“Homo ex Data: Design in the Age of Big Data”: The first reunion of the ambassadors of the Red Dot Network on 6 March 2020 in the Red Dot Design Museum Essen was dedicated to this subject, which for the design business and creative artists is as controversial as it is highly topical. From the developments such as Big Data via the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence up to Augmented and Virtual Reality – the design experts illustrated these aspects from a design point of view in the course of the symposium. The day was characterised by fascinating presentations and lively discussions with ambassadors from 19 countries. The contributions made it clear that designers would like to cooperate significantly on the design of our new living environment; they are, however, aware of the consequences of their actions.
“Homo ex Data”
Peter Zec, founder and CEO of Red Dot, explained in his opening remarks the term introduced by him “Homo ex Data”. As a result of Homo Sapiens, the thinking animal, and Homo Faber, an individual striving for autonomy, digitalisation gives birth to a new type of human which becomes controlled by data. In his essay published already in 2017 at the exhibition of the same name in the Hong Kong Design Institute, Zec called this species Homo ex Data. With this, evolution of the human being enters a new phase, due to the omnipresent sensor system of the environment, monitoring of one’s own body as well as generating and transferring enormous amounts of data. They would serve self-optimisation of one’s own self and become the nucleus of an artistic evolution. In design itself, it is no longer a matter of the design of an individual product, but rather the construction of a complex system. Since the systems themselves would be designed by computer scientists, the design focuses in this new constellation on the question of interaction and usability.
Sustainability, emotions and Artificial Intelligence
Following the introductory words of Peter Zec, the stage was free for the presentations of the Red Dot Ambassadors. Luisa Bocchietto, architect and designer from Italy, demonstrated how the work as designer, given the background of digitalisation, has changed and appealed for “less products – more solutions”. With this, Bocchietto emphasised the significance of sustainable creativity in design.
Kazuo Tanaka, CEO of the GK Design Group from Tokyo, addressed emotions in the era of Big Data. In his contribution “Artificial Intelligence and Big Data have no heart” he explained, that new technologies would indeed make it possible in a very short time to analyse data and identify trends, but in spite of this, they are not capable of replacing human behaviour. Particularly in this day and age it is the designer’s task to read people’s thoughts and anticipate their desires – a challenge which can only be met with human feelings.
Sylvia Vitale Rotta introduced a quite personal experience into the discussion. The CEO of the French agency “Team Créatif Group” was born in Tanzania and travelled from Senegal. She reported on one of her projects running there with the aim of supporting people on the spot by use of digital networks and smartphones. She told us that almost all young people had their own smartphones, which she considered essentially important in order to take part in the new forms of communication and to further promote development of their own country.
Carlos Hinrichsen from the technological university “INACAP” of Santiago de Chile began his contribution with an except from the film “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Stanley Kubrick which was published in 1968. The except told the story of how in a space ship the communication between the astronauts and an intelligent system called HAL takes place until finally HAL takes over the control of all dealings. By this means, Hinrichsen explains on the one hand the power which Artificial Intelligence could exert on us. Later, however he emphasised also the positive changes which the development has entailed: simplification of our everyday life. In conclusion, Hinrichsen summarised that revolutionary is not the technology itself, but rather the manner in which it changes us.
Big Data, robot technology, mathematics and the influence of new technologies on designers
Companies, organisations, society, individual branches or the user – who actually benefits from Big Data? Who owns and who uses the data acquired? These are the questions which Martin Beeh addresses in his contribution. The founder of the design consultancy “beeh_innovation” from Cologne concludes with the thesis that the new developments are above all a challenge for designers, who must implement them.
Yuri Nazarov from the National Design Institute in Moscow, in his presentation concentrated on the form of robots. He demonstrated thereby examples, all of which make it clear that the formal design of an intelligent, robotic device can be recognised by its function.
Dirk Schumann, proprietor of the design office “Schumanndesign” from Munster showed a parallel between mathematics and aesthetics. He told us that the calculating operations of a software often offered inspiration for the design process and would change the appearance of products and buildings correspondingly. He thus drew, among others, analogies between the mathematical Mandelbrot structure and the Louvre Abu Dhabi designed by Jean Nouvel.
Annette Lang, founder of the design studio “Annette Lang Product Design”, addressed the influence which the Internet of Things, as well as Augmented, Virtual und Mixed Reality has on the work of designers. The new design process resulting from them makes it possible for us to adopt the smallest optimisation already in the design phase and to experience the virtual product before it was actually manufactured.
Publication on the event
The 72-page publication on the symposium is titled “Homo ex Data: Design in the Age of Big Data“ (ISBN 978-3-89939-227-2). Members of the Red Dot Network will receive the book cost-free by post. The publication is furthermore available in bookshops as well as from various online shops.