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Influx interview: john thackara

May 20, 2005

John Thackara is a former journalist and the first director of the Netherlands Design Institute. To quote his website, Fast Company described him as “a design guru, critic and business provocateur”. For the Wall Street Journal, he “has established a global reputation as a cutting edge design expert”. Wired called him a design luminary, and the Economic Times of India noted his “brilliant insights into the internet and sustainability”.

John has just written a new book, Into the Bubble . It provides an interesting and provocative look at the way designers should look at the world before designing for it. It’s both a cautionary and inspiring tale, that provides a context and construct for the way we need to think about business and design in the modern world.

Influx was fortunate enough to be able to do a short interview with John.

Handset manufacturers seem desperate to create the multimedia equivalent of the “Swiss Army knife”- does this make sense?

None at all. Like most people in the consumer electronics industry, they spend too much time looking at each other and too little time facing reality.

Do you believe the design world can move from an ego driven/designer as artist world, to one that is based in collaboration?

It’s already happening. Nearly all the most important design projects nowadays are collaborative – it’s just that they don’t register on the celebrity radar.

How can design help technology and visa-versa?

Design can begin to answer the question- “what is this stuff for?”. Technology can answer the question: “how do we deliver this amazing new service?”

What do you feel about the ideas presented by Bruce Mau in “Massive
Change”?

As I told him at the time, I applaud the ambition and scope of this great show – but would personally have appreciated a degree more humility concerning what designers can do – or have a right to do.

Institute for the Future has great notes , from a recent talk that John gave at IDEO.

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