To imagine what the future will look like, we need to look at design

Sustainability today represents an essential development paradigm, both for business and for society as a whole.

It is obvious that the requirements for sustainability require a profound change from the current economic and social models.

Consequently, there is a strong link between the concept of sustainability and the innovation mechanisms: if the latter is not specifically activated, the former remains an abstract statement, a purely theoretical concept. It is therefore necessary to ask what kind of innovation must be put into practice in order to achieve the great change that sustainability requires of us.

And then we have to ask ourselves about the professional figures, the most suitable skills to design and implement the processes for this innovation.

The sustainability paradigm has already had a fundamental impact on the idea of ​​innovation, which today represents a significantly different phenomenon than what we knew until recently.

First of all, innovation has lost its canonical secular nature, its traditional neutral value.

In fact, until yesterday, the drive for change could take the most different directions, even in the opposite direction, and there were no value judgments between one orientation and another, there was no right and wrong innovation.

Today, however, innovation must necessarily evolve towards sustainability, without the opportunity to go other ways: Innovation either looks at sustainability, or it does not.

This has far-reaching consequences. As you know, sustainability represents a complex phenomenon and is reflected in the three aspects of the environment, the economy and the social sector.

The osmotic relationship created between sustainability and innovation has meant that the latter, in turn, has become a more complex, cross-disciplinary and multidisciplinary reality compared to its traditional significance.

Innovation can no longer be limited to influencing only the sphere of technology, but must hold together on various elements, some of which are historically considered alien to its dynamics: the economy, the environment, the social, the culture.

Let’s put these general principles operationally into a specific area of ​​focus, taken as a sample among many that I recently had the opportunity to reflect on, as a speaker at the Sea Essence International Festival: the port sector.

The sector is in a phase of strong development and is characterized by numerous innovative technological applications, especially with reference to energy issues.

For example, Cold Ironing, or the HVSC High Voltage Shore Connection, plans to power the main electrical loads on board the ship through the electrical connection to the port infrastructure, with the consequent shutdown of the ship’s auxiliary engines, resulting in significant environmental benefits.

Or the various initiatives, some of which are in an advanced stage of experiments in different Italian ports, for the production of electricity through the use of wave motions, through different technological solutions.

Or the projects on fuel cells, that is, electrochemical systems that allow the generation of electricity from hydrogen and oxygen; In particular, Fincantieri has launched an important research laboratory in this regard in collaboration with the University of Trieste, with the aim of testing generational plants based on different types of combustion cells.

And the examples could go on for a long time.

But it is clear that talking about innovation with reference to the sea, the ports, the coasts, to stop at these technological aspects is now an incomplete, unsatisfactory, limiting, partial discourse.

To discuss innovation today certainly means thinking about technical improvements, but also about environmental impacts, economic balances, social dynamics and cultural change.

The renewal of the city / port ecosystem, in order not to deviate from the group of adopted examples, certainly involves implications of a technological nature, but also includes considerations of an economic and cultural nature, involves new urban visions, unprecedented development paths for territories and communities.

Complexity and multidisciplinarity of quibus is also found in the presentation of the aforementioned Elban Festival, which I found extremely intelligent and modern: “A multifaceted event that reveals the depth of the essence of the sea and at the same time preserves man, his dreams, his virtues and his hopes. Tell with your voice from history, economics, art, anthropology, culture, politics, music, film, society in an interdisciplinary approach where many souls in the sea are ».

Basically, regardless of specific cases, bringing innovation into a sustainable age means bringing technology and the environment, economics and culture, social and finance together.

Uniting, polluting, dealing with such deeply different and diverse elements represents a very new exercise, with numerous and in some ways still unexplored difficulties.

Design, in its most advanced meanings, is a valuable tool for overcoming this challenge.

For some time, design has actually gone beyond its more consolidated and traditional features, focusing solely on the aesthetic part of the products.

In his beautiful preface to my “Il Design Crisalide”, Walter De Silva has sharply written that “Design is a constantly evolving cultural model. Develop analog and digital, aesthetic and poetic systems. It defines business strategies and is at the center of decisions. It makes the products less ambiguous, which provides added value that is repeated over time, for mutual benefit between citizen / user and company / country ».

The penetrating and transversal nature of the instrument had already been emphasized by Francesco Trabucco, who says in his “Design”: “Design is like salt: taken in the right dose, it gives taste and meaning to things, making them pleasant and desirable. Like salt looks a pinch design looks good almost everywhere, and that explains why design is so prevalent, yes, pervasive and cross-cutting: design of objects and machines to produce these objects, design of relationships and communication, design of environments and interactions, design of strategies and services “.

Today, the many and varied needs stemming from the sustainability paradigm have given design, and therefore the designer’s figure, a truly extraordinary significance: no longer just an element of attire and enrichment of products and processes, but a true backbone of the economic and social system, is irreplaceable in the search for innovative solutions.

The breadth of the new design features and the centrality of the designer, in the most advanced and current dynamics of the time, found further confirmation at the recent Salone del Mobile and Milano Design Week.

The event was characterized by numerous initiatives in the name of the pollution between business and culture, between innovation and society, between sustainability and technology, carried out in the design logic and with the designer’s figure at the center.

Italo Rota and Studio Carlo Ratti e Associati have created for Plenitude in the Brera Botanical Garden the installation “Feeling the Energy”, a long, shiny copper hose that continuously produces energy, in the form of music, wind and water, which can be perceived by visitors through the five senses.

Fernando and Humberto Campana, Brazilian designers, for Paola Lenti have created “Metamorphosis”, a special edition of unique pieces, seats and decorative elements, made with the recycling of remnants of fabrics and materials produced by the company.

Stefano Boeri curated for Timberland in Darsena, at the confluence of the Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese, the installation “Floating Forest”, a floating forest to transfer new forms of environmental responsibility and new ways of occupying and transforming urban spaces.

And even here we could continue with the examples.

It is, of course, only a beginning, we discuss expressions of innovation that are still strongly attached to traditional logics, we are at the first stirring of a phenomenon of which we can currently only imagine the potential and scope.

For at present, as Riccardo Falcinelli excellently wrote in the “Portable Critique of Visual Design”, “design is a set of very different practices and it is difficult to force it into a single interpretation. We must therefore break, by reasoners, now demarcated, now cross-cutting, of doubt and apparent disagreement, gradually try to draw possible threads’.

The development of design is in full swing and will bring us a new type of designer, certainly knowledgeable in terms of aesthetics, but with solid skills also in technology, accompanied by appropriate training in art and culture, not without an appropriate knowledge of intellectual property.

Meanwhile, the most appropriate answer to the needs of design’s interdisciplinary and interdisciplinary character lies in teamwork: the image of the ingenious and ruthless designer working alone, armed solely with his pencil and creativity, is now little more than a caricature; the modern designer is actually a kind of enlightened captain who leads, inspires and coordinates his own team of experts, equipped with broad and varied competencies.

In short, innovation today is developing in a mandatory direction, characterized by the efforts that the paradigm of sustainability places along the way.

Sustainability, formulated on the environmental, economic and social fronts, means that change must be created by dealing with extremely different materials and skills in a simultaneous and coordinated way.

In its most contemporary meanings, design represents a valuable tool for meeting the challenge and succeeding in the business.

Deyan Sudjic says in his “The language of things” with sharpness that Design “is the key that allows us to understand the world created by man”.

Perhaps the time has come to go further and say that design is a tool that allows man to build a new world.

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