The logic of the emergency has led to decisions at the top of the organizational pyramid. With the gradual return to normality, it is fundamental for design to assert itself, acting as an antidote to the regression that inevitably comes with such a painful crisis

* Stefano Micelli, economist, asssociate professor of Economics and Business management and president of the degree course in International Management at the Università Ca’ Foscari in Venezia.

Over the last 20 years the concept of design has changed. It has asserted itself as a tool of change in various fields, from furnishings to digital interfaces, biomedical equipment to new products in the 4.0 version.

Design means listening to the society

An essential part of this success has been the emphasis on the end user as the starting point for every form of innovation. Every path of design starts with empathy. Design means listening to the society, at the cost of defying established viewpoints and reconfiguring – when necessary – production processes that were taken for granted.

The pandemic we have experienced in these months has suddenly altered the trajectory design has formulated for the evolution of manufacturing and services. The logic of emergency has pushed decisions back to the top of the organizational pyramid. Individuals have become mere numbers and statistics.

At the basis of innovation, the experience of individuals

With the gradual return to normality it is fundamental for design to assert itself, proposing an idea of innovation capable of building on the experience of individuals.

It is important to keep in mind that the problems facing us require recognition of the difficulties of others, the ability to interpret latent needs. Precisely thanks to this ability to grasp the variety of signals arriving from the society, design – in the deepest sense of the term – has been able to represent a key enzyme in the modernization of our companies and the society as a whole.

In these months, institutional platforms likeADI - Associazione per il Disegno Industriale and online magazines have gathered projects to overcome many obstacles the epidemic has generated in everyday life.

The vitality of these contests reveals the potential of a pathway that is based on bottom-up logic, capable of triggering the solution of problems through the encounter between designers and their counterparts. In all these worksites, design is not just an elegant solution to complex problems. It is also and above all the reconstruction of a connective tissue at an economic and social level. It is the recognition of the variety of needs and contexts.

Much of the Italian economy is based on the capacity to translate relations and dialogues into economic value. Made in Italy is synonymous in the world with variety and personalization. Nevertheless, it would be reductive to think that the stakes are only economic in nature. A production system that has a dialogue with the demand size, that accepts the challenge of rethinking and reorganizing itself starting with the requests of active, aware counterparts, contributes to renew the value of social cohesion. Returning to the act of listening helps to reinforce bonds and trust inside the country and on an international level. Design is the antidote to the regression such a painful crisis inevitably brings with it.