Can you pretty much design yourself to get through life?
This is certainly a momentous question and might seem to go a bit too far. Nonetheless, it is a question which in recent years has cropped up in Icelandic minds every March. Just as the golden plover sings in the spring at this time of year, DesignMarch heralds the same season, as well as adding interest in general to the cultural life of the capital. Today, DesignTalks will usher participants into DesignMarch and clarify the main points of this year's event.
By focusing on the role of the designer, DesignTalks will hopefully prove exciting, as they help everyone here consider the work and contributions of those who are employed in thinking up novel ways of doing things. While some ideas which a designer comes up with - maybe even most of a designer's ideas - may fail to make a mark, other ideas become a hit and influence the lives of many.
Designers seek solutions to problems. Although few of these problems may be questions of life or death, others may make a great difference not only in the lives of the general populace, but also in business. In fact, there are few fields of human life where design does not play a part in some way. Residents of western countries, including those of us gathered here, have already been designed in various ways. Numerous aspects of our daily lives are based on the ingenuity of designers.
Recognising this, we can proceed to note that designers undertake even more profound tasks than merely designing what we use and consume each day. Their greatest task, if you will please excuse my wild dreams, is to design a better world: to discover whatever we humans might be able to do in more efficient, more self-sustainable and more responsible ways. Achieving this task calls for those managing the major companies and other important bodies of modern society to join in partnership with ambitious designers who are capable of dealing with our challenges and of finding solutions to our problems.
One stark truth which underlies western social trends, a truth which all too seldom is seriously addressed, is sheer waste. It hardly matters what you consider - trash mail, biological homogeneity, the tremendous transport of goods between all parts of the world even when these could be obtained much nearer the buyer, the use of chemicals which are scarcely biodegradable or the mountains of packaging that we leave behind - you can go on and on. This is a difficult topic, particularly if we stop talking about wasteful practices, head home, stand in front of our children and then continue to act exactly as before.
In the face of this, what can designers do? They are the ones who are employed in designing themselves through life, as I mentioned earlier. Is it possible to design a new and better world? Actually, is this not one of the modern world's most pressing questions? It is also a question which must be put to all of us: designers, politicians and the world's nations.
In part, the DesignMarch now beginning might be thought of as continuing education, because the field of design is distinguished as a profession in which the works, actions and ideas of other people affect each designer as a wellspring of creativity. This theme is perfectly exemplified by our gathering at the moment, which brings out a keynote for Iceland's design festival: that of the interdisciplinary approach. It is immensely satisfying for me as Minister of Education, Science and Culture to participate in an event which is as highly interdisciplinary as today's DesignTalks.
During the past months and years, many an eye has opened up to the importance of creative, critical thinking. These ways of thinking have received an emphasis in the new school curricula which are being introduced to provide a foundation for this country's preschools, compulsory schools and upper secondary schools. These curricula set forth six principles in Iceland's educational policy: literacy, self-sustainability, democracy, equality, health and welfare, and creativity. We can appreciate that designers need to have all of these factors in mind when approaching their work. By founding the designing task on such principles, it may well prove possible to design a better world - to design ourselves through life.