Decoding Design

Design is on the agenda at Davos

Design is on the agenda at Davos

Posting in Architecture

At the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland this week, the "d"-word, as in "design," promises to be discussed often as a business and innovation strategy.

On January 25, the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting kicks off in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, and many of the most influential business and governmental leaders on the planet will convene for five days to address the theme of "The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models." And design, judging from the meeting's agenda, will be a topic discussed in numerous workshops and talks to help improve the world's economy and help mitigate epic financial crises in the future.

Attendees, who will include Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Citi Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit, will have options to discuss design in sessions such as "The Creative Workplace," which will address "designing creative environments" and "build[ing] creative, engaging, and energizing workplaces" or "The Architecture of Change," in which Mexican designer Enrique Norten will talk about how sustainable architecture can "be a catalyst for community development"--both scheduled for the meeting's opening day. Also on tap for January 25: "When Consumers Become Innovators," a session that looks at how to work with consumers to reshape products and services.

But that's not all for Day One. In another presentation, Museum of Modern Art curator Paola Antonelli will introduce "the satirical style of Critical Design, whose aim is to provoke debate on the contradictions of a consumer culture and the consequence of technological innovation."

On Day Two, an interactive lunch session titled "New Models for Ageing Societies" will address, among other concerns, how to redesign living environments for older people's needs as their numbers increase in the future. Day Three brings an interactive lunch session called "Rebuilding States," which will discuss "innovations in institutional architecture"; a discussion on "Art and Soft Power: Winning Hearts and Minds," which looks at iconic buildings and their cultural legacies (among other topics); and a presentation by physicist Neil Gershenfeld on "Digital Fabrication: From Virtual to Physical" and how the potential for anyone to make anything will disrupt business--i.e., the day when anybody can possibly become a designer and manufacturer.

January 28 offers "Future Demographics, Future Cities with Columbia University," one of many sessions hosted by top educational institutions, which will present the idea of "designing cities to foster and empower intergenerational synergies." Also on tap for Day Four is a discussion on "Designing Better Lives," which looks at "using the power of design as an agent of change."

Of course, these design-focused events represent only a handful of the topics that will be on the tongues of those at Davos (as the Annual Meeting is often referred to in short). Yet the "d" word--as in "design"-- will clearly be invoked across disciplines, with numerous talks framed as "redesigning" policies or organizational operations. And given that so many future corporate and international alliances are made at the numerous cocktail parties, lunches, and hallway and other "unofficial" encounters at Davos, it's likely that design in its many forms will be talked about--and perhaps even deployed tactically or strategically--much more than merely in the gatherings described here.

Image: Andy Mettler, World Economic Forum/Flickr

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Reena Jana

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Reena Jana has written for the New York Times, Wired, Harvard Business Review online, Fast Company, Architectural Record, Artforum, Time Out New York, Harper's Bazaar, and GQ. Previously, she was the innovation department editor at BusinessWeek. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Barnard College. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure