The Designer and Design Thinking – the Glue that Binds the Realities

I don’t really see myself as a classic designer who makes pretty things, but rather as a context designer. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate beautiful and impressive things but they have to be based in a situation or in genuine need. The need can always be divided into two realities: the customer and the context. It is in this tension field that I, the designer, and design thinking come into our own by acting as the glue that binds the realities.

As the interaction designer I have to facilitate situations where people can meet and create and something beautiful can emerge. Hence many of my projects are crossovers, a mixture of politics, art, culture and architecture all tied together by a common context. Often the context is locked into its own reality, and in that case it is my job to include, concretise and create a new context and thus generate a new reality/platform where something new and genuine can develop – innovation.

My clients are mostly public institutions or non-profit organisations within the areas of architecture or urban planning. Hence the dialogue between the developer/client and the residents/citizens is the be-all and end-all, and here design thinking fills the need that is crucial if you want to generate something genuine. One thing is building something new; another thing is whether what is being built is being used. The third thing is to look at what is already there; in other words, I design based on a reality and then the idea matures through collaboration.

When I applied to Design School Kolding I wanted to be a set designer, and with a background as a theatre technician I was deeply fascinated by all the possibilities of physical computing in relation to classic scenography. But I realised fairly soon that this type of interaction was quite closed around the technology and hence was not challenging enough as a platform – exactly because the technology/platform was still based on clear rules and thus was not “free” enough to handle spontaneity. As a result of the restructuring at the school Interaction Design changed focus from the relationship between humans and computers to the relationship between humans and humans, which suited me much better, partly because interaction between people became my primary focus and hence the means to making people meet and interact, independent of technology.

I also met a group of people who later became the artists collective, Bureau Detours. At that time, as Bureau Detours, we were a group who created art in the public space. Together we were, and still are, a group who put the use of and the right to the public space to the test. With clear inspiration from graffiti and street art we want to make sure that we as citizens or users of a city can impact the surroundings we live in. With that activist approach the design methods that use driven design and prototyping have gained ground, so that we, as designers, are included in the planning phase of new urban development projects on equal footing with architects and developers, where our role is to ensure that planning not only happens from a bird’s eye view but also at eye level with the user and the citizen.