With the influx of information and expanding field of design, some people are working to solve the world’s problems.
Surya Vanka worked at Microsoft for 16 years before leaving the company. He presented his thoughts on data, design and the potential it has for the world on Thursday, Jan. 9, in Fraser Hall. Around 50 people attended, most of whom were industrial design students. The Western Gallery sponsored the event
More data has been produced in the last two days than from 2003 to the dawn of civilization, Vanka said. During his time working in design, Vanka saw how the meaning of design change is largely impacted by the amount of accessible data.
“In my career, what is so important is to be a designer in this particular moment in history,” Vanka said. “A lot of my career in design was on the edge, trying to fight your way to the center. But now the conversation is about design.”
“Design and fine art are very close,” Gallery director Hafthor Yngvason said. “The creative industry is something that we’re all a part of.”
Designers can use modern data and communication to create better products and more personalized services.
“We no longer work in glass, in metal, in plastic, which are things that are pre-designed, manufactured and put up,” Vanka said. “You’re working with digital materials which are infinitely malleable and infinitely connected.”
“One of the key shifts that happens is that the user now starts to enter your design process.”
This is what many of the students had come to learn about, like Joe Han, an industrial design major.
“At industrial design we mostly focus on the form study, format aspect of the design,” Han said. “Personally I’m pretty interested in the digital data part of the design so I’m trying to get more info on this.”
Much of the talk was about the business sphere, but Vanka ended his presentation by talking about how designers can solve problems in the developing world.
“Personally, I’m less interested in aligning myself to the more consumerist, fossil-fuel economy,” Vanka said. “And I’m very curious of really using the idea of using data and using design thinking to look at the flipside and look at what impact we can really have on taking on issues such as the environment.”
Vanka cited several examples of designers solving problems, such a tent for refugees that catches rainwater, a smartphone app that allows the user to perform eye exams and a man who uses 3D printing for prosthetics in Africa.
“For me, looking at this, with all of these problems that we see, these wicked problems, I’m really optimistic. I think these are great opportunities,” Vanka said. “This is the rise of design to the fore of the planet.”