An exhibition I was luckily enough to see recently was “Challenge Society” at the Danish Design Centre in Copenhagen. This examined the potential role of design in an ever-changing, and by implication more challenging, world. It stressed the important position of design in improving efficiency in over-burdened schools, ailing hospitals and even failing prisons, by “inventing new ways to design the world… to match the complex demands of the future”. Unsurprisingly, I left the exhibit inspired and keen to spot these innovative, ‘simple’ and rather immediate solutions in action, or better still- help them happen.
However, the exhibition was also cautiously optimistic about the extent that design can help. Its general catch-phrase of “design can help, but NOT save the world alone” (seen below) resonated with its audience, as I believe that for change to occur, the crucial first step is a shift in the consumerist mindset. As such, the exhibit’s focus on design as as a “mindset that sees things in new ways and in a holistic perspective”, was something I strongly supported. I liked the concept of design thinking being a way of anticipating all challenges, acting with immediate effect, and thinking up solutions that are relatively easy to implement and to understand. Thus as a generalised approach, I think this manner of response could be relevant anywhere, particularly in light of greater connectivity between different stakeholders, where collaboration is crucial.
I also enjoyed the range of case studies that the exhibition provided. This was done is a way that was so open and honest about the failures of current Danish policy, and particularly healthcare, that I rather wished that this integrity was mirrored in the UK- where problems are often tackled by ‘spin’ rather than carefully planned action. However, the exhibition was also highly praising of the British Design council– looking at recently designed examples of a portable toilet and medicine cabinet as pioneers in plans to improve hospitals and build patient dignity. Strangely enough this was news to me, but gave me that rare feeling of being proud of being British on holiday, rather than a continuous longing to be Danish… As such, I’d highly recommend visiting this exhibition (it is on until 19th February 2012). However, if you don’t get a chance, in a typically forward-thinking and efficient manner- the website is excellent and full of information.