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KTN at New Designers 2015: Part 2 - The Future

The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) recently ran a series of workshops and talks New Designers 2015 – the leading design graduate exhibition, which was celebrating its thirtieth incarnation. Over 200 industry leaders attended KTN’s talks and workshops – from Unilever and McDonald’s to IBM and McLaren Applied Technologies. This clearly demonstrated the strengths of KTN in bringing science, creativity and business together with the aim of improving the speed, quality and commerciality of innovation. Below are write-ups of three workshops which explored the future role of design in innovation.
Urban Design for Future Lifestyles and Human Behaviours: Making our Cityscapes People-Focused
The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) hosted an exciting challenge-led workshop at the New Designers exhibition, inviting a broad range of industry and design experts to help three city authorities address distinct problems for improving the quality of life for people living there. Nottingham, Oxford and London rapidly outlined their challenges to the group and were impressed with the quality of discussion and take-home suggestions from the audience in such a short space of time. 
Jonathan Shawyer from Nottingham City Homes presented their challenge of working across a consortium of EU cities within an EU Horizon 2020 project to deliver smart energy-efficient homes and communities. With different cities’ governance and contexts a potential barrier, discussion focused on how to validate, collaborate and reel in useful energy data from a range of parties to corroborate and create a neutral dataset. It also revealed that rather than try to force examination of the similarities across different cities in different countries, an alternative would be to test how the gaps and differences allowed for different innovations that could be validated using different controlled tests.
For Oxfordshire County Council, Bindu Varney outlined their challenge of how to move beyond the constraints of residential street design guidance, instead offering a more creative and collaborative way of working with local communities to shape the local environment and transport options. Discussion focused on understanding local communities’ needs in their current mobility patterns through analysing patterns in big data – and also using personas and profiling to understand the potential choices and preferences for prospective communities in future housing developments. 
At the Greater London Authority, Daniel Barrett noted their challenge was navigating the interdependencies across city systems and integrating open data and digital opportunities to more effectively utilise the city’s existing assets and infrastructure. The conversation investigated whether using a simple unit, such as the local street, could be a way of making these connections and solutions understandable e.g. in relation to transport choices, waste and recycling options, or how individual streets might be viewed as mini power stations linking up micro-renewables and local storage.
Despite the limited time available, each discussion generated ideas and appetite for further conversations that spilled out beyond the session, bringing together new collaborations and connections for the cities drawing on the insight and cross-sector expertise in the room. 
This summary was written by Edward Hobson, KTN Knowledge Transfer Manager – Design.
Designing the Future of Wearable Technology Today
Mitra Memarzia outlines some key trends in wearable technology - photo credit: Mark Mackenzie
The Knowledge Transfer Network’s (KTN) Digital Economy Manager Mitra Mermazia introduced a session that brought together some of the UK’s leading designers, researchers and entrepreneurs working in the field of wearable technology. In small groups, they discussed the major issues, challenges and questions that should help to frame future research and innovation, before presenting the outcomes of these discussions to the other groups. In the course of this, the following points were made:
Wearables need to do more than simply ‘piggyback’ as an accessory to smart phones. We need to create situations in which they directly interact with the environment.
Wearable technologies must be relevant and real for people, for instance improving the quality of life in dense urban areas.
Should we see wearables as lying primarily with the wearer or the system: is it a personal device, or a means of connecting services? And how far will people want to be monitored?
Ultimately, wearable devices should be a means of expanding an individual’s capacity and skills through connectivity.
While much of the technical innovation will be in chemistry and materials, for the consumer much of the added value is likely to be in the design and quality of the fashion product.
Wearables will not be called wearables for much longer! They will become devices seamlessly integrated into fashion and fabrics.
With great thanks to our contributing experts and facilitators:
Prof Mischa Dohler (Director, World Sensing and King's College) Martin Charlier (Co-founder, Raincloud, co-author of Designing Connected Products), Dr. Deborah Cooke (Smart Futures Technology Leader, Unilever), Tom Fiddian (Lead Technologist, Innovate UK), Paul Williams (Technology specialist, Rolls Royce) Lynne Murray (London School of Fashion) Dr. Edward Hobson (Design Lead KTN), James Wehner (Digital Experience at McDonalds global) and overall partner, Nimbus Ninety.
This summary was written by Tom Campbell, KTN Lead Specialist – Creative, Digital & Design.
Designing our Future – tutors’ discussion with the Design Council
This workshop offered a panel discussion and open forum examining the future of design and the skills that designers will need to compete in the future. The first half of the session was led by the Design Council’s Director of Policy and Research Annabella Coldrick (pictured below). Drawing on their recent Designing our Future research, she highlighted a number of emerging trends within the sector. 
Photo credit: Mark Mackenzie
Design was becoming more collaborative, she said, citing the example of Quirky, a consumer product company that is transforming manufacturing by letting consumers decide what gets produced. Designers too were becoming more socially engaged, as evidenced by projects such as Pop up Parks and the continuing success of Fairphone, a smartphone creating a market that puts ethical values first. There was also a growing requirement for design to help find solutions to challenges beyond its usual brief, including such areas as health, cities and government. To illustrate this, Annabella mentioned the five winning projects of the Living Well With Dementia Design Challenge organised by the Design Council in partnership with the Department of Health.
On a more cautionary note, however, we were told that design education was increasingly under pressure to improve student employability and versatility in order to meet the growing need for more designers who are able to support and manage innovation within industry. By way of addressing this challenge, the Design Council has recently launched their Design Academy, a new training programme for UK design students at leading universities.
Taking up this theme, Professor Laurence Zeegan from the London College of Communication suggested the creative industries could be more supportive of design in education. Too often, he said, it felt like industry only demanded “oven-ready chickens”, whereas more encouragement of talent that can challenge convention – “rock boats as well as row boats” – was needed. 
In the general discussion that followed, it was suggested that with course tuition fees having risen to around £9k per year, today’s students were also probably less likely to go “out on a limb’’ than their state-funded predecessors.
This summary was written by Richard Booth, KTN Knowledge Transfer Manager – Creative, Digital & Design.
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