most positive way our generation could think of to make the world a better place.

This post will continue with a few examples of how young people in Vietnam have employed design as a tool of making positive changes in their community.

List of projects that will be discussed are as follows:

  • Think Playgounds
  • Mường Studio and Eco-design workshop
  • Touch Charity

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