The Future of Design – Stefano Marzano

Marco Bevolo and Filiberto Amati chat with Stefano Marzano on the future of design. Stefano Marzano was CEO of Philips Design, Senior Executive VP Royal PHILIPS International, Founding Dean THNK Amsterdam, Former CDO Group Management Electrolux Group, Honoris Causa Doctorate in Design by Sapienza U. and by PolyU Hong Kong

Transcript

Filiberto Amati
Hello, this is Filiberto Amati and we’re here today for another session with on the future of design. I’m here with Mark Kobe. Willa was gonna introduce our esteemed guest of today. Welcome Marco.

Marco Bevolo
Thank you Filiberto. Our guest today is Stefan Marzano. Stefano is being the Chief Design Officer and the CEO of Philips design in Philips for 20 years between 1991 and 2011. He has been the first Chief Design Officer of Electrolux and he has collaborated with a number of outstanding design driven brands from swatch to Alessi through the years, he has been a founding dean of think the school for Creative Leadership in Amsterdam, and EA has been part of the core group that contributed to the founding of Domus Academy Minang, in the 1980s. And in the writing. Well, welcome, Stefano. Welcome to our interview about the future of design and design thinking. And I would like to kick off the interview first of all, if you would like to correct or to mention something more or something different. And otherwise, if you would like to kick it off with your vision of design, design thinking what it is, what it will be in the future in the next five to 10 years. Well, first of all,

Stefano Marzano
let me say that design thinking was born after 2007 Why at Philips design, we created an implemented high design, which was intended to give to a very large community of designer, a common way of working and a number of common tools in order to keep this force capable to have a language and other methodology that would have been comparable, all through the different locations around the world. With a vision and a mission, we set a mindset and a culture out of which they all design community would have been working and using the methodology of high design that was based on the principle of being focused on people so outside in multidisciplinary, integrated into the business and fundamentally, reserves base. So this has been practice by Philips design, as you well know, since early 90, in 2007. I was a speaker at the conference of Exede in San Francisco. And I met Tim Brown there among others. And like to Tim Brown to all the participants of the conference, we gave as a present the book, past tense future sense, which deeply was explaining about high design. Interestingly so after 2007 design thinking was born in a nice book, I’m not saying that that is it has been taken from from us but is a coincidence that pursue the professor of University of Savannah, United States and Tony preferred that keeps repeating all the time. Design thinking was born maturity Then 2000 Set however, we were created to this on the base also of the culture and experience of the Italian design of the 80. So, no one is really the father and no one is really the mother, but I think that it was a practice of methodology, existing scenes a number of years and it was not exploded like it has been exploded in after 2007 that we all know that, that in the US there is a power of media and publications that give a put under the attention

Marco Bevolo
one thing that I would like to bring upon in the in the flow is high design was born as a sort of reaction to high technology or a snake. I would like to actually go to ask Filiberto if he can ask you about the role of digitalization. So, we bring this element in in the flow as well.

Filiberto Amati
So, in a comment, one of my favorite film authors, you know, Alan sarking says that, good writers always are you inspired by other writers, great writers steal from other writers. So, that’s probably the same type of evolution with design.

Stefano Marzano
Yeah, no, it is, it is interesting that nowadays, design thinking is is a kind of pop thing, and it is important to to keep considering that the shift was intended to be from inside out, so, what we can do with our technology and we take it to the market to understand the people in their geographical reality, economical and cultural reality. And from there ask what can we do with our capabilities and competencies that actually can be relevant and meaningful. However, it was also indeed a reaction to the leadership of, of technology into companies that were actually developing their proposition on the basis of what we can do, what the technologies we have, and it is a it is a methodology, which is not a guarantee of doing a good design and a good proposition. Because, we know that everything has always to do with the quality of the research that you do, the quality of the different disciplines that you have in an organization, the quality of the interaction among among each others, the quality of the relationship with all the other actors that are relevant into an organization to make successful and meaningful propositions. And nowadays, it is it is a bit turn that like, you know, you have a book and you read it, you can do it. And this I think, is misleading a bit a lot of organizations that are training many, many people into the design thinking methodology, and with this certificate organization about design thinking, and in a sense, is a popularization of design thinking and it is, as it always happened with this type of realities, is lowering the quality and it is creating a kind of a kind of commodity of have a process. I’ll have a process and tools are relevant and it is good anyway, that something is available specifically to align all the members into an organization to be capable to have a common language to communicate and to understand each other. What is the future of, of design thinking or the design methodology, but I think is difficult to say it is very much related also to the practitioners and their ability to think and further develop other parts of the methodology or the elements of the tools, depending of the areas that they are working in and the situations in which they are located the companies which they are the culture of the companies, the geographical locations in which they are. So, personally I, I see the need of a transformation in design for several reasons. The first The first reason is that there is there are there is an area of emerging technologies that do require design to get much closer to science and I’m referring to whatever has to do with biotechnologies, gentleman’s and whatever actually does represent an area of technologies that are still not very known to the design world. And that probably will not catch

a charter all design. So, I think also that design needs to be selectively evaluate, because there are still a lot of activities that are very much related in design to well known tech technologies and methodologies. So, we still designing furnitures and so on, is by far, far away from the one that actually are designing new by your future and the ones that are designing very complex systems, the ones that are dealing with artificial intelligence, metalware and so on. So, if we, if we look at them the most advanced area of design and the one of the bio future, we certainly need to make sure that design and science get much more close to each other and much more capable to talk a common language in a census is requiring to design to elevate the comprehension of technology and science and to the scientists to develop a more comprehension of humanistic and design. Capture. We are in a we are in a situation where we start really a week, I mean, in principle, some people are thinking that the anthropocentric view of the world is in a sense, start to get a bit obsolete, I would say that we have been the last 70 years, we have been thinking that humanity is positive. And that we have been always thinking as companies that whatever we generate, and we create, it is intended for the good. And in the last years, we of course have observed the major problem that whatever we have done in the last 200 years of the Industrial Revolution is resulting in catastrophes like the climate change, and more on short term Whatever the world of the digitalization as they can in terms of security problem, new criminality and a new area of evil, that we were not thinking when creating the new propositions and the new innovation. Today, I believe that the anthropocentric world is, or should be under discussion. Because the arrogance of people that have placed themselves as the number one in in the, in the system of the earth and the world is a failure. The ambitions to live to 120 130 years is an incredible challenge to the ability of the world to be sustainable for a population that will increase in a uncontrolled way, making even more evident the differences between the poor and the rich, and the ability to develop the appropriate resources.

The, in the spirit of the humanity, seen from two perspective or two phases like a coin, the humanity of the good and the humanity of the avail. I think that the humanity of the Havel could develop a vision of the realization of a transformation of humanity into trance, human in replications, were actually our body will not be the body that we know today, but will be a body that will adapt to a system a natural system that will not be able anymore to be sustainable for the human as they are. And this might create in the world differences between populations that have a very different way to think about human rights. And what is right and what is wrong for humanity, or for humans, versus people that we think it in a different way. Currently, what actually is happening in Ukraine up proves that indeed, there are major differences of thinking between the West and the East. And so as soon as we transform humans, in a way that is discussable, about whether humans is still humans, we might enter in, in a complexity of societies, that will be almost unmanageable. And this, I think, is a very important responsibility that is in science, and can be managed only if science and design try to create ways to get much closer to politics and to the religions. Politics is the only one that can create a regulation of the development of technologies and implementations of technology. However, the politics that we have the of the parties and the politics of the government is, is not capable to do this because people are in power for four years or eight years. So they are very much short term oriented, and not very much interested in in truly the long term. So the politics I’m talking about is at the level of United Nations is is at the level of European community is the level of the politics that is looking to Word toward the long term future. And the religion because the religion as a moral power. And only only few weeks ago, I was thinking that the religion would have been much more united than the politics case. But in reality, when we see that the religion of the Orthodox in Russia is supporting the the actions of Russia, and Pope Francisco is just saying a lot of words, but there are no real acts, there is also there a great divide, and the divide the spiritually is as proven to be during the last 70 years source of of wars, and many terrible things that have happened, that have been even more critical for the world. That then, we have been always, let’s say, thinking, and in reality now is that the world is getting the war is getting close to, to the west and to Europe, suddenly, we get much more interested in and much more.

Worry about it. So in under these circumstances, and I don’t want to be only pessimistic, but I think we need to, to go further into the mindset of working in a preventive way. So we have to invest more that we have ever done. And thinking about what actually the solutions for the future are. But we don’t have to stop there. So in the past, in all the industry, I’ve worked in the industry, I’ve been working with collaborating, I’ve seen working towards a solution. And then at the solution, when the solution was define it, the exploration and evaluation work was almost ending. I truly believe that now, we should, the work should not stop at the definition of the solution, but should further go into the development of dystopia scenarios to understand what actually can be the dark side of the solutions that have been thought. In the 90s. When actually we had internet, no one was really focusing on understanding what would have been happening in terms of challenge to privacy in terms of cybercrime, in terms of problem of security, and so on. And I think that, in current situation, the world doesn’t have any more time to make mistakes, and it doesn’t have the resources to fix it. I’m not saying that the work that will, we will do in the future, can guarantee that there will be no mistakes. But I’m sure that we need to find a way to evaluate more what it might happen, and to start to think about what eventually strategies for risk mitigations are that could be taken in consideration. When defining the new innovation, we’re defining the new way in order to again have a kind of risk management of of the future and investing more into preventive thinking will be certainly more affordable than fixing the problem when the problem is are at the level of no return. So it might be an utopia, what I’m saying and perhaps something that will be very difficult to to realize, I will have, I’m running a program in collaboration with the University of Sapienza which is beyond design of the future in which I am experimenting this, this approach, in order to, to find already ways in which it is possible to create this culture of thinking about future solution with technologies that are extremely interesting and fantastic, but which we we don’t know, we do not know enough already and envision envisage scenarios of dystopias and develop strategies to minimize the risks of this this direction. So, basically, I have to repeat what I said I believe that design as to

further develop in the future in terms of maturity, it has to develop in a consigns of, of the, of the industry of, of the politics of, of, of the society at large, to actually work for shaping a sustainability that is going to be responsible for sustainability, because the situations in which we are is is dramatic. And I know that this has been said also 30 years ago, and it has been said several times when we have faced from from the early 70 problems with pollutions and problems with the wars and so on. But now, everything is is truly in front of us. And this war is proving that a shift of investments is going to move from whatever was climate, climate change actions for fixing some of the problems and reducing co2 emissions will actually move to further invest in the fence because the the current reality of the society is proving that indeed, we are by far, far away from having a global village, a global society with a benign thinking with the intent to to create the kind of paradise regain where we can live on the earth in peace and collaborate and share our resources and make the good, the good for all of us. So, it is nowadays there is a clear proof that people are the stronger enemy of people.

Filiberto Amati
Before

Marco Bevolo
Yeah, I wanted to I wanted to ask you, Filiberto, just if you could go back to the role of technology in digitalization after your comment?

Filiberto Amati
No, no, I just want to make the comment. And I think it’s very inspiring what Stephen is saying, because companies today, do analysis in scenario or worst case scenarios, looking at the impact of society, on the acceptance of the products and services, but they never do worst case scenarios of what is the impact of the products and services on the society? Yes, and I think that’s the complemental view, which we will need to regulation.

Stefano Marzano
But what’s more, most important is the company does this evaluation of acceptance, on the basis that their proposition is a benign proposition. It is a proposition that is intended for the good. They don’t make any evaluation about what is the dystopia? How a world of criminals, how a world that doesn’t have the benign intention to make an advance in their society, but as an intention to create a personal profit, that profit for a part of society will actually manipulate and misuse what is being what has been created. So in a sense, we have been thinking, and personally I did too, for more than then 40 years or 50 years of work have been thinking, in creating proposition for the good with the intention to provide benefit to people, without considering how these benefits could have been misused. And when actually we have entered in the 90s, in the digital transformation, and we have worked, and I’ve been also very much engaged in creating visions of the new opportunities that digitalization would have created for people have been always thinking, from a perspective of benign propositions benign solutions, without thinking, what actually, this could give as a new element of power to the Airwheel side of society. And I believe that today, if the industry, if politics, it doesn’t actually adopt the understanding of this crude reality, that people are good, and bed, that Ariel is part of people. And that people is are the most fear enemy of people. I’ve never seen animals making general sheets. I’ve never seen animals be killer, of course, they kill to eat, but they are not making mass kill, there is in a nature, a regulation that is not cultural. And we have developed ourself, in cultural creatures, and in culture, we developed the good and the area. And in a sense, it is, if we will, if we if we want to actually be capable to try to find back the way to create a sustainable life on this earth, where no one is going to be privileged more than others, where actually there is cooperation. So, of course, there will be criminality and, but that there will be more more opportunities to minimize the risk, I think we have to start to think in a different way. And by starting there were actually a the industry has the ability to intervene first. So the industry should start to enter in this mindset of finding a new ideas, a new innovation and new possible benefits, but don’t stop there. Start to think what actually possible possible negative consequences are there are some industries that that that are doing this, the pharmaceutical industry does it and so on, and cost a lot. However, the investment is less expensive than the cost of fixing the problem. And politics need to get closer to the speed and acceleration of science.

So there is absolutely the need of politics at a very high level, to get closer to the understanding of the speed of development of science, in order to start to think about regulatory actions before it’s too late. Currently, we have seen what also happened with digitalization. The politics and the regulation, regulatory measures have always been taking so late, too late. And we need, we need truly an advance here. I don’t have any idea whether as a society we will be ever capable to do it to really think, to a sustainable future with more preventive consigns and more preventive culture, but I hope that in one way or another, all the alarms that have been thrilling in this in this last years will actually bring us to, to a different thinking and to the understanding, that is a reality is a reality which we are that proves that good and evil are on the same spot.

Filiberto Amati
Thank you, Stefan Marco Boyd.

Marco Bevolo
My question was, in this very complex scenario, you mentioned Biosciences you mentioned religion, you mentioned the politics as the domains where the future design in the future design thinking will play or can play a role, but where can we look to see the seeds of the future of design should we look in fine arts? Should we look in some fields like artificial intelligence extensions to that we debated a lot with Filiberto if a student if a scholar wanted to see the future of design and design thinking Where should she or he look

Stefano Marzano
Marco, I like to think about design in terms of creation, in terms of creation from a base of culture, from a base of values and creation with all the the media’s and the tools that can be available. So, whatever is existing around us are enablers, enablers of our mindset thing, culture, intent vision. Therefore, I do like to talk about design and I do like to talk about design thinking. Because the future of design thinking what is the future of design thinking? is a set of, of methods is actions in the process are 3am beggars? That’s not design, design is is taking is assuming irresponsibility. I mean, even politicians are designers, they use different tools. They use different, different enablers, but the one that shapes life, and is not only a designer, the one that does, that does the sketches of the of the of a chair of a vase and so on is a different level, the one that interests me, and of course, there are also the ones that do design, the chairs, the vase and so on. But there are people today that are designing, leaving objects, or biological new objects that do not need to be assembled. They are born with all the functionalities in themselves. So I invited in the first opening of this appearance or dialogue, also the Vatican to participate, because he’s a major child At the moment in which we can create life, and we can basically move also to the creation of new humans. What is humanity? So, the I don’t I don’t tell

Marco Bevolo
you once a route design is an act of love, I think you’ve wrote these statement at the end of the 1990s, would you see these a statement still be applicable to what design your concept of life creation is and what, what it will be?

Stefano Marzano
I would say that design for some part of humanity is an act of love. For some part of humanity, is an act of egoism. What I’m saying that I’ve been always excluding, from my thinking, the evio nature of people into the creation, into a vision for a future into a vision for the development of civilization, into the vision of the development of a world where the idea of regain its power Paradise would have been possible. But the reality is telling us very different things. A large part of society doesn’t listen. How many years have been spent, by ecologist by researcher to tell is going wrong. The climate is going wrong, at least 50 years, 60 years. And only a few years ago, just one year or two years ago, even Trump was saying bullshit. So and how many wars are we see, because of religions because of the economy. And we have not actually, let’s say the West world was a bit looking on television, the war, because it was a bit far away. And always with the idea, it doesn’t belong to us. It’s others. And then when they when the news are finished, then you move to the next movie or to the, to the gallery or to you know, network, but the reality is different. When we walk in a city at night, we have to be scared of other people. When actually we are traveling in another country, we have to be scared or what actually can happen as they’re not because the animals are because because of other people. I’m not I’m not losing confidence in people. But I’m losing patience. I’m not patient anymore. I think that there is the need to be more brutal in a sense in pushing towards taking actions to make sure that the benign view will prevail. And that the society will have to be able to invest in what actually is truly relevant to realize a vision to advance civilization. And this beyond what actually can be the the profit of the single company. Finally, Europe is proving that is that if they put the heads together, they can do much more. And if collaboration is not one of the key world worth of our society in the future, we will not win the challenges that we are facing. And the challenges that we are facing potentially are incredible. Think about creation of new organs, new loans, that will be implanted, then in people or in the in new form of DNA so that people will be able to breathe in the air that He’s not breathable anymore for people as we are now. Think about the creation of, of replicants or robots that will actually be a new army.

And one side of the wall, we say we don’t want to have this and the other side of the wall, we say yes, we want. So there will be a world capable to breathe in the air that is super polluted. And another word that will not. And this is is people. This is people that has taken always the opportunity to gain power on others, where is going to be the end? Well,

Marco Bevolo
thank you for for these outstanding vision of the future where I think you manage to give her all to dystopia within a utopia. And I think this is perhaps the most fascinating concept in terms of anticipating the future of the concept of achieving a synthesis between utopia and dystopia. Filiberto, would you like to add a comment? I think Stefano touched upon digitalization digital transformation. Blurring lines all along the speech?

Filiberto Amati
Yeah, no, and I think he made it very clear that, you know, was the dream of ambient intelligence back beginning of 2000, you know, which was a dream of improving our, you know, the user’s life. And, and also, in a way, moving technology and technological development from being a technological push to a consumer centric pool, in that sense. Unfortunately, that is everything else has a dark side. And, and I completely agree, artificial intelligence could be used as a way to make economy more inclusive, but also, as a way to manipulate people into believing, you know, deep fakes, that something is happening, which is not true, truly, truly happening. And we could do, you know, data, it’s great to be out of us to help people and connect, and in fine convenience, or to, you know, abuse them and use that for an economic let’s say, and we have seen what has happened in politics, with the harvesting of big data and extreme position

Marco Bevolo
of people on the station. And so

Filiberto Amati
in that sense, I think it’s, it is true. And I think it’s, I find it very inspiring this notion of let’s look at the real impact of what we’re doing. Beyond, you know, these benign prerogative that we’ve been being guided or misguided by for the past, you know, 40 years,

Marco Bevolo
I think Stephen or perhaps, conclusion could be that is high designer in the 1990s in the 2000s, connected humanities, social sciences, human sciences, people future to technology and technological and scientific possibilities, we need to find means to achieve a new synthesis and the larger synthese. Beyond the people centric Of course, beyond the customer centric, towards life centric and towards a new role of what humans can do and will do towards a new a new company just to orientate the role of you. Yeah, what

Stefano Marzano
we did not put in the equation before because the area that we were taking under our responsibility when working for a company, where all the skills disciplines are outside of an organization, and but when, when thinking as intellectual about, about the future beyond the future of one organization or a company, and you enter more into the sharing some of the responsibility as a citizen on a society, then we have to start to think that all the powerful disciplines need to collaborate. And we have been always excluding, of course, politics, we have been as closing religions and but in reality, when we talk about the future, the future is, is actually the concurrent concurrent cooperation or working of people, and we cannot think about one future. There are many concurrent futures, that people and society prefer. And indeed, this is the very complex, the very complex reality, of course, for for many people might be in a sense of peace of mind to say, Okay, let’s talk about design thinking. And we’re actually design thinking is going a lot of people have been just leaving their success in the last few years. And they talked about organization and how the organization should implement design thinking companies are made sending employees to make a course of design thinking, and, and this is really has reached the level of, of a decline. So it’s like a society that is reaching the point of free from now catastrophe.

Marco Bevolo
So, well, let’s hope that by building utopias that included dystopia, we find the new ways and when you find the new ways you find new tools and new processes that will achieve civa new results. I my collaboration,

Stefano Marzano
I truly hope well, the plan is that with this program of Sapienza is that we tend to come out to the to the results with this engagement of all different faculties of the Sapienza in working on utopias and dystopias, producing publications and actually bringing this publication on the dialogue of the UN and the European community. Not pretending to solve the problem but trying to be a small, it’s a detonator that eventually can blow up shortly.

Marco Bevolo
Yeah, so framing the problem is already addressing the problem. Yes, yeah. Filiberto, do you have any comments? Last words?

Filiberto Amati
Now, I was gonna say the subject will make for a great book. So I’m very happy. There was gonna be a publication behind it, because it’s exactly what we need. Yeah,

Marco Bevolo
I took a lot. Yeah, I took a lot of notes myself. That will be that will be harvested in a medium article about this conversation. I’m sure there will be great interest. Thank you, Stefano, for joining us today. And especially thank you for building after building high design after inspiring high design after opening new ways and new collaborations and new dialogues across industries and companies with Alessi is watch with Electrolux later on. Thank you for bringing this contribution of thought leadership and definitely intellectual vision about what the future might hold and hopefully will hold for us in the sense of final positive development and through negative instances. Thank you very much.

Stefano Marzano
Thank you for having me. Thank you