The new theme ‘Genius design for a better everyday’, means that industrial design and innovative, well-designed products that improve everyday life will be critical.

Reflecting its unwavering commitment to sustainable development, Braun has also created the new BraunPrize Sustainability Award to recognise design projects with a strong focus on sustainable solutions.
 

For the first time the BraunPrize is open to everyone – design students, professionals and design enthusiasts, opening up the accessibility of design to more people around the world. The 2012 BraunPrize will establish a new layer of national winners in several countries to further support and promote exceptional design concepts within these countries.

Jane Fulton Suri, managing partner and creative director at IDEO, is a globally renowned expert on design and a judge for the 2012 BraunPrize. She joins Professor Oliver Grabes, Naoto Fukasawa, Professor Anne Bergner and Dr Dirk Freund as the members of the prestigious BraunPrize jury for 2012.

In the first of a three-part interview series with the 2012 BraunPrize judges, Curve interviewed Fulton Suri, who lives and works in Boston, about the awards and the issues facing designers globally and within the United States.

What do you think the BraunPrize award means to the global design community? How is it perceived globally and more locally in the US in terms of the new theme of ‘Genius design for a better everyday’?

It’s exciting to see this expansion of the BraunPrize with its long tradition as a prestigious student awards program for industrial design excellence. Braun is revered in history as a pioneer of holistic and strategic design applied to all touch-points of the brand and the BraunPrize is the pinnacle of this approach.

The theme ‘Genius design for a better everyday’ recognises the power of design to make a positive difference in the world, not only through products but through design applied systemically and in its broadest sense. Genius design comes about through an integration of aesthetic sensibilities, technical expertise and commercial commitment to provide delightful experiences for everyday life in all its complexity. I’m hopeful that the 2012 BraunPrize, expanded to include professionals and enthusiasts and a new Sustainability Award, signals renewed enthusiasm about the pervasive value of design.

The 2012 BraunPrize will also be awarding excellence in sustainable design. How do sustainability issues influence your design process?

The more we become aware of the interconnectedness of everything, the more we appreciate sustainable design as a complex and multifaceted idea. Design is inherently about solving multiple diverse requirements – for social, environmental and economic benefit, to satisfy human purposes in beautiful, commercially viable and technically feasible ways. Probably the most sustainable impact that we can hope to achieve through design is to create systems of products and services that respect and satisfy people’s true needs and desires – meaningful and useful things that people will care for.

Is sustainability influencing US design in general?

In short, yes it is. There’s widespread awareness of the negative effect of a design culture powered by the obsolescence of objects – designers feel a responsibility for appropriate use of resources and for not simply contributing to more landfill.

How is this influence different in the US in comparison, for example, to Eastern cultures and regions?

My perception is that many countries in Europe and Asia are ahead of the US when it comes to sustainable design. This is good because here in the US we don’t like to think we are second best at anything. So hopefully we will double our efforts in that regard!

I think that many Eastern and Native American cultures have a more deeply-rooted sense of human interdependence with the natural world. In contrast with these older cultures, the prevailing culture of the US is a fairly young one, and one founded on a sense of powerful human agency and resource abundance, which led to tremendous commercial opportunity. Even now, in the face of negative environmental consequences, in the US there’s an expectation that industry will offer sustainable alternatives to consumers, who will then vote with their wallets. This is where designers in the US can best serve as advocates for the competing values of desirability, viability and sustainability.

How important is an enhanced exchange between design professionals, academics and ‘design enthusiasts’ for the industrial design profession and society?

Designers are inherently curious and also have much to offer the world. So of course it’s important to exchange ideas with all kinds of people who have something inspiring to offer, whether immediately obvious or not. I believe also that everyone is a designer at heart. That in itself is enriching to design and designers when we see creativity expressed in the ways that people live. And these days there is a strong move among ‘design enthusiasts’ to become creative participants rather than merely passive consumers.

What is your approach to the design process, and how is this influenced by your culture, heritage and society?

My design approach is founded upon a strong practice of making, prototyping and building new things, both to inform our intuitions about what to make and how to make it work well functionally and emotionally for its context and purpose. Both context and purpose involve people – so it’s also essentially a human-centred approach, informed and inspired by people’s needs and experiences.

Do you think your geographic location influences how you work and think as a designer?

Absolutely. The way we relate to objects and experiences is informed wholly by our environment and the cultural values that we’ve adopted. As designers it is important that we are aware of these influences and also sensitive to the experience of people who may have different cultural influences from our own. This is why my work in design has emphasised the value of empathy and becoming intimately conscious of the cultural landscape for which we are designing. This is how we connect to people emotionally and create the foundation for valuable experiences that are relevant to them.

Are there aspects of the way you work, think and create that you feel are directly influenced by US culture and society?

My perspective and experience has inevitably been coloured by the social and cultural habits and values around me. Twenty-five years ago I came from the UK to the west of the US, close to Silicon Valley with its strong connection between design, innovation and entrepreneurship. New technology offered the possibility of new activities and experiences that people hadn’t had the chance to enjoy before. This certainly emboldened me as a designer to think more imaginatively, more fundamentally about why and how things should look, feel and behave, and how they might be introduced to the world.

What message of inspiration would you like to give entrants to the 2012 BraunPrize?

There’s never been a better time for design to make a positive difference in our world. Start with people, not with technology, and look beyond the product for the real challenge. Then summon your deepest awareness and poetic sensibility to solve it.

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