Does it make sense to ask what design can do in the face of the great challenges that the world will face in 2024?
The climate emergency, wars, social disparities, the Manichaeism of global thought, the great ethical questions linked to generative artificial intelligence are such complex and pervasive issues that it is difficult to think of proposing projects to address them that they are no longer mere manifestos of (good) intentions. And perhaps we no longer really need these.
Is there then something that designers can do to make their concrete contribution to building a better world?
We asked three design curators - Domitilla Dardi, Marco Sammicheli and Federica Sala - and the answers they gave us, although different, indicate a precise direction which we can summarize with one word: Slowness.
Slowness as a fundamental condition for refining thinking (even, in a seemingly paradoxical way, when using AI), searching for meaning in what you plan, evolving by discarding pre-established certainties to learn other ways of seeing the world.
What you find below are therefore not recipes for saving the world, nor how to tutorials like those that are popular on social media but reflections: the considerations of three great observers of the history and contemporaneity of design who indicate directions on which to focus our gaze in this 2024 which is opening up.
The challenges of design according to Domitilla Dardi, design historian, founder and curator EDIT Napoli
The challenges for design in 2024 according to Marco Sammicheli, Director of the Triennale Design Museum, Milan
"For many years it was thought that design was a balmy discipline capable of solving many problems and facilitating the implementation of as many processes.
The complexity of contemporary reality has put us face to face with the failure of this assumption and the awareness of what design is incapable of doing, or even of favoring, with respect to major events determined by the crisis of politics and the environmental catastrophe.
If there is any hope left in the hands of the citizen, the user, the reader and here the designer, it is precisely the challenge of knowledge in the face of the acceleration of the performance of the tools for learning and developing creative thinking .
The question of Artificial Intelligence as a tool for managing the repertoire and refining thought is a tool that must be added to and not replaced by the existing one.
AI is a mathematics that can leverage the laziness of the standard if it is not handled with the caution of effort, with the measurement of time.
The chimera of preconceived speed and synthesis are a threat to free will if one does not have the tools to deal with the canons and calculations that determine a result that is as captivating as it is fragile.
It comes from a pre-set grammar. Universities - with courses that combine the skills of different faculties - are the places to explore this challenge so that what scholars call computer vision is neither neglected nor celebrated nor labeled as a cognitive shortcut.
The most urgent action, as Alessandro Aresu wrote, is to translate the texts of scholars such as Fei-Fei Li, Tomaso Poggio and Pietro Perona to understand the human factor of the AI revolution.
The challenges of design in 2024 according to Federica Sala, curator & design advisor
"I think the biggest challenge facing us in the coming years is to unlearn.
With this I don't mean to say that ignorance should triumph, on the contrary, I'm saying that I realized that we must discard some of our certainties to go back to learning other ways of seeing things.
It is a difficult challenge, because we are already used to the idea of perpetual training in many fields and, precisely for this reason, it is complicated to humbly embrace the idea of having to unlearn some things that are taken for granted.
The very idea of progress, which has moved many companies since the post-war period, has inherent the idea of moving forward, of overcoming obstacles.
Overcoming does not mean removing, it means going beyond and leaving behind. Now I believe that it is important to think about social progress, which involves lateral steps or, even better, it is a dance with many voices, in which we learn to move at the same rhythm without stepping on each other's toes.
The world of design can give a new meaning to the concept of globalization, far from today's negative one but which insists on the globe itself, with an eco-systemic and multi-naturistic vision which is not based on the logic of profit and which is able to overcome the dualism that pits human beings against nature (and the animate and inanimate elements that populate it) in Western culture.
And design as a tool for dialogue and synthesis has a great challenge ahead of it and the tools to face it: books, debates, articles, exhibitions, objects, travel... "
Cover photo: National Taichung Theatre, Taiwan, 2016. Architecture by Toyo Ito & Associates. Ph Iwan Baan at the Inhabited Architecture exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum until March 3, 2024