v.2021-10-05 15:21:00 +1

A set of questions I used as a path to navigate a conversation taking place in Copenhagen in September 2021 at The Index studio, where some members of the jury took on the debate: what is design really – the good, the bad and ugly – and where is it headed?


Established in 2002, The Index Project foundation pushes the boundaries of design-for-good by focusing on design that solves our society’s real needs – what they call ‘design to improve life.’ Their mission is to promote and mobilize design to improve lives through their Index Award, education programmes and impact investment funds.


We are here celebrating proposals creating impact/through design to improve life.

(1) Who is the designer?
(2) What is the meaning of design?
(3) What´s the behaviour determined?

We’re taking - at least - two significant assumptions to be able to have this conversation:

  • That there’s something called design.
    • That it exists, hence we can talk about it, recognize it, tell it is real & that we can talk about it the same way we speak about sociology, economics or history.
    • That we can put all the things we call design together under a common thread.
  • That there is a common cultural substance across nations and lifestyles to project design.

We face the conversation acknowledging & being aware that most of our design discourses are rooted in European ‘modernism’. Where design was a tool & society was capable of transforming itself.

That the practise we call desing is many times rooted on rationalism and believes that certain principles could apply universally. Obsessed with boundaries, frames, sequences, disciplines and control mechanisms. By doing so, we could be transferring these biases and assumptions to cultures where they might not relate.

That for us is difficult to separate design from technology, innovation & markets. But each region might have different paradigms and constraints, and design discourses from the first world might not apply.

From here: Nothing is real.


Index, award, design to improve life *for Society:
The/a designer design the/a design to improve life for society.

Why are we talking about design?

  • Shouldn’t we be talking about improving life?
  • Why is this conversation important to you?
  • Why do we need to celebrate design?

Where does design start? Do we need to design?

  • Why do we need to design?
  • Is {the thing} an individual act?
    • Conscious or unconscious?
  • Is design currently solving any problem?
    • Is design expected to provide answers?

Who’s this designer we’re talking about?

  • Does it matter who is who?
  • Activity/ Profession.
    • Professional designer/ Everyday designer.

We usually don’t talk about the role commissioners and the organizations where designers work play in this conversations.

Is the designer accountable?/Should be?

  • Is the designer just an interface between institutions & people?
  • Is the designer the one having the idea?

What is the role schools of design/thought play in this equation?

  • Do we need a new approach to design?
  • What is the role the academy should play in this talk?

What equips design to play such a role?

Should design be open /have authors? /owners?

Is there a formal process?

  • Follow these steps, and you’ll succeed?
  • How do we recognize this thing we’re doing is design?
  • If scientific method: Should designers be scientists?

It’s there a role/place for intuition?

  • Are there native designers?
  • When do you feel you’re designing?

Is the outcome of design the thing or the new reality that the thing produces?.

  • Is our role {as designers} is to propose or to implement?

Considering we’re impacting other peoples life:

Is there any spaces where we should not practice design?

  • Are there any boundaries?
  • Who decides the boundaries?
  • Could not to design be a design outcome?
  • What happens when design/innovation goes wrong?

Who’s the one improving life? The design or the designer?

  • Who defines that there’s a need for change?
  • What it means to improve life?
  • Who’s life are we improving? Human life?
  • How might we control the impact of our outcomes/actions?


{Society}: People living together in a more or less ordered community.


{culture}: All the tangible and intangible products of Society.


Where the role of designers is to replace/express/uncover [design] into an *(action, process, estate).
Where the role of professional designers is to replace/express/uncover [design] for/with others.

What’s design then?

  • How does the idea of culture as the highest degree for human development align with the idea of work? {the entire business of design}

  • Is our role {as professional designers} to define ‘the thing’ or to help others define it?

Wrap up

Are we {designers} going in the direction we should be going?

Does design learn?

Is design what makes us humans?

Who are we designing with?

Do you think that design has the power to improve our lives & create a better future? or that people has the power to improve our lives & create a better future?

Ends here.

The record