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A trip to Japan – K2 Symposium Design Future Cities

We traveled to Tokyo and Fukuoka in Japan in our global mission to fight design waste and grow a community of design labs and cities as part of a global chain to solve the world’s most prominent challenges. Below is a brief description of our mission and the story we brought at the K2 Symposium on Design Future Cities:

Cities as Design Power Stations in a Global Innovation Chain

Cities are opting to becoming smarter cities, which is leading to large investments in ICT and technological enhancement. At the same time open innovation is on the rise, alongside the empowerment of citizens to shape the innovation and urban development. Where we as a design lab see an important opportunity is to create a global innovation chain of cities that embrace the power of design methodology and process thinking as a common language.

Design process thinking is vital to prevent ‘design waste’

We are living in a world of plenty. Plenty of people, plenty of passion, plenty of knowledge, plenty of skills, and definitely plenty of ideas. Ideas. Our creativity. It is the one resource that will never dry out, but it is the one resource that we waste every day. Over. And over. Again. But, aren’t we, as designers and creators, there to save the day? Yes, but we don’t. Not enough at least.
Despite the conferences, the blogs, the meetups, the hackathons, the jams, we started noticing that there is no real culture of sharing in the design field. We do not openly re-use insights nor ideas. We want to do our own thing, we want to make that method our own, we want to look autonomous and authentic. As a result, valuable insights from design processes are lost. We started calling this loss ‘Design Waste’ and initiated a mission to fight it. Now, we are calling out to the creative community to join the fight and start building on each other’s work more.

The real waste is in the process!
Design waste is the loss of valuable work from the design process by a lack of a culture of SHARING our process.
This prevents us from building on each other’s work in a sustainable way and therefore from creating a global chain of innovation.

MediaLAB Amsterdam is on a mission to fight design waste

We curate and create tools and methods (Design Method Toolkit) to facilitate a standard and a common language to facilitate sharing. Currently we are working on translating the Design Method Toolkit in Japanese, Spanish and Portuguese, in order to enhance worldwide distribution and involvement. We also call out to our partners and the creative community in general to help us evolve this language. As it is seen as a language, our toolkit is never finished and continuously adapting itself to current needs and challenges.

To kickstart an innovation chain on a global level and to work on developing this ‘common language’ of methods, we started experimenting with an international network of multidisciplinary design teams working together simultaneously on global issues from a local context (Design Across Cultures) and searching for a common language of design methods to have a better way to share, compare and build on each other’s work. Cities include Barcelona, Bangalore, Copenhagen, Fukuoka and Rochester.

We are also working on a platform where intermediate knowledge coming from the design processes can better be documented, shared and (re)used.

Cities functioning as local power stations to solve global issues, as part of a global innovation chain

We believe in the power of locality to solve global issues. Cities are a perfect context for creating small-sized eco-systems where design waste is reduced. From there, we think that intensifying collaborations between creatives between cities is vital to tackle design waste on a global level and build on each other’s work.

Cities are the new nations when it comes to solving the most prominent global issues…

We see that real innovation is more frequently speeding up within city contexts rather than national contexts. We believe cities should therefore take up on the responsibility to not only design the city of the future, but rather tomorrow’s society.

We have started working with the United Nations on the development of a network of makers/ designers around the global goals for sustainable development (SDGs) (as adopted by the UN). This network focuses on cities and we connect them via a yearly event called the Global Goals Jam. Last year, we had 17 cities with over 500 jammers worldwide working for two days on innovations that will help us move forward with the SDG’s.

We have been extremely happy to present these ideas recently at the K2 symposium, Design Future Cities, in Fukuoka (Japan), sharing the stage with prof. Barry Katz (Stanford D School) and Bryan Boyer (former Helsinki Design Lab).

We would like to invite everybody to join us in our mission and participate in September in the next edition of the Global Goals Jam or organize one in your own home town. Join us! Join the Design Across Cultures movement to make a real difference and to be that design power station in a global chain of innovation!

An impression of our trip