SPACE10 Mexico City Pop-Up

20.05.222 min read

In spring 2022, we headed to Mexico City to connect and listen to diverse perspectives on how we can move beyond human-centered design.

How can we meet the needs and dreams of the many people while remaining within the boundaries of the planet? At SPACE10, we consider this one of the biggest and most urgent creative challenges of our time.

From 26 March to 9 April 2022, we created a platform in Mexico City to gather experts and creatives from multiple fields to share their work and wisdom. Through talks, interactive experiences, exhibitions and workshops, we explored the theme ‘Beyond Human-Centered Design’. Together, we worked towards reimagining the relationship between humans, technology, and our planet — to map pathways towards a new paradigm of design.

10 learnings from Mexico City

We headed to Mexico City with an ambitious question — what constitutes good design in our day and age?

How we practise design can shape the world we want to live in. A world where the needs of natural ecosystems and human communities are not in competition with the interests of businesses. A world where systems respond to context, and good design can unlock good business.

‘I like to think — and also to invite others to think — that design does not exist. I think it’s better to understand design as a verb, as the practice of decision-making — in many cases, on behalf of billions of humans and with implications for other forms of life. Good designing is designing for common good. In the middle of the current social and ecological emergency, this is about cultivating ways of thinking-doing guided by universal and timeless values such as responsibility, humility, plurality and above all, solidarity.’

Andres Colmenares

Co-founder, IAM

For our Mexico City Pop-Up, we brought together inspiring local and global designers, scientists, architects, artists, entrepreneurs, educators, and technologists to collectively unravel and redefine design towards new futures. Here are 10 takeaways to keep the conversations going.

Good design is regional

Designing with community, at local and bioregional scales, means arriving ​​at not one but multiple futures. Not all ideas should scale. ‘The idea of a single solution for all isn’t taking into consideration cultural nuances,’ Seetal Solanki says. Good design embraces Indigenous knowledge, vernacular techniques and local materials to find solutions specific to each unique entanglement of people, climate, and place.

Good design is interdisciplinary

Our individual time on Earth is finite and designers often specialise in one thing. Gather interdisciplinary teams — from biologists to anthropologists — to enable broader and deeper expert understandings of how design can impact people and the planet for the better. Design collaboratively for collective flourishing.

Good design is democratic

Good design acts on behalf of the many people, solves real challenges, and serves the common good. This means design should be inclusive, affordable and accessible. The creative challenge for designers not only lies in designing a product, service or experience but in designing the business model, production system or supply chain around it that enables the solution to become truly accessible and democratic for the many people who need it.

Good design is on-ground

Good design is designing with. A designer is a mediator, translating the needs and dreams of the many into meaningful solutions. Being on-ground with people is where real insights happen. Engage a plurality of people with diverse backgrounds, experiences and income levels to meet the needs of all people who might wish to use a solution. That benefits everyone, including business. ‘Valuing the folks who aren’t heard actually creates more opportunities, more jobs, more systemic change,’ Nancy Douyon says.

Good design addresses urgent needs

Good design is about finding the relevant problems to solve. What is good for people is also good for business. Focus on solutions that improve everyday life, our communities and our ecosystems rather than perceiving people as consumers with endless desires. ‘We should connect to our real needs. We keep designing chairs but what people in Mexico need is access to clean water,’ says Mariana Balderas.

Good design takes a systems approach

Look beyond the function and aesthetics of a product to take responsibility for the entire system. How materials are sourced, how an object is produced, its distribution, its use, and how easily it can be recycled or re-enter the biosphere. A considered system can generate positive impact by creating jobs, shorter material flows and shared value. Good design is the sum of the decisions made in the process of creating a system.

Good design is regenerative

That also means designing with respect for nature and everything that sits within it. We need to observe and learn from the natural ecosystems we depend upon, so design can be a force for restoring air, water, and soil — instead of degrading it. Good design can create the conditions that enable people to give back more than we take. There are regenerative economies all around us — we need to tune in.

Good design is a political act

Design is an opportunity to shape the world we live in to be closer to the ideal worlds we imagine. And every decision is political. Good design can empower communities, create momentum on climate action, and cultivate a more hopeful tomorrow. Designers today can be stewards of conditions that enable future generations to flourish. Good design is actively part of the solution.

Good design connects emotionally

If we connect with an object, it will make us happy and we’ll hold onto it. That’s why engaging with emotions through design is good for people as well as the planet. Longevity and relevance yield emotional capital that grows even stronger over time. But needs change, so good design pre-empts ways to adapt to enable emotional sustainability. ‘We need to make the right things and make things right,’ Kara Pecknold says.

Good design is adaptive

What we understand as good design is constantly in flux. Good design is a design project in itself. And we should revisit the definition regularly and routinely. How we educate on design and talk about design will change — and likely rapidly. New fields, directions and iterations are emerging. Embrace the complexity. Let’s keep designing design.

SPACE10 Radio

Tune in to our radio show and listen to design thinkers explore how we can use design and technology to build better conditions for a more desirable tomorrow.

SPACE10 Radio serves as a digital connector to the panel discussions that unfolded over two weeks at our Mexico City Pop-Up — allowing anyone, anywhere to tune in or listen again.