Arnold Wasserman, AllSpark Chair

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The Scope, Scale and Reach of Design Today
Arnold Wasserman Remarks at the AllSpark Platinum Design Awards Celebration
San Francisco, 02.15.13

One often hears it said that we are living in a new golden age of design.
A lot of evidence would seem to bear that out.

Consider scope: Witness the breadth of fields in which designers now operate these days, not as technical servants but as thought leaders, activists, agents of change and innovation partners together with not only private industry but with government at national, state and local levels, with civil associations, NGOs, International organizations and philanthropies.

Complex, wicked, socio-technical systems problems that as recently as ten years ago would have been at the outer edge of design practice are now at the very center.

“Design to Improve Life” has become our call to action.

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In addition to our traditional roles as creators and communicators of material culture, we work today on public policy, humanitarian design, public interest programs, design-based K-12 learning, sustainable production and consumption, resilient metro regions, deep local economic development, national creative sector development, professional field building, organizational design, and on and on.

Consider scale: Witness the explosive growth of the design professions worldwide.
Today, China alone has more than 400 design schools graduating over 10,000 product designers and 12,000 media designers each year.

Consider breadth: Not only better trained than ever before in their vertical sectors of specialization, today’s designers move easily across sectors, aided by literacy in cross-cutting disciplines like design research, ethnography, interaction, new media, social technologies, human-centered innovation, materials science and sustainability.

Consider depth: Witness the plethora of venues internationally for design conferencing, discourse and news. The professional association programs of IDSA, ICSID, AIGA, AIA, and SIGCHI. Great private organizations like DMI in the U.S., DESIGN INDABA in South Africa and INDEX in Denmark, plus government supported design centers worldwide, plus web supersites and portals, like CORE 77, DEXIGNER, DESIGN MIND, FAST COMPANY’S CO.DESIGN, 3RINGS and more.

Witness the ever increasing number of superb quality design award competitions like IDEA, Good Design, BRAUN PRIZE, iF,  DESIGN INDABA, INDEX Copenhagen, countless corporate design competitions… and, of course, the SPARK AWARDS.

Witness the ubiquitous adoption of Design Thinking and UX (User Experience) not just as memes but as embedded practice by other disciplines in the private, public, civil and academic spheres.

In this rush of design there is a lot of noise. But there is also a wealth of superb quality signal as well. Witness the Spark award winners you see around you here this evening.

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Given all this evidence and more, you could believe that ours is indeed a golden age of design.

But you would be wrong.

Gold, my dear, is so 2012!

Tonight we inaugurate the PLATINUM ERA OF DESIGN
By honoring the three Best of the Best of the Best of this year’s Spark winners:

THE ALLSPARK PLATINUM AWARDS

The winners are—
See Better To Learn Better
, by Yves Behar, fuseproject
Tesla Model X, by Franz von Holzhausen
Blooming, by Sujin Hwang

AllSpark Winners Video >HERE

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Arnold is Founding Partner and Chairman of the innovation consultancies Collective Invention based in San Francisco and the Idea Factory based in Singapore. He has held the positions of Vice President of Corporate Industrial Design/Human Factors at NCR, Xerox, and Unisys Corporation. He has also been Dean of Pratt Institute’s School of Design, Senior Fellow for Design Strategy at IDEO and Director of Design for the Raymond Loewy design office in Paris.

He has been a pioneer in the practice of user-centered, interdisciplinary innovation strategy and was named a “Master of Design” by Business Week magazine. He writes and lectures frequently on design, strategy, innovation and management.

Arnold has received numerous international awards for his designs of business equipment and consumer products. IDSA (Industrial Designers Society of America) has presented him with its Bronze Apple Award for organizing the first national conference on universal design. Carnegie Mellon University has presented him with its Distinguished Alumnus Award. He has served as chairman of the jury for Business Week’s Industrial Design Excellence Awards competition.

Arnold also serves on the Professional Advisory Board of Carnegie Mellon University. He serves on the International Advisory Panel of Singapore’s Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts and on the jury and advisory board of Singapore Design Council’s annual “President’s Design Award.” He was Principal Advisor for the ICSID 2009 World Congress in Singapore where he originated the Congress theme: DESIGN2050. He has been a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Design, a consultant to the World Business Council on Sustainable Development and a consultant on innovation strategy to the governments of Taiwan, Colombia and Mexico. He is a member of the advisory board of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.

Arnold helped fond and  has been jury chairman and international advisor of Copenhagen’s INDEX: Design Awards since its origination in 2005. This major international design competition, conference, and exhibition awards “Nobel Prizes” for Design To Improve Life.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in industrial design from Carnegie Mellon University and a Master of Arts degree in design history and theory from the University of Chicago.