Much has already been said by many (including myself), about 2020, the year that was. In my earlier essay, I spoke about the impact that the year of COVID19 had on design in Aotearoa. We saw a changing of attitudes, cultural shifts, an emerging interest in regenerative design, more focus upon inclusivity for all, and actions towards doing less harm.
For this discussion, I won’t go over previous ground except to say that 2020 also introduced new ways of working and a whole new vocabulary to most people. One such word within this new lexicon was ‘pivot’.
While I’m not a fan of how ‘pivoting’ became yet another part of the business world’s need to ‘jargon-ise’ everything, it is significant in this discussion about innovation in design.
To ‘pivot’ is to fundamentally change the direction of a business or the products you make and sell when you realize that your current products or services aren’t meeting the needs of the market, or in the case of tourism, travel, and hospitality, where those markets have (temporarily) disappeared.
In a business sense pivoting could be viewed as agile innovation – by necessity.
So, let’s be clear about what innovation is, as opposed to Invention.
Simply put, when you’re creating something completely new or novel, that is an invention, while an innovation is improving upon something that is already there.
Well, innovation is a broad church, as this year’s honorees have shown.
The creators and curators of Katoitoi describe 3 categories of innovations in the following way:
- Technical (work that is innovative or experimental in its production)⠀
- Methodological (work that deviates from the expected/normal/routine design process)⠀
- Philosophical (work that challenges expected ideas, work that deviates from the normal design thinking or that might signal a shift in the way we think about things)
However, what pulls these together is a clear understanding of the problem each entry is attempting to solve – through improvement, not invention.
We should never be seduced by ‘tech for the sake of tech’, instead, we need to look at technical innovation in the widest possible way, and its role in improving upon an existing idea.
In effect, doing something better than what came before.
I am unfamiliar with voxel printing. However, I read the project description and then the in-depth interview with Joseph Coddington to understand more fully what he achieved. https://designassembly.org.nz/2021/04/16/post-graduate-profile-joseph-coddington/
The outputs, far from just being ‘novelty’ ask some questions and in part answered what role is there for the production of 3D printed images
It will be fascinating to see Joseph’s works in real life as it is hard to fully appreciate them through viewing 2d photos of 3D images on the archive page.
The brief, if well researched, should carry an insight, something that is not only interesting and relevant, but that can in itself create an avenue for exploration, and shine a light upon the real problem to be addressed. An example of this is the insight posed in the project overview;
“In times of uncertainty, it can be challenging to navigate the complex financial systems when one is plagued with guilt for not having managed one’s money in the past”
Unfortunately, guilt rarely changes people’s behaviour. Instead, they tend to opt out and carry on the way they have always done.
One of the research conclusions of this design project challenged the conventional norm that financial literacy should be the standard,and instead moved towards a greater focus on what people actually do, rather than what people know.
Usability research and UX testing techniques were conducted to get feedback and guide the decision-making process and design of the mobile application at each stage of the journey.
This is an excellent piece of design driven by a methodological approach based on sound research, and if any bank or financial services organisation is reading this and looking for a new tool to help young New Zealanders into financial wellbeing, I’m sure that the curators of this archive would be happy to connect you.
Innovation can include looking over our shoulders and using elements of the past to move forward. Taking the old block shadow board puzzles as inspiration, the aim of the project is an educational tool designed to revitalise Māori language through art and design. The outcome was a puzzle, helping with word recognition through shape recognition, concentration and problem solving.
Design? Yes. Art? Yes.
This is an immersive exploration of a time in our history designed in the recognisable format of a diary or journal.It provides a strong narrative and powerful typographical interpretation of key moments in the life of Kiwis in Aotearoa, and the wider world during the pandemic.
2020 is a time that future anthropologists will study in great detail, and this mahi will add much to that study.
The observation that we have been increasingly subjected to numbers as a main method of communication and compliance (Lockdown levels) for the last 12 months, and how we are becoming numb to the sheer magnitude of some of those numbers (cases and deaths) has been used to add emotion and a cause to reflect for those who interact with this powerful work.
It is a shame that this is only a physical artifact, a ‘snapshot’ in time because the story and tragedy are still unfolding, those numbers continue to grow and the narrative continues to unfold.
A design project crafted for print and digital media, a beautiful outcome weaving together art, craft, artifact and gift, a chance for those exposed to elements of the project to learn and explore an astronomical event that is not only of huge importance to Māori everywhere, but as we continue on our bicultural journey, a chance for us all to learn.
In my opening comments I wondered whether the hardships and new realities of life in a Covid 19 world had created a new crop of innovative ideas, providing new ways to improve on what has gone before, or whether ‘innovation in design’ is a key part of the DNA of all designers?
Without doubt, some of the mahi in this kaupapa (innovation) have been driven by, or were in direct response to the events and upheaval of 2020, but there was more happening than that.
The work and context discussed here seem to demonstrate that innovation is ‘hard-baked’ into the DNA of our designers and others in the creative industries, and that we rely upon them to rise up in times of uncertainty and change.