Barcelona Design Week: Design Is Future


A few weeks ago we announced our plan to send one lucky reader to be our correspondent at Barcelona Design Week. Designer Cory Gibbons was flown out to Spain on our behalf and he put together a little event recap, which you can read below.




One of the real highlights of Barcelona Design Week is Design is Future, a three-day “congresstival” created and organized by Barcelona Design Center and Toormix. In its second edition, this year’s event spanned three days and featured a wide range of talks and workshops. The event focused on three categories: Profession, Business, and Society.




Over the first two days, 15 presenters from varying disciplines took the stage to inspire designers to get ahead within the ever-changing landscape of design. It was refreshing to see so many students among the event’s attendees—a fact that did not go unnoticed by several speakers, who pointed out that now is the best time to be a designer, and that we should strive to craft the future we want to live in. In the design world, change isn’t always gradual: it can happen in an instant, and we need to be prepared. While the importance of design is increasing in the business world, its importance isn’t always obvious to decision-makers. It’s up to designers to speak on behalf of design, because nobody is going to do it for us, just as it’s the responsibility of designers to help stakeholders see things from a design perspective.




Design is Future took place at the Barcelona Design Center, a perfect setting for the event. Talks were held in the fourth-floor auditorium, a short escalator ride up from the ground floor past museum exhibits of works past through to what feels like present day. The transition evoked a feeling of traversing time and travelling closer and closer to the future.

There was an obvious attention to detail throughout the event, from the selection of speakers to the background music played during networking sessions. Toormix’s work on the event’s branding, as well as the larger Barcelona Design Week event, was nothing short of perfect. The organizers did a great job of selecting presenters from a range of disciplines and locations, allowing for a perspective outside of many designers’ normal circles of influence.




The first day’s speakers focused on “Profession” and delved into what it means to be a designer now and in the future. The lineup was composed of Sam Baron (Fabrica), Jonathan Duckworth (RMIT), Andrés Ortiz (Bestiario), Carmen Bustos (Soulsight), and Chris Moody (Wolff Olins).

Day two, whose focus was “Business,” began with Andreas Enslin (Miele), Laszlito Kovacs (WeTransfer), Luis Baldez (HP), Silvia Calvet (GFT), and Doug Powell (IBM Design). They spoke about how the role of the designer is becoming more and more important, while companies with design at their core are elevating above the rest.




The second half of day two featured Miquel Ballester (Fairphone), Alice Holberg (House of Holberg), Cristina Bustillo (Barcelona Children’s Hospital), Luis Villa (Fjord), and Ed Gillespie (Futerra) speaking to the “Society” component of the event, and how user-centered design can improve quality of life for people around the world.




The event featured both English and Catalan/Spanish presenters, though all were able to converse in English. Among the people I spoke with, a recurring theme was a suggestion to push for all presentations in English as a way to further the notion of a truly global conference.

After the day’s talks, vermouth was served in the common area while attendees relaxed and let the talks sink in. The auditorium, which seats around 300, is well-suited to a good-sized group of people engaging in discourse. It’s not so large that attendees have no access to the presenters, and having them available to talk with is an invaluable learning experience.

A nice addition to the first day of presentations was a tour around the city titled “Barcelona Creative Landscapes.” Focusing on creative spaces, our first stop was the studio space of Lola Giardino, an Argentinian designer who cooks, sews, and creates wonderful pottery pieces under the brand name NonaBruna. After a brief walk north, we stopped by the studio space of Ximena Pérez Grobet, which was nothing short of inspiring. Ximena designs and creates books for her own publishing house, NowhereMan Press, as well as for a wide range of publishers working in visual arts, photography, and architecture.




The length of the event is perfect—just the right number of presentations and auxiliary events to stay focused and not get overwhelmed, while still coming away inspired and driven to make change.


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