Design Manchester 2019 - how can we make design SMART?

So, I’m still pretty new to Craft… and learning what the design industry has to offer has been a huge learning curve for me. I never quite appreciated the work that went into rebranding your favourite cereal, or strategy that informs the digital banner that you see at your bus stop every day. All the these things that we typically take for granted... but yet we are all effected by design. Recently this had got me thinking about the impact that design has on our day to day lives, and the effect designers have on the society we live in.

When I was invited to attend Design Manchester to represent Craft for our 5th year of attendance, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. But with my recent ponderings on the impact of design, I was excited to hear from designers that have truly left their mark. On arrival, I could really see why this is such an important event for our industry. I saw designers from all walks of life brought together, from students, freelancers, agency and overseas - it truly was an event to unite an ever-growing and adapting community.

With the theme of the conference this year being SMART, I was ready to be inspired with some of the latest innovative ideas which would positively impact our society in this political uncertainty. But yet the first talk by Extinct Rebellion (Clive Russell & Charlie Waterhouse) was a hard-hitting one to kick-off with. Opening the conference with the ideology that “design is ruining our planet”.

For the next hour they delved into topics around climate change, ecological destruction and our interference with nature. Asking us as an audience some real home truths around the world we live in, stating that:

“We would never get on that plane with a one-in-20 chance of it coming down, but we are willing to send our children and grandchildren on that planet”

As I was starting to question the link between world destruction and design - they then moved onto that question I had previously been mulling over by asking “imagine how getting involved in the right design decision could impact what society thinks?”. It was at that moment the point fell into place, and the links were formed. The idea that a designer can actually refuse design work, and how this impact could be greater for our society and the planet we live on. We all know we need to make a living, but should we start considering the morals behind the work we take on and the impact this will have in not just our life time, but the next generation? Which design decision is truly SMART here?

Moving on from heavy-hitting subjects, we went on to hear from Daljit Singh who founded one of the first digital design agencies called Digit. This talk stood out to me particularly as he touched upon how we could make technology more SMART for freelancers. Recently I have been working with freelancers at Craft, and getting to grips with all things that come alongside going solo. One aspect I get questioned on (and still question myself) is the admin and financial side and doing this on your own. Well LISTEN UP, Daljit Singh has been working hard on his new brand ANNA which stands for ‘Absolutely No-Nonsense Admin’. Which he claims is the way forward for banking and admin apps, and this one is especially for you freelancers out there.

The app is designed as a mobile business account that does your admin for you, chasing your invoices and sending you regular tax reminder so you never miss that deadline again. And to top it all off… the app meows when you swipe that card. 

The conference has fuelled my interest in how design can impact our lives, and it’s something we’re seeing more and more in the portfolios we review at Craft. With so many agencies focusing on delivering sustainable solutions to their clients, innovative thinking is a design skill that’s becoming more prominent in our industry. If you want to talk through your portfolio with me, just drop me an email and say hi!