Design Principles to Change the World

Design Principles

Years ago, Autodesk sponsored the fantastic TV series, E2, covering the latest in sustainability—livable cities to green architecture to green energy. E2 was a show before its time. It positioned Autodesk in my mind as a true leader in sustainability and thus, I was excited to hear Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk, speak at the Social Innovation Summit in Palo Alto this past November. Starting with the precept that, “Design is a set of constraints for reaching a solution,” Carl outlined three global challenges and five trends for using design to envision and build a better world.

Three Global Challenges Given the current interconnectedness of the world, three global challenges are becoming increasingly important aspects of design:

  1. Scale: Is it possible and is it appropriate to scale your solution?
  2. Complexity: What does the context look like? Can you take a systemic view?
  3. Politics: What politics are involved and how can you navigate?

Five Trends for Innovation

  1. Ownership to Access: Instead of a burdensome overhead, entrepreneurs can pay for access to needed equipment. For example, TechShop, where inventors can purchase a monthly membership to gain access to fabrication machines.
  2. Business Unusual: Good ideas are formed everywhere.
  3. Digital Fabrication: Digital capabilities now make possible 3-D printing, additive, subtractive, robotic assembly and nanoscale capabilities. The industrial revolution focused on large quantities of the same product. Digital fabrication enables customization and the ability to make smaller quantities while still realizing a profit.
  4. Rise of Information: The speed and access to information is unprecedented. Check out Instructables for an amazing example of sharing design.
  5. Infinite Computing: Computing is one rare thing that comes down in price over time. In addition, digital prototypes save time and money.

Examples of companies using design to change world:

MASS Design Group: They use 3-D models to design and incorporate feedback from thousands of local people. They prove that architecture can improve healthcare, education and build community.

D-Rev: Among other offerings, D-Rev has designed an inexpensive prosthetic limb device.

BioLite: Offer stoves that generate heat with 95% less emissions and can charge a cell phone.

Listening to his talk, I get the feeling that enlightened design just might in fact change the world.

Author:  Stephanie Wolcott