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At 5:30 p.m., the panel “Supporting Emerging Design for a Better Tomorrow” featured architect Sir David Adjaye; President of Lexus International, Yoshihito Sawa; Global Head of Computational Design and Inclusion of Automattic, John Maeda. The moderator was Chief Editor of designboom, Birgit Lohmann.
To begin, Lohmann asked the group to describe the types of skills designers should embody today. “I think all designers have to have business skills. To survive as a creative person, there’s nothing more important than learning how to make money. If you can’t make money, you can’t be creative,” said Maeda. “Paul Rand told me this once: ‘You’ll never find the thing you love and the thing that makes money. The overlap doesn’t exist.’ He was 82 years old when he said this. So, business.”
As the group discussed how the act of creating is a business, it led to the topic of how creators must understand how the business of design is moving. “The future is really about trying to understand the evolving nature of design. And the relevance of design,” said Adjaye. “Design is a continuous system that needs to be questioned. Designers can’t be complacent. What designers are having to investigate now is what makes sense to the public—in this post-industrial age. And we are looking at what we do now that we have industrialization.”
Adjaye noted that it’s not necessarily that the needs have changed, but that the questions have changed. New team members or new technology may provide a fresh perspective or an answer to an ongoing question, too.
“I don’t think it’s going to be new skills,” said Sawa. “There are very complicated, new technologies coming out and [we’re] sharing a new business model, so the market is changing rapidly. So, tomorrow’s designers need to understand many more areas—not just their specialized areas.”
Before the speakers took questions from the audience, Adjaye compared designers to other creators of the relevant times. “A designer is very much like an orchestra conductor. He has a series of people that’s making certain sounds, and maybe those sounds make sense at a certain time,” he said. “But 50 years on, that same sound becomes classic. If you want to make a new sound, you can find new sounds that make sense of the age. Design has to think about what makes sense now.”