Updated: Sep 25, 2020
#BeyondCOVID is the new mindset we have all had to adopt… how do we operate in this new changed state? I've gathered together some amazing Design Executives to share what they are doing now and in the coming months to survive and thrive in these difficult times.
Julie Ockerby - CEO, Creative Director and Principal at Meli Studio Australia
Dan Formosa - Designer at Dan Formosa!
Lynnette Galloway - Visual Designer at Apple
Bill Dowzer - Principal at BVN
Turi McKinley - Global Practice Lead and Executive Director, Org Activation
Rick Bell - Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia University NYC
Sean Rhodes - Executive Creative Director at frog
Mark Bergin 00:00
Hi, welcome to the Design Exec Club Town Hall. This is the USA, it's the sixth edition, so that means for six months we've been doing this. I'm Mark Bergin, the founder of DRIVENxDESIGN. Joining me is an amazing panel- actually, over the last month we've been drilling in to find out just how many design executives we've got in the club that have come through the different Design Awards in New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane. And we found that there's over 5,000 design executives that have been involved with us which is phenomenal to think that we've got that large of a cohort. But today, we've got a set of minds who are gonna go focus on the new possible. You know, we know that there was a react phase to COVID. We know there's a rebound phase and we know that there's a reimagine, but in that reimagined comes new possibilities. And those new possibilities are some of the things which are developing and they're developing in a very nascent way. So we're actually going to take you back to Superstorm Sandy and have had a New York deal. With the the challenge that came up from that, and how did they work out what the beyond-here, new future was going to be. And we're also going to actually just drill in now with Lynnette, we're going to have a little chat with you about this idea of a solved design versus style design. I noticed something that was a new concept. You know, we put So, so direct to you. You've been looking at that. What have you understood about those two differences?
Lynnette Galloway 01:25
Yeah, so again, this is something that I started thinking about a while ago, just kind of when the George Floyd protests were going. I started thinking about my position in design and why, I shouldn't say why I'm not part of a crew, but how design could really affect change in the community and really redesign systems like the police or our communities or hospitals, health organizations, government, you know, in so many ways. So again, I was really drawn to this idea of style-lead versus solve-lead and I think it's real opportunity for us right now to really kind of look at designing for the human condition, and really rethink our society in a big way. I think somebody mentioned before that it's kind of hard for designers, because we always focus on much on style, but I think we can still bring style to that process. It shouldn't be what's primary in our minds right now. But the other thing that I kind of wanted to say too, is just the idea about representation mattering. You know, I do think that that's a really key piece to this too. Even in the idea of getting people in the community involved or getting people who are really affected by this pandemic or the economy or, you know, whatever the case is, really bringing in drawing in people that can represent what the real issue is. I do think as a design community, we kind of come at it from an elitist point of view and there are a lot of people who are suffering who really needs to be in those conversations as well. And a friend of mine, he had a really interesting point the other day- I was watching another video, I watched a lot of videos the past week - but he made this point about how somebody had to design slavery, somebody had to design Jim Crow, and redlining and all those things that were big institutions that were meant to hold black people specifically back - those were designed. And so this is our opportunity to really rethink how do we create a world that all of us are accepted in, or that is not about exclusion, but it's really about inclusion. So, you know, just thinking about design is so much more than just creating beautiful objects, but it really can just impact the whole society.
Mark Bergin 03:52
I love that, because what you've been able to do there is just refer to how someone would have had to have designed slavery, and that would have been done through an iterative process in there, but the interesting thing is there was no logo for slavery. Okay, that's not the design. It's not a logo. It's not perfect. There wasn't a T shirt, there was no merge. It just actually was, it was something that existed. And that's very interesting for us because we're always comfortable in talking about design when it comes to artifacts, you know, I've got one of our logos on a cup here, and I can say oh that's well designed and we can talk about we know how it's recyclable and multi-use, but we don't talk about how changing the way that things which are broken can actually be corrected. And often we actually look at things that get broken and we don't understand that there's been a purposeful pursuit to correct that circumstance. Rick, I'll throw it to you because I remember we had a long conversation about Jeanne Gang and the work that she'd done around incarceration. I've mentioned that before and what was interesting was, she began to even get down into the way that people are in solitary confinement, the way they hand the food across, that it was actually meant to go and block people so that they didn't even get to see a person's flesh when their food was put into the cell, like this was total sensory deprivation. You know, we know that there's design that's done for those very wrong reasons that are in there. But we seem to be past that now, don't we? I think you've worked on a few projects when you're at NYC that were to do with making the police more accessible, making sure that the police station was seen to be the safest place in the community, not the worst place in the community.
Rick Bell 05:42
You know, we're coming to the end of the last year of Bill de Blasio's mayoralty and one of the initiatives that he tried to make happen and which has now been significantly delayed is closing Rikers Island and changing the nature of incarceration, doing what he called and what we've called the 'borough-based jails' and trying to make it easier for people who are incarcerated, certainly those awaiting trial, to be closer to their families and friends, not isolated and hidden away. It's regrettable that possibly because of the pandemic and because resource allocation has been delayed, rethinking how people are incarcerated I think we'll come back vividly with the next mayor. Because in a certain sense, the lockdown, no pun intended, has given us some indications of what it means to be isolated. Whether it's in solitary, Mark you're living alone, you know, or what Satre say about health, you know, being incarcerated with other people, you know, maybe two other people as I am [laughter]. It's not hellish where I am, I can't complain I'm very fortunate, but what you know will be the nature of how people interact around a criminal justice system in the future. Yeah, Studio Gang, Jeanne Gang, had a lot of insight not only on incarceration, but on how there can be better communications between police officers often living very far away from the communities in which they're stationed and those in the communities, she and her team cut new ground in Chicago with District 10 I think it was whereas the basketball court in the parking lot, but not to belabor that I think there are a lot of things that we can predict or hope for or aspire to in the future that come out of new realizations that have been dedikate thrust upon us and interaction is one of them and we can come back to that later if there's time.
Mark Bergin 07:53
Yeah, we will come back to it a bit later. I remember I interviewed that I heard with the head of Scotland Yard and he was talking about the thing that actually broke the compact for police in the United Kingdom was traffic offenses. He said, Well, if traffic offenses weren't part of the police, then it meant that when the police were interfacing with the public, they were dealing with really serious things. It was somebody had stolen your property, we're here to help you; somebody has assaulted you, we're here to help you; somebody has been murdered, we're here to help you. When traffic offenses came in, all of a sudden they became an annoyance in people's everyday lives, and it changed the personality, and I go now that's an interesting design consideration, isn't it? When were they traffic police and when are they actually criminal police?
Rick Bell 08:44
So whether it's autonomous vehicles or no cars at all, the problem goes away and the police interaction disappears.
Mark Bergin 08:50
But then I want to get to something, and this is something that I say- now I want to focus on the new possibility here, but I look at the projects that have been done to go create police precincts with ATM machines in there, with areas for young children, with basketball courts. But if you've got a system problem where on the news or through social media that people are seeing black people getting shot by the cops in the street for almost no reason at all, then you've got to get rid of that part before any of those other benefits can be there-
Rick Bell 08:55
And it's not through the design of police stations. Yeah, Jeanne Gang put a basketball court in a parking lot, you know it got rid of some cars, there was perhaps a point of interaction, but the endemic racism that you see in the police force - I won't criticize Chicago, I'm not from there - but I see it in New York, you know, I see it in other cities around the world. That's the point, the cultural point of who gets to work in that capacity with that kind of power - gun on your hip, and the attitude that that is empowering to treat people with such incredible disrespect. The police academy in New York City is an incredible structure, well designed, very expensive. The culture of the police force, I think it's pretty plain it needs more education than just coming through a beautiful building.
Mark Bergin 10:22
And so I think it's really important to actually give some reference, you know, there's a couple of Australians here on the call. After 911, policing in Australia changed also because we were all worried about al Qaeda everywhere. So anybody that was seen with a knife was thought to be an Al Qaeda terrorist that was going to go attack the police and lethal force was used to neutralize them, to bring the public to a level of safety.
Rick Bell 10:48
Crocodile Dundee, didn't he have a knife?
Mark Bergin 10:50
Well, actually, he was a white male in a funny hat so he would have been fine. In the last week, we've had two incidences of people with mental health issues who have been neutralized with extreme force. And we know from a mental health perspective, somebody who's having a psychotic experience or psychosis is more likely to damage themselves than anybody else around them, but they're treating this person with operational procedures, that they're a member of al Qaeda that is out on Jihad to kill them. And you go, that's where the software's wrong, you know, our software for society has to be able to say, yep, we taught you how to go deal with a terrorist, this person is having a mental health episode, they're not on jihad, they're not here to go and actually try to take you out, and we haven't done that. So I think it's really important that we don't necessarily jump on the front foot to criticize them, it's actually how do we upgrade their software? Because most of these people are well meaning people, it's just that they've got flawed software that they've been given. That's the generous art of the new possibilty.
Rick Bell 12:03
I don't wan to say too much, but there's a lot of discussion about - not just in New York and Minneapolis and other cities - about how to diminish the size of the police force and do the protective function through other mechanisms that are more community based. And we've seen that work in other cities, since the 60s, organizations, including the Black Panthers, you know, providing protective services in the communities. You know, does it have to be a police force, you know the history of the police force in New York back in the Teddy Roosevelt days as police commissioner, you know, Teddy Roosevelt of all people was an imposition of reform, if you will, to try to eliminate the absolute corruption that came from other means of interaction where there was money to be made. The police force when it was initiated as a metropolitan protective device was seen as something positive. It can be, but it hasn't been. So you know what's next?
Mark Bergin 13:07
And so Turi, I want to throw across to you and this is totally out of left field for you, so if we need to, we'll give you a moment to think about it. You've worked in Australia with one of the banks here, I think Commonwealth Bank, yeah? Is that right?
Turi McKinley 13:22
Actually with Telstra, Telstra Communications.
Mark Bergin 13:24
Okay with Telstra. So, I want to go in and actually talk about some market differences that exist when it comes to telecommunication providers, banks in Australia and also police force where we have very few of them. There are four banks that represent over 80% of the banking customers in Australia. There is one telco that represents more than 50% of the market, okay? And when it comes to police forces, we have less than 20 police forces that cover the entire Australia. There are over 16,000 police forces in the United States. So to go actually turn around and do the cultural uplift and to make sure that you've got alignment of the software across all of those 16,000 is really probably problematic. The same is with bank transformation. Australia has some of the most progressive use of tap technology on phones, because we've got centralized telcos and we've also got very few banks, so therefore, you're able to do an upgrade there. And and I think that's actually something that is both a weakness in the United States and also there was a strength with it because you have lots of opportunity when you looked at your banking sector. But maybe there's some things like police forces that should actually have best practice, and that comes by having fewer of them not having many of them. And if you haven't got that reference, then you turn around and thought that maybe we've just got too many of these entities and how do you build the culture across them? Because it only takes one police force to still have the old culture and shooting people from a racist perspective and you haven't got the rest of the country satisfied and settled. And that to me is the interesting thing. We're trying to work out about solve, and Lynnette, to your point about, you know, the idea of who designed slavery, they were learning from each other, but there were lots of different slave owners and there were lots of different slave traders and there were lots of people who were then operating slaves, but they will learning from eachother.
Turi McKinley 14:37
But the kind of systems thinking about these things though... Top down control or having like four providers who are able to sort of all follow each other and make pretty rapid shifts, because they have to you know, there is great strength with that, like when you think about the kind of way China operates, it is able to say, okay, we are going to do this and the whole society is going to follow it whether they wish to or not. So the question of how do you make change or what's better, or what's more valuable? I mean, it's an interesting challenge to say, are we where are we talking about a country in the way the country works? Are we thinking about the way businesses operate and kind of the underlying motivations of business, which are often, you know, super financial and things like that. And then when we think of, you know, police forces, and I really do resonate with that, when we're in an environment where I can see what happens in Minneapolis, I can see what happens in the Bronx, I can see what happens in my neighborhood, on the news very quickly and different police forces are hearing what's happening with each other, you can get these very rapid responses, both for the good as well as sparking negative beliefs, reinforcing negative beliefs, things like that. So I almost feel like it's not quite the same equation to ask ourselves would it be better to have one police force or one sort of overarching police force? They're so very, very different equations. So the first question is do you need 16,000 police forces? And the answer is probably no. But do you need to have one? And I think the answer is no. So there's somewhere between- because that one is the military when you speak in a national context, right?
Mark Bergin 17:48
Well... but then by your constitution, the military aren't allowed to operate, so it's like, well, they're kind of something else. But I think about public health and I think about Ebola. Now I want to go back to Ebola and some of the outbreaks that took place, because Ebola, it's another pandemic we've been through and Ebola was actually relatively easy to solve, because it wasn't actually it didn't have the type of spread capability that we say that Corona has. If we go into the same circumstance with people with PPE on and Ebola, it actually didn't spread that much. The reason it was spreading came down to do traditional Burial Rites in some villages, which was that they would wash down the body and the women of the village would drink the fluid that was washed off the body, which was passing on the spirit of the other person. Now, we just said that's verboten, like we explained to them this is why you're dying, just don't do it, change your cultural norm, and that happened. And now that's interesting about this as an intervention which was changing culture for something where actually the culture was toxic to them.
Turi McKinley 19:01
But let me ask you a question though, in that. Is it the responsibility of design to change the culture? Or is it the responsibility of design to understand the culture and look for a creative design solution that fits within that context? So I'll give you an example. It's with the HIV crisis. So this was many years ago, I don't quite remember it, maybe 2010 or so. In South Africa with the aid agency that we were working with was finding that they were doing a lot of tests and people would come in, they would get a test, primarily men would come in and get a test, and then they would not come back and get the result. So you know, you don't know then. So the question that we started to ask was, why is that happening? Why is there a breakdown there? And what we found was that it was incredibly shaming for a man to be told by another man, or maybe a female doctor that he has HIV or AIDS, it was so shaming that there was just absolute kind of denial and unwillingness to go in. But the aid agencies were following established Western medical practice, which is, if you are telling somebody that they have a deadly disease, you need to sit down and have a direct consultation with them to provide them the information they need to be healthy. So there's a direct cultural conflict, and honestly, neither of them are wrong. So as a designer, you can't buy us to say this one is the right way so I have to fix that other culture. You need to find a solution. So what we were able to do is work with a local telco that had a service that did free text messages, and they agreed to provide free text messages to communicate medical results, so your HIV test results, and do the consultation through your feature phone. So that enabled the person who had taken a test to get, in a private fashion, like almost nothing is more private than your cell phone screen, to get their results in a private fashion, and then have a consultation about what to do about it. So, you know, I think as designers when we think about what are we designing, you know, we one, have to understand that creativity is not necessarily for the good, you know, in lynnettes example, or if we look at, you know, Jim Crow and things like that - creativity applied effectively, but not for the good. But we also have to ask ourselves as designers, what is our responsibility and how can we apply our creativity to go beyond the expected answer if something is right, and therefore the other thing that is creating problem is wrong.
Lynnette Galloway 22:06
I'm sorry, I don't mean to cut in, but I really think that's an important point, even when thinking about the police. It is really understanding the culture, one specifically of America, it's a totally different culture than more homogenous culture. And then understanding the black community, there's two different levels there,and a lot of black people would argue that so many police were formed to really keep black people in line in the first place. And so when you start with that premise, like now you're trying to rethink something that is so deeply rooted, and has so much history, you have to start with the point of even understanding how to get out of that first of all, which I think is hard. And one of the things that always plays in my head as a designer, is that I feel like the greatest branding initiative that was ever done was on black people. The way we were branded once we got out of slavery and Jim Crow and all those things. I mean, if you think about the merchandise, the artifacts that you talk about, I mean, especially in the south. All these these objects that objectify black people, even in blackface. We have such a job, and I mean, there were other cultures or races that had that done to them to, you know, the Japanese certainly, and the Chinese also, even in America - but it's kind of like ours is stuck. And so we're trying to change a system that's based on such an ideology that I think is hard to just get out of it. And to the other point, you know, it's also about police getting in the community and getting to know people. You know, I think basketball is great, I play it, but also there are black people who are artists, and black people who are musicians. Like every kid is not just interested in playing sports, some of them want to do more cultural things or whatever, and it's like, until you stop looking at Black people, again, as a monolith, and really get into their communities and their cultures and really challenged them in ways that they feel empowered, you're going to continue looking at them in an objectified way, and continue responding to them in an objectified way. So that was my little piece that i've been holding in.
Turi McKinley 24:31
And very rarely is a problem like systemic racism as simple, that's air quotes around simple, as people not coming in to get a single test result.
Lynnette Galloway 24:41
Turi McKinley 24:43
These issues are much broader. So you know, as designers, I think our ability to start- one of my colleagues in Europe has over the last several months been leading an initiative to ask What is the role of sustainability as designers? What is our role for our clients? What does that mean for sustainability? Well, part of what's been very interesting around that is that sustainability is also about inclusion, it's also about diversity, it is really seeing the lens of that growing from, like recycling or in terms of what we consume, to really thinking about communities has been really interesting. And I think for me, in terms of new possibilities, it's been great to see several kinds of those initiatives just kind of coming up within frog, but what I think is really interesting in the outcome of that specific work is that she's working on a toolkit to help us ask better broader questions and kind of open our own apertures. That's hard to do and yet it's probably one of the more exciting things I think is going on in this current time, in this moment.
Lynnette Galloway 26:02
It certainly takes time. It's not an emotional reaction or an emotional solution. But you know, it does, it takes a while to get to that point.
Mark Bergin 26:11
Julie, I want to throw across to you. And I want to just have a little bit of a chat here aboutaged care, which is one of your special specialties. And we had this conversation with McKinsey where we were talking about, well, how do you how do you fix aged care? Because around the world aged care seems to have had this massive problem, which is infection gets into aged care, it spreads and there's no stop. And part of what we discussed was that it was actually about the back of house people in aged care that made the difference. And it was, did we have the right culture? Do we have the right orientation for the people there? People who will often not able to get a job as a security guy, but now we're working in aged care as attendants, and you're going, well, somebody who can't even get a job as a security guard probably shouldn't be somebody who's meant to be looking after the elderly people, because there's probably a reason they didn't get a job as a security guard. So let's have a little bit of a look at that age care side, because we've got people where it seems like we're storing and forwarding them, but it's folding into a morgue. We're not actually folding into anything that's about a thriving future, right? And that to me isn't what aged care is about, it should be about people living vital lives.
Julie Ockerby 27:31
Well, that's it. I mean, it's twofold. And I think about this quite a lot. And you know, in recent years, which is great, the focus has been on the residents and their families. So whatever you design you design around them. What has been a forgotten thing is designing around the carers and the environment that they're working in. And I think the biggest issues and certainly down this part of world that we've had is and always has been is not having any enough people work in aged care, qualified people. How do you get them qualified? And they're probably one of the most underpaid professions ever. So, you know, the first off solution for everyone is well just pay people more and then you'll get good people but it's bigger than that, you know. It's a hard, tough, challenging environment. When you go through COVID what we've gone through in the last few months, who would want to work in aged care? you know, other than it really is a vocation. And so in our design work now, a lot of our focus because I feel like we've nailed the resident side and the family side and we can always improve on that, is what can we do to better the environment for the carers and the frontline staff, because it's not spoken about a lot. We throw money at things, you don't necessarily get a return for investment for ertain funds or grants, but it is certainly a forgotten part of the industry that needs to be looked at. And I know I've been guilty like, early in the piece when we first started designing age care it was well we make the front of house look great in the back of house, well they'll be whatever and we can't have that attitude anymore. I always say it's just like a theater production - front of house is great and back of house is just like a back of a hotel, it's not very pretty at the back of a hotel. But there really has to be integration of both now because people work in the back of house area, and we need to look after them.
Mark Bergin 29:40
And so you brought up the theater there and many moons ago, I used to work in theater and I went from working in some really bad community based theaters that didn't have shows that thrived and I found my way working with the Cameron Macintosh people who do Cats and Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera, and I got to tell you the back of house on Phantom of the Opera when we built that in Australia, the pride that we all had because it was perfect and the culture that we had in the team, and the show had to perform eight times a week, and it did that for 15 years. And then I think, if you go look at the difference of the shows that couldn't work out how to keep running, and they didn't have magic on the stage every day, it was because the back of house wasn't right. So I think you're right there that, you know, we do need to remember that the back of house or the operational side needs to be as resilient as the front of house and too often we've seen and I think Bracken Darrell the CEO with Logitech said this, this next year of design is all about design in every department of the organization. It's not actually putting lipstick on a pig. It's not actually in the usability of the products. It's in the accounts, it's in HR. It's everywhere throughout the organization, which is that solved mentality. Dan I want to throw across to you because you've worked in the products for age people, that famous brand that you had, or product range of the Oxo tools for kitchens. You've worked on the forward, you know, how do you get people to not hit the accelerator and drain the battery as fast as possible. But you've also worked a lot around musicians over the years. And I'm interested, you know, we think that these things are just unique and that they're actually special enclaves, but those behaviors thread their way through the rest of society don/t they? I know we found with the Oxo tools that it wasn't just for age people, there were young people who got a benefit. And I've got one in my kitchen here so I can open jars, you know, and I haven't got arthritis, but just a really good tool for that purpose. So how do you actually go from briefs which are supposedly for special cases, but actually didn't make them universal? Or is that something you don't know how you do that, you just doing it as a natural thing?
Dan Formosa 32:03
Well, it's usually the other way around. Usually it's a brief that's aimed at the middle, and the discussion is, well, let's look at the spectrum. And especially let's look at the far edges of the spectrum. Because when you look at, you know, for instance, the novice of the export or the weakest and the strongest, or whatever that spectrum may represent, you find a lot of information, a lot of food for design, innovation, a lot ofa lot of food for creativity. But the response is no, this is our middle and you know, usually what I am saying, let's look at the edges, you know, let's look on the outskirts.
Mark Bergin 32:52
And I think one of the things that my Steve Jobs' push just so phenomenal was he didn't want to have A few people, you know that everage that liked him, he wanted to go have a very special group of people who loved him, and that love the Apple products, and that they didn't buy one of them, they bought the whole ecosystem, and that they were absolute champions for them. And I suppose that's an interesting thing where so often people will think about the new possibilities as being on this average path rather than actually going deep and narrow on one particular aspect of what they're doing, it might mean that they have to shed a few other things that they used to do, to get that focus to go deep and narrow, and become experts and actually show excellence in that space there. Sean, I want to throw across to you. Tell me about what your new possible looks like. For the six months that we've been in this situation, how things change for you and the new possibilities that you're creating for your clients?
Sean Rhodes 33:52
Yeah, I want to build on something that Julie was talking about, around how important it is for employees or members of a group or an organization to really have design working for them, so that they can be sort of the most engaged that they can be, the most supportive that they can be. And this has to do with, you know, absolutely everything with sort of their experience of where they're working, how they're working, how they're interfacing with, with individuals, what communication looks like. And we're doing a tremendous amount of work in that organizational space. And I think it's really exciting. You think about one of the greatest sort of evolutionary traits of mankind, it's our just ability to communicate with each other, the ability to organize with one another. And, you know, that's what's gotten us to the moon, that's what's built the great cities in the world is is that type of organization. So I think, you know, when I pull back and sort of look at the role that design is playing in sort of shaping organizations, you know, me as a sort of more classically trained designer where I was looking at function, I was looking at aesthetics, to thinking about, you know, the organization as a system is something that we can, you know, start to think about how to design intentionally gets really challenging in a good way really exciting in a good way. And, you know, I think one of the things that I've been really encouraged about is, you know, a lot of the conversations that I've been having with folks in my organization, but then also collaborators outside of the organization is really taking another look at that. And I think in particular, during COVID, you know, we've gone through the the trauma of COVID in the States, we've definitely gone through a collective trauma with all of the killings by police that we've been been discussing today. And we're taking a really hard look at that and saying, you know, what role can design play in reshaping these systems and reshaping these organizations. You know, as Turi was saying, sustainability is something, I think, that we have a little bit more of a connection to because design I think is rooted in sort of the creation of artifacts with industrial design. But I think this new component of social justice or thinking about, you know, how we can have a more positive effect in the world in that way is is something that feels newer, and I've been really encouraged. I've been really challenged in those conversations in a positive way. I think there's, there's plenty of people out there that are going to call bs on us for sort of stepping into that space. I was speaking to a group of 700 people that work at a big insurance company, and they said, you know, I was reading something recently about design thinking, and how that maintains the status quo in terms of innovation, but then also from a social perspective, and I think that was a really good challenge. So I see that type of thing, becoming more a part of our dialogue. I've been encouraged by that sort of level of external and internal critique around the role that design plays. But I do really feel encouraged that we are considering that organization, which is, you know, one of the greatest inventions of mankind - a government, whether it's a fortune 1000 company, it's an incredible invention to sort of reshape the world we want to live in and I really like thinking about that as a design challenge.
Mark Bergin 37:34
So Sean, you just gave me a little bit of a thread here. You referred to yourself as being trained as a classical designer. So then the challenge I've got is, are all the people on this call neoclassical designers now? You know, if you go think of classical music, well, there's people who say Yeah, I played the classics, and we know what that means. And then you've got the people who are the neoclassical people who have said, Well, I'm going to bring a bit of new to it as well. And as neoclassical design is that actually where you bring the solve and the style part together, rather than just having what it used to be. Because the fight that I've seen go on about whether design thinking is the greatest fallacy that's ever occurred but, I often go and talk about music and I was taught to play the recorder as a child. It didn't make me a classical musician, but it made me appreciate music because I understood structures and I understood how it worked and I also understood how pathetic I was at being a musician. And so therefore, there's like this respect for the masters who can actually go do it, but it made me a bit of appreciate it because I learned how the process works. And I wonder if you know, in corporates by bringing in design thinking, are we actually teaching people to have the process of design and the transformative power. We're not trying to they are designers, they're just recorder players. And we leave people like you guys to be the masterful people who can come in and say, now this is how you really use design and now that you understand how it works, we've got a common language and we understand how to think in the right framing. That to me seems more of what the design thinking era is about, rather than replacing designers. Do you think I'm on the wrong tangent?
Sean Rhodes 39:25
No, I agree. I mean, I think that there's a difference between design- This is my personal take that design thinking is something that creative people, that designers do very inherently and the banner of design thinking is, you know, some accessibility to that mindset to that way of approaching problems that really can be for everyone. I feel really at the heart of it philosophically is inclusive. I know there's some real challenges with that critique on design thinking for some of the colonial aspects of it. But you know, to me, I do think it has a potential. I mean, we've all worked with collaborators or clients that get it, that they are not just versed in the language, but really have an appreciation for creativity in design, and it just makes the outcomes even better. And I get really excited about that. I feel like over the course of my career, the literacy of collaborators that are non designers has gone way, way up from when I started my career in the early 90s. And I think that's enabled us to do more ambitious things, to tackle more ambitious problems. And you know, design thinking is definitely controversial, but I think that definitely has played a role in that evolution.
Mark Bergin 40:51
For some people, it's a culture clash for the visitors like now I was meant to be the one who came up with the ideas here. I always found that difficult is that banner being a creative director, I'd walk into a room and it was like everybody else packed their brains because I had the word creative. So I just go in there adn say I'm just here to do stuff. Bill, I want to get across to you because in the pre conversation, you spoke about the idea of the problem seeking. And I think the first time we saw that in the design exec club was when Brian Collins brought it up. Collins is saying that they are focussed on being problem seekers, they're not so much actually problem solvers, but seeking. Which takes this idea of design being about soul one step further. We're going to seek out what those challenges are. In the last six months, you've had a huge amount of challenge because you've been in Australia. You've also had family circumstances that have been challenging there, you've got office circumstances has been challenging, but how do you go out and actually then go and try to do that problem seeking when you're at such a long distance.
Bill Dowzer 41:53
It's been interesting because also I spent, you know, I've only been back in Australia a week so I've actually gone from a covod world in New York, having been in New York for the better part of this year, and then arriving in Australia. So the thing that which I've loved about this conversation is this whole the whole systemic issues or opportunities. And then to me, it's actually been this world of active listening, the sort of listening to understand, to suspend the judgment or the the traditional way that I've gone about doing things and I think, you know, if there's an interesting I have incredible gratitude for, for which is a bit personal and just about having this year of incredibly different experiences culturally, and really challenging my own ideas around you know, Where value can be added in terms of vow and you know, as a traditionally trained architect to go on that line, you know, it's so good to get out of your own lane. And I think there's an idea around generalism, the generalist that is actually for me more aspirational now is actually learning far more and then being put into a position where, where you have to re-learn, and you've got to use different resources to be able to sort of solve a problem and then the whole system... you know everybody has a value of getting involved in the conversation to actually work through the solution.
Mark Bergin 43:36
In the pre conversation I shared with, with the panel here that I'm working on a small on a short film with somebody, I'm mentoring them how to do filmmaking and the the idea behind the film is about covid folk, and it has to do with agency. And it has the fact that many of us have had our agency taken away from us. You know, the agency that's been taken away is most of us have a plan of what the future look like or the next two Three years. And there's this fog of COVID that's coming in, which is where we don't know when we can start that, you know, if a if a ship's captain decides to leave a port 10 minutes late, all the passengers are upset. If there's fog that makes them ship leave 10 minutes late, it's okay. So we've we've kind of got this permission that it so that we know that we're in a whole period. But for young people as well, they, they were expecting us as leaders to as their elders to turn around and shine a torch and tell the way to go. And I and so I find it very interesting that this fog moment is there. And as people who normally know how to think about the new possible, we use tools and devices to do that. And actually, Rick, I've got a very old document here, which goes back to 2013. Yeah, you as the as the head of the New York chapter of the Institute of Architects after Superstorm Sandy, that you helped go commission this document and the name of it is a Platform for the Future of the City. And what what I found really interesting and why I've kept this document isn't because of its, you know, its literary value, but because of what it is, is a statement for the future. The people in New York didn't know what to do. And they knew that they were going to be new storms that would come and there would be new problems. And I think earlier this year, I saw the Bjark Ingles Group were proposing a wall to go four to five parts of the lower part of Manhattan. And there's dialogue that's coming out of that, but that directly came because there was a position document that shone a path to the future that said New York and overcome the title and storm challenges, it can overcome society challenges that can overcome economic challenges. And it was put in here as a manifesto that actually gave that. So I wonder, you know, you've seen what that's about seven years ago, I think, for that documentary. In those seven years, that's-
Rick Bell 45:55
remarkable thing about the document was not so much the issues that We tried to outline for the next mayor It was written as a lead into the Merrill primaries eight years ago, over and we're in the same position now with a new mayor to be elected in November next year. What was remarkable about the book was that designers came together architects, but not just architects came together to talk about what were the issues that were important, and how to collectively try to make a difference in the same year and forgive me for not having that book on hand. But I have another one, which was more interesting in some ways. It talked about New York and Los Angeles, the uncertain future written in 2013. Again, before the mayoral primaries, Oxford University Press, it may still be around, give David Holley, a sociologist at UCLA, a lot of credit for pulling it together. And there were 20 essays. I was happy to write one of them that talked about what you could predict about the future when it was so uncertain. Because of all the factors that you mentioned. I think the future is always been uncertain. There wouldn't be prognosis it wouldn't be people who were predicting the future if it were a certainty. And you could know with assurance, I think what's different each time is that there's some new good to thinking that the vulnerabilities as you were describing the pre conversation are forever. And I think we're seeing that with the pandemic now. It's changed our perceptions of what's possible in the new future. It's changed our aspects of reference about connectivity, about sustainability, we're flying less, we're not playing at all, you know, we're communicating more, but the communications are remote. Well, that then become the new normal, if that's the word, hope it's not, you know, there's no such thing as normalcy, what will be what seems culturally accepted, that defines not only how we design but how we interact, how we communicate, how we work with each other, and the beautiful thing about what you've done If I can compliment you, here and now graciously, you're now is that bringing together people who might not otherwise have an opportunity to talk? And there's so much of that happening, you're doing it very well, there are other people are doing as well. And that will be, I think the thing that redefines geography and that is what I'm most excited about that at any scale, whether it's never leaving your neighborhood, never taking even public transportation, again, in New York City, or never flying again, we're even more connected. Some of us are fortunate to have a computer and connectivity with people who are teaching us things that we would not otherwise know. My students at Columbia, we can't go on field study in Sydney or London or Paris or LA. But we can virtually do that. And when I think about it, the great majority of my students in New York City are from India and China. And what does that say about both those who are here in New York and those who are in Interacting as if they were here in New York with a 12 hour time difference in Beijing. That's very exciting. And I think we will see that even with a, what is it a 14 hour difference between New York and Australia that will overcome that in some way. There were many, many famous writers all set for one who just didn't bother with the daytime, they worked at night. And Mark, I think you're in line for being the next Paul's like,
Mark Bergin 49:25
well, it's so fun. Thank you very much that like to the to the people who watch multiple of these town halls. The trick is look at the window that I've got here and you can see whether it's daylight or whether whether it's not time, but the lighting that I've got here the office means that basically studio lighting so it's the same all the time. But But you are right that we that we have been able to go connected we've been able to change our ID or whatever villages. Now before COVID came in. I was planning to be 40 weeks out of Australia out of out of my home. He is traveling and touring, that has changed. I think I'm up to just on the cusp of 200 nights sleeping in my own bed world is dramatically different. But what I also did that I was reflecting and going, why do I feel constantly under stress and under pressure? And it was because I didn't know the condition that I was in. So I made a couple of very simple decisions. One was I accepted that for 12 months, I wasn't going to travel. So then I could clearly go well, I don't have to be every week planning when I can go back to the previous condition. And then I actually sat down, I said, well, is 12 months realistic? I let go from a business risk perspective. If I've got to set it up for 12 months, maybe it needs to be 15 1820 or 30 months. And I actually decided that it would be September 22 would be the first tour that I do. And the reason for that is that even if you get a change in president that takes place on November the second or whenever you're election is it's not until early next year that the new president comes in. And that new president then says, Well, I've got my hundred days to go get a lot of things in order. There's and then we need to have a virus, sorry, a vaccine, and then it needs to be given to enough people. And then it needs to be given to enough people, not only in America, but also in other parts of the world to go get that we've got this thing under control. And that's actually that's 12 and 24 months away. So anybody who isn't playing this condition at the moment, which was exactly what I saw, when, you know, if I looked at this document said the condition of New York is we are now under threat of storm surge. And it was great because it actually gave a light to where we're up to. I think the important thing is the certainty is that we tell people that this condition that we're in, whether we call it normal or abnormal that this condition is here for quite some time, the who came out this week and said it got at least two years ago. You know, this thing is gonna last for a while. It's faster that it returns, right? But anybody who isn't accepting the condition is going to be continually under stress. And since I've made that decision not to travel, I didn't have to work out have a soul. They're not traveling and stitching this community together. And you go, Well, that's it. That's a very interesting thing to go do. But at least there's now some constraints of what I can solve. And that's the reason I'm indulging this from me is to actually try to give everybody who's seeing this an opportunity to understand how to solve the stress or the anxiety that they might have. I not been able to see what's ahead for a period of time, make a plan. It's what we do in businesses, we make plans. We look at the condition, we make a plan, and we know that we may have to extend or shorten that plan but make a plan. We know that this is a condition wearing for quite some time. And then you can set about doing those amazing things like working on the systemic changes that need to take Place, you can work on the projects that you want to work on. But you can't work on those if you think you're in a temporary circumstance. But if you know you've got a plan that takes you for a period of time, you can start to manage them. And you can start to work on Terry at the moment in in frog world. And again, if this is too complex, we'll we'll drop this bidet. But in frog world, what's the type of plan horizon that you've got? Have you been modified things so that you're actually got a six month or a two year plan? Where are you up to?
Turi McKinley 53:33
Um, well, I think that maybe Sean and I might both answer this one. But at the moment, we are really looking at continuing to be out of the studios for the rest of the year. And I think what's really been interesting is the work that's been going on around figuring out what the new normal should be, and probably One of the things that I think is most likely to stick with that is that we're really asking ourselves to think about the project. And what do we need in terms of the studio to support projects. So where we've landed at the moment is, we do believe that the studios are important that being able to spend time together, being able to work together is pretty critical to the kind of empathy building understanding coming to a shared point of view around a problem, so that you can go and explore and solve. But we also have found that the company has managed to be quite productive in this remote environment and that a lot of the work that we do and a lot of the thinking that we do, can be done this way, even research. So we're the model we're moving towards is having the studios by Having each project kind of decide when do we need to be in the studio for this given project. Probably that means that kickoffs and certain key meetings will be in the studio. But it allows us to sort of look more broadly at models and say, Hey, it may be that because we can bring people from our different studios together, perhaps we actually set up pop up studios in a different place that is appropriate for the work that we're doing. And that's where we come together physically. Perhaps we can, you know, sort of support different ways of work. And that started to generate some interesting conversations within different leaders within the company and different teams of what rituals Do we need to set so that we maintain our connections with each other, even when maybe some people are working together and some people are remote or were at a different stage. One of the ones So, one of my teams right now does, which I think is actually kind of fun is at the end of stand up, where not everybody always has their camera on all that stuff. Everybody turns their camera on. And we do a clap, like we're gonna break. So we do a clap. And it's kind of hilarious, because we never managed to clap our hands at the same time. And it's always kind of a fail, but it's just a moment of humor and, and trying to do something together and actually seeing each other. So, you know, all the way down to those very small details of what's changing, I think, was it. Somebody just a few minutes ago was saying that they're really enjoying all the new ideas that are coming up. Because we have to, and I think that is one of the examples. But Sean is very much part of this change as well. Anything you want to add to that?
Mark Bergin 56:55
list. We'll get very close to wrapping up here, but surely it would take us out
Sean Rhodes 57:00
Yeah, I mean, I think someone started this by saying, you know, that there's just all of this opportunity to collaborate not just with people in your locale or people that are, you know, kind of in your network. But, you know, I think what this is done, it's really expanded that, and I've been just so encouraged internally at frog and then also externally, with the people that I've been able to collaborate with and just done. Absolutely exceptional work. It's been such a nice thing. And I think also with clients, you know, interior is going to be doing some work with a with a partner of ours that provides collaboration software, you know, I think we're really thinking about how to push the limits of using that it's not the same as being together but there are some things that can actually be better. One of the things that we're exploring with this partner is how can we through a workshop process be more inclusive, making sure all the voices in the group are kind of coming through how can we help to manage bias that we don't necessarily see and actually like kind of building that into the process. So, you know, I don't think any of us would have picked this path. But I think you know, just like with everything, that's a challenge, there can also be opportunities with it. And I've been excited just for my practice and what I've been seeing frog is how we're adapting and exploring that my grandmother always said, adaptation is the highest form of intelligence and I always think about her in moments like this.
Mark Bergin 58:24
Okay, fantastic. I think actually that I'm going to use that as our end there that adaptation is the highest form of intelligence is because people need to think about the new possible in a very small in a very positive time. Thank you all and thank you everybody. What I'm going to try to do is follow Terry's lead me. Let's see if we can all clap at the same time. Are you ready? Okay... well...
Sean Rhodes 58:54
Mark, Mark, we you have to count down you have to say 123 and then on three, we'll have the clock.
Lynnette Galloway 59:00
This is like Melissa [Cullen]'s counting game from the last time and that went wrong.
Mark Bergin 59:05
Exactly and I'm such a bad facilitator. So Sean, you're gonna take us out here help us with this.
Sean Rhodes 59:11
Okay, so we're gonnado it on three. Okay, ready 1,2,3
Mark Bergin 59:23
So, what we do there is that when that can be solved, that we then have the technical capacity to go actually put on musical performances online, until then we won't! Thank you everybody's this has been so much fun, I am always humbled by your attention and focus.
Hosted by: Mark Bergin
Podcast production: Pat Daly
Transcript: Otter AI