Switch Seats in 2015

Switch Seats in 2015

We all know that humanity has one or two issues to solve. What if we all agreed that good design can actually improve the world? That notion has been on my mind since the Spark Design Week events sponsored by NK and others here in Kzoo, and the New Year is the perfect time to embrace the idea with gusto.

What struck me in particular was a side conversation with panelist Brian Revoir, Senior Designer of Landscape Forms.

[First of all, before this event, I had no idea that such avant-garde furniture design was spearheaded right in our neighborhood. Seriously, check them out!]

We were talking about benches, and how something as simple as how you sit can change the whole culture of human interaction.

He gave the example of a typical park bench: You might see three in a row, with one person on each, filling up all available space with his or her own little world.

But what if instead of a bench – and its unspoken protocol – there was a big, open platform? He has a picture of just that, and suddenly there’s a couple making out alongside a grandmother knitting a scarf. Instead of following the maze of conventional behavior, people begin to see one another. Conversations happen.

The same could be said for the room in which we were talking. The “Inside Product Innovation” session brought together design professionals from globally leading companies that produce everything from medical equipment to web apps to plastic cups.

Stepping beyond our usual set of peers, the perception recently published in AdAge become tangible: “The Kalamazoo area has a reputation – albeit a quiet one – as a global design hub[…].”

“How do you solve XYZ?” quickly transformed into, “How would offering XYZ at the community level improve all of our work?”

Around the world, across the nation, and here in Kalamazoo, the processes and tools we use to solve different challenges are more similar than we’d think. Good design is about setting the framework for approaching each obstacle with clarity and collaboration.

Maybe it’s time to shift our notion of competition in general, and realize that – once the old barriers break down – we need each other to tackle our Challenges with a capital C. Luckily, inspiration is as simple as getting up, talking with someone new, and enjoying the perspective from where they sit.

 

Karen Williams

Karen Williams

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