Design researchers should play a more active role in the public debate. The knowledge they generate should be brought to bear and interact more with knowledge from other disciplines and professions. Nille Juul-Sørensen, who took up the position as CEO of the Danish Design Centre in November 2011, sees this as a condition for finding visionary answers to current challenges.
By Hans Emborg Bünemann
PORTRAIT The knowledge generated by Danish design researchers is sorely needed in our search for answers to the major challenges that society is facing, says the new CEO of the Danish Design Centre (DDC), Nille Juul-Sørensen. The design profession knows a great deal about handling complex issues, he says, but Danish designers often base their work on gut feelings.
“We need to move that knowledge out of the gut region, substantiate it with written documentation and, not least, make it visible. In this context, design research has an extremely important contribution to make. The researchers should play a more active role in the public debate to make sure that their knowledge is applied far better and more broadly than it has been,” he recommends.
“We need to create solutions that are thought through, and which combine the knowledge that design research offers about user involvement, aesthetics and functionality with knowledge from other fields of research. In combination with the design researchers’ descriptions of design processes the methods that designers use can interact with essential knowledge from any other discipline or profession. In that sense, design research can act as a magnet for the various types of knowledge that are needed to create viable, visionary solutions to complex challenges,” he says.
|Visionary solutions. A design approach could have elevated the discussion about traffic congestion in Copenhagen and generated a visionary debate about how to create a city with less noise and pollution, the DDC CEO argues.
Illustration: Dansk Design Center
As a public-spirited man, Nille Juul-Sørensen’s brings up the current discussion about the traffic congestion in Copenhagen as an example of the need for visions.
“The politicians began to talk about a toll-based ‘congestion ring’, which instantly made everyone think ‘more taxes’ and ‘they want to restrict my mobility’,” Nille Juul-Sørensen explains. “Instead we could have used a design approach to take a long-term perspective and asked the people living in Copenhagen, What would you like your city to be like twenty years from now? That would have generated a visionary debate with a broad perspective and interesting future scenarios for a city with less noise and pollution,” he argues.
According to the DDC CEO, that would have paved the way for a constructive design process based on combined insights about traffic, mobility, behavioural research etc.
“That sort of design solution could make behavioural changes a natural and accepted means of creating a cooler city for all of us,” says Nille Juul-Sørensen.
The new CEO of the Danish Design Centre emphasises the need to take advantage of the good design knowledge that Denmark possesses. And he has no doubt that it is in demand. He recently welcomed a delegation of top executives from large Chinese companies in the fields of fashion, shipping and digital technology. They had come to Denmark to look into the potential for placing development departments here.
“We have a very flexible industry and labour market and a unique educational approach in our schools that teaches the children to reflect from day one and to examine an issue from multiple perspectives. And our society has a design DNA that makes us interesting to Chinese enterprises. That is evident in the street and in the basic organisation of our welfare society. But research into ‘softer’ values – and, not least, design research – has been somewhat neglected. With stronger and more visible design research we will definitely be able to attract more international investments,” Nille Juul-Sørensen points out.
Danish Design Centre
The Danish Design Centre (DDC) was founded in 1978 by the Danish Design Council with the goal of improving industrial competitiveness by means of design investments.
Nille Juul-Sørensen took up the position as CEO of the Danish Design Centre in November 2011. He previously held a position as associate director in the international consultancy firm Arup.