ThinkTank: The Future Designer

In 2008 the V&A launched a series of ThinkTanks on future-facing issues related to contemporary design and museum spaces. Leading designers and thinkers from across the UK and further afield were brought together to share their points of view, helping the V&A to showcase, support and critically engage with creative design. Topics in the series included the changing role of the designer, the evolving museum environment and architecture, the future object and engaging global audiences.

The first ThinkTank looked at The Future Designer.

Lauren Parker

Lauren Parker

Welcome to Future Designer ThinkTank

Lauren Parker, Head of Contemporary Programmes, welcomes the provocateurs to the first ThinkTank

'... I just wanted to give a very quick background to this series of events. The idea really started, I guess, from, from our side during the V&A’s 150th anniversary celebrations, and in those we kind of looked back at the origins of the Museum, and also celebrated some of the leading practitioners working today. But, in response to this, we also started to think about what the nature and role of the design movement of the future might be...'

About Lauren Parker

Lauren Parker has been Head of Contemporary Programmes since November 2006. Before this, she was a Curator of Contemporary Programmes at the V&A for seven years. Since joining the V&A she has curated several exhibitions, including the major exhibition China Design Now (2008), Shhh… Sounds in Spaces (2004) and Touch Me: Design and Sensation (2005). In her role as Head of Contemporary Programmes, she oversees a creative programme of contemporary exhibitions, artist commissions and events, including Out of the Ordinary: Spectacular Craft and the V&A's popular Friday Late series.

Lauren studied English Literature at Cambridge University followed by a Masters in Museum Studies at Leicester University, researching new media curating. Lauren specialises in moving image, interaction design and digital technologies.

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Jane Pavitt

Jane Pavitt

Jane Pavitt, chair of ThinkTank: the future designer

'... tonight we’re going to hear from four very different perspectives on the future roles from four people very closely involved in shaping the way in which design, and designers, will perceive their role in the future...'

About Jane Pavitt

Jane Pavitt is the University of Brighton Principal Research Fellow in Design at the Victoria & Albert Museum; a member of both the Research Centre at the University and the Research Department at the Museum, where she is normally based. Her work focuses on later 20th-century and contemporary design, and particularly on strategies for presenting design through museum exhibitions and collections. She has curated a number of design exhibitions for the V&A such as Brand.New, Brilliant, Cold War Modern and Postmodernism.

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Jeremy Myerson

Jeremy Myerson

Provocation: The designer as collaborator

Jeremy Myerson talks about the designer as collaborator in a co-design process

'...when I first started talking to the contemporary team of the V&A, they were kind of thinking, where do designers fit in? Is there still a role for designers as tastemakers, as the sole artistic author? And this whole issue around design authorship in an increasingly kind of complex world. Can designers still look out and, and be the masters of their own kind of creative destiny?'

About Jeremy Myerson

Jeremy Myerson is Director of the Helen Hamlyn Centre and Professor of Design Studies at the Royal College of Art. A graduate of Hull University and the Royal College of Art, he began his working life on The Stage newspaper in the mid 1970s and developed his interest in design as a journalist and editor working on a number of titles including Design (published by the Design Council), Creative Review and World Architecture. From 1986-89, he was Founding Editor of Design Week, the world's first weekly news magazine for designers and their clients. Jeremy worked as an independent writer, researcher and curator in design, often with the aim of linking design industry developments to those in higher education and was formerly Professor of Contemporary Design at De Montfort University. In 1999, he was invited to return to the RCA to set up the Helen Hamlyn Centre, it's role as a catalyst for socially inclusive design reflecting much of his own writing, research and exhibition curation.

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Gareth Williams

Gareth Williams

Provocation: The designer as celebrity

Gareth Williams talks about the future designer as celebrity

'... probably as a reaction to the kind of system that Jeremy’s described to us, of designers getting somewhat lost in this matrix... are they working for the consumer or are they designing for themselves, for a manufacturer, for the market? Where do they exist? One way forward for some designers is to make themselves into a brand name; to make themselves into a celebrity... '

About Gareth Williams

Gareth Williams is Curator in the Department of Furniture, Fashion and Textiles at the V&A, specialising in 20th-century and contemporary furniture design. Gareth has curated a number of exhibitions such as Brand.New and Milan in a Van and is the author of numerous articles and publications.

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Daniel Charny

Daniel Charny

Provocation: The designer as accelerator

Daniel Charney argues that designers conceptualise, tap into client needs and desires by challenging paradigms and shifting typologies

'... it's more to do with... this idea of contemporary practise, there's one thing that hasn't changed and I don't think will change, and it's the fact that designers bring in the conceptualising element. The ability to take ideas that other people have, the ability to really tap into the one thing that the client has said... to pick something a user has said, to pick something the industry has made so many times and keeps on breaking...'

About Daniel Charney

Daniel Charny is Curator at the Aram Gallery and Senior Tutor at the Royal College of Art. He works across academic, cultural and commercial design organisations interested in thinking through design.

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Kevin McCullagh

Provocation: The designer as synthesiser

Kevin McCullagh argues that the future designer will have to take on the role of synthesiser

'... I think the individual genius is a myth ... I think in general, design is, and for a long time, has been a collaborative process.  It's a social collaborative process.  But then if you talk about everyone being invited to the tent, and design is just one equal partner with the consumer and the logistics manager, or whoever else has been invited to the workshop, I think that's just plain disingenuous...'

About Kevin McCullagh

Kevin McCullagh is a director of Plan, a product strategy consultancy based in London. He has consulted to design, marketing and corporate strategy departments of brands including: Ford, HP, Nokia, Orange, Samsung, Shell, Strategos, Unilever and Yamaha. Kevin also writes, speaks and broadcasts on design, technology and society. His background spans design, marketing, engineering and academia.

View transcript of video

Resources & links

Reading list

Adamson, Glenn. Thinking Through Craft. Oxford: Berg, 2007. National Art Library pressmark: 602.AH.0566

Fairs, Marcus. Twenty-First Century Design. London: Carlton, 2006. National Art Library pressmark: 602.AH.0330

Gardner, Howard. Five Minds for the Future. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press, 2007.

Parker, Lauren. Interplay: Interactive Design. London: V&A Publications, 2004. National Art Library pressmark: 602.AE.1476

Myerson, Jeremy. IDEO: Masters of Innovation. London: Laurence King, 2001. National Art Library pressmark: 603.AB.1033

Sennett, Richard. The Craftsman . London: Allen Lane, 2008.

Von Hippel, Eric. Democratizing Innovation. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2006.

Williams, Gareth. The Furniture Machine: Furniture Since 1990. London: V&A Publications, 2006. National Art Library pressmark: 603.AG.0726

To locate material in the National Art Library, please search the Library Catalogue


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Doors of Perception (Doors) is an international conference and knowledge network which sets new agendas for design - in particular, the design agenda for information and communication technologies (ICTs). Five conferences have been organised since 1993, the results of which are published on their website.

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