18 January 2007
An interview with Lise Vejse Klint
an interview with Lise Vejse Klint

The program for INDEX: 2007 is in the making. Director of the program for INDEX: 2007 is architect and designer Lise Vejse Klint. The ambition for INDEX: Summit in 2007 is to show how the many very different User-centered Design & Innovation methods can play not only a part, but as Lise states it "a crucial part" in solving some of the problems ahead of us on a global level. These problems also fit into the main focus of INDEX: which is Design to Improve life.

Design as a mediator between economic and cultural contexts
"What is important in our approach in 2007 is that in the very moment you begin to talk of user-centered design, you have to relate to the fact that you are dealing with real people - not necessarily individuals but also groups of people, and all those people have a context that you have to consider, no matter how you approach the problem. One of the two main contexts from the view of INDEX: is the cultural context. Everyone is embedded in a specific cultural reality which has to be considered if you want to help or put solutions forward," says Lise, who continues:

"However, people are also embedded in an economic context, and all studies show that, no matter whether you live in what we used to call the first world or the third world, if the solutions are not put into a viable economic context, it is only possible to improve life for a short period of time. That may be well enough, but the ambition needs to be to provide viable solutions. That is why it is crucial to look into the economic aspect.

"The cultural aspect looks at what is desirable and what fits in the context, whereas the economic aspect looks at what is pragmatic and constructive, thus keeping it rewarding for all partners and stakeholders. These two main contexts lead us to design, which looks at what is possible and how we value and evaluate those experiences and encounters we have in the cultural and economic contexts. This tells us in which directions we should look to find possible scenarios and solutions and how we can facilitate them. It is important to us exactly because design is not part of the traditional 'technocratic' projection of known solutions. Traditional 'technocratic' thinking only looks at solutions from one angle; design asks why we do not look in other places. It lets us consider whether there might be some more fruitful answers elsewhere. And this is the situation where design not only can play a role, but an important role."

Taking the challenge of design
Inspiration for the approach to the events in INDEX: program for 2007 came from several sources. The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, which put design and creative thinking high up on the agenda, was an especially vital source.

"We are, of course, not the only ones thinking this way; there was the same underlying assumption at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year. So we are not reinventing the wheel, but building our knowledge on prior experiences.

"What they did at Davos in January was to look at a series of problems and say, 'We believe that the answers to the problems should be found in this direction,' and they pointed to design and creative thinking as one of the directions. In many ways I see next year's Summit as a way of taking up the challenge from Davos. Hopefully, in taking that challenge up through design, we have a part of the answer, and we can qualify that through the design method we call User-centered Design & Innovation, in which we explore the potential. I believe that design is a part of the answer - no doubt about it - and the rest of the answer from INDEX: Summit are ways to facilitate an implementation."

The program for INDEX: in 2007 boasts three major events: the Summit, the Summer Camp and the Network Series, all of which look at the same issues, but from different perspectives.

INDEX: SUMMIT 2007 (25-28 August)
International leading experts in design and user-centered innovation are invited to Denmark to discuss, develop, lecture and share knowledge.

INDEX: SUMMER CAMP 2007 (10-31 August)
Students from around the world are invited to take part in an international summer camp with a focus on how design and user-centered innovation can improve life. The students will be interacting with the experts from INDEX: Summit.

Designers, business and educational/research institutions are invited to debate and share knowledge with INDEX: Summit participants.

"We approach it from three different angles. INDEX: Summer Camp will look at the possible solutions in a very practical way, i.e. how to implement them, whereas INDEX: Summit will take a much more philosophical approach, in turn seeking to answer the question 'How to facilitate?' Lastly, INDEX: Network Series is INDEX: Summer Camp and Summit's interface with Danish trade and industry, will take a more debating approach, address relevance and performing a reality check from their point of view."

Global Compact
In an address to the World Economic Forum on 31 January 1999, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan challenged business leaders to join an international initiative - the Global Compact - that would bring companies together with UN agencies, labor organizations and civil society to support universal environmental and social principles. The idea was launched at UN Headquarters in New York on 26 July 2000.

Through the power of collective action, the Global Compact seeks to promote responsible corporate citizenship so that business can be part of the solution to the challenges of globalisation. In this way, the private sector - in partnership with other social actors - can help realize the Secretary-General's vision: a more sustainable and inclusive global economy.

The Global Compact asks companies to embrace, support and enact, within their sphere of influence, a set of core values in the areas of human rights, labor standards, the environment, and anti-corruption.

Gender and Environment
The events will address two major problems facing the world today. So large-scale are these problems that 189 heads of state decided to include them in the eight UN Millennium Development Goals: "Once again, it is not our ambition to reinvent the wheel, so we take our starting point in UN's eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the 10 Global Compact Principles for the simple reason that we do not have to discuss the relevance of a given problem. After all, 189 heads of state agreed that if we do not try to find solutions to these eight problems before 2015, the world is in serious trouble. It is beyond our reach to address all eight, so we have decided to address Goals 3 and 7 because these two affect us all on an everyday basis, no matter what our given context is."

To accommodate the notion of cultural diversity in the process, INDEX: takes inspiration from the UN's educational, scientific and cultural organization.

"If you are working with the MDGs, it is apparent that you have an ambition to relate on a very conscious level to the cultural dimension in the solutions. It would be strange not to look at what UNESCO has to say about that. They have a lot of considerations on cultural diversity and its importance in solving problems."

The Advantage of Design
INDEX: Network Series is an event that invites designers, businesses, educational and research institutions to be part of the project. Lise's experience has given her a clear vision of what industry can learn from design.

"I think that Danish trade and industry - and perhaps especially the SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) that make up most of the sector by far - will benefit greatly from learning how design can play a decisive role in the development of their business. This aspect was also highlighted by the Committee on strengthening Danish design: we all agreed that some kind of education of the buyers of design was necessary, simply to help them realize to what degree designers can contribute not only to innovation, but also to rethinking business strategies, organizations and operations, in a much more effective way than through mere research."

Lise continues: "We are talking a lot about R&D, and a number of current economic thinkers point to the fact that we in Europe have traditionally been more interested in research and less in development, in which design is a important factor. Research can in general terms only be conducted by the major players, whereas the potential of the SMEs to a greater degree is development. The potential of the SMEs in this respect is huge and to a great extent unexplored. It is important to compare it to the repeated surveys conducted by Oxford Research in connection with the committee's work whose results indicate that businesses are happy with the work of designers. More than 90 percent answered that they were 'satisfied' or 'very satisfied' with the services provided by designers. Of course, this is due to the fact that we in Denmark have very highly skilled designers, but it is also because once a company has begun the process of buying design, they have a sort of 'Aha!' experience that gives them new insights. They think, 'Can it also be used for that?' I think it is important to push more of the SMEs in that direction, and that is also our ambition."

The Third and Seventh UN Millennium Development Goals
The eight Millennium Development Goals have been agreed upon by all the world's countries and all the world's leading development institutions.
#3: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015
#7: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs; re verse loss of environmental resources
- Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water
- Achieve significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020

About INDEX: knowledge magazine

This interview orginally appeared in INDEX: knowledge magazine

Lise Vejse Klint
Lise Vejse Klint is a former president of Danish Designers. Last year she was elected Secretary General of Icograda, the International Council of Graphic Design Associations. Lise is a member of the Executive Committee of the International Design Alliance (IDA) as well. She has a master's degree in architecture from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture and many years of experience in teaching at institutions such as The Royal School of Library and Information Science, the University of Copenhagen and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture. In addition, she is a board member for the Danish Arts Foundation, and last year she was appointed by the Minister of Economic and Business Affairs to join a special committee on strengthening Danish design.