Essays & Articles


Frontier Design Prize & Speech

On September 15, 2022 I was honored to be the first recipient of the Frontier Design Innovation award by the 2022 World Capital of Design Conference under the guidance of the Shanghai Municipal Government and an international jury of notable designers from all over the world. The newspaper report – and my four minute video talk is below (presented by ZOOM).

The talk also discusses the motivation for my new book, Design for a Better World: Understandable, Sustainable, Humanity Centered (MIT Press, publication date March 21, 2023).

Newspaper Report

The 2022 World Capital of Design Conference opened on the morning of September 15, 2022 in the Huangpu Riverside of Shanghai, and the winners of the eye-catching “Frontier Design Innovation Award” were announced.

This conference is led by “one award, one think tank and one initiative”, and “one award” is “Frontier Design Innovation Award”. The Frontier Design Innovation Award is a forward-looking, innovative and leading non-profit international design award established under the guidance of the Shanghai Municipal Government and selected globally, aiming to encourage and lead the development and breakthrough of design innovation by rewarding and commending representatives and design works who have made pioneering contributions to the design field around the world, enhancing the influence of design in driving innovation and industrial change, and enlightening the public’s cognition and understanding of design to create a better life.

The Outstanding Contribution Award of the Frontier Design Innovation Award was awarded to Don Norman, the most important advocate of “Human-Centered Design.” Don Norman, the winner of the Outstanding Contribution Award, is the most important advocate of “human-centered design” and a pioneer of “user experience design”, and almost every designer has read his books, especially his “Design Psychology”. He has made pioneering contributions to cognitive science, human factors engineering, and interaction design that blend social sciences and engineering.

The Talk

The talk file is too large to be put here (70 MBytes in mp4 format. It can be viewed by clicking on the link in the box below. And beneath the box, I post the text of the video.

The world-wide difficulties that have resulted from the disease called COVID provides many lessons for us. The widespread havoc caused by this disease has caused great difficulties all over the globe, not just for those directly affected by the disease but in the supply chains of the world. This has led to disruptions in the livelihoods of many people and organizations as well as economic distress around the world. It illustrates that we live as part of a complex, interconnected system, where almost everything is connected in an as yet, unknown ways.

I have written numerous books on design: how to design things that are easy to use and understand, enjoyable, and effective. These are important, but by now the principles are well known, even if they are still not always applied.

Now it is time for me to collect my entire lifetime of experience to talk about the way in which design can impact the entire world in a positive way. Today we see many problems in the world: for example the spread of COVID and the harm caused by sustainability because of the pollution of the air, land, and oceans.

All this has led to the current climate crisis which is already causing famine, floods, drought and fires all over the world.

What can design do about this? A lot Although many different disciplines and groups have addressed these problems, design is uniquely suited because design is the interface between the modern world of technology, commerce, economics, and the lives of people. No other discipline emphasizes people while understanding the technical aspects of the situation.

The world as we know it is artificial. It was designed over hundreds of thousands of years – long before the advent of the today’s design discipline. Different cultures saw and designed the world differently, and these differences show how artificial our world has become. But if the world was designed, then perhaps design can get us out of the problems.

Many technologists and economists have presented answers to the difficulties. Yes, these suggestion are important and should be followed, but they are not enough. Why? Because they are too logical: The real problem is human behavior and people are not logical. After all, logic is also artificial, it was created  by philosophers and mathematicians. It is not how people think or behave.

People will work hard to overcome a crisis, but they will not work hard to prevent a crisis in the first place. Well, the bad news is that the crises caused by climate change are already here. The good news is that the crises caused by climate change are already here. As a result, people are starting to take it seriously.

Human behavior, technology, economics, and business are all involved. We need an approach that addresses the entire system. And this is where design can come in.