Innovation starts with concepts

Organisations often struggle to change. One fundamental hindrance are tacit mental concepts, the foundation for both daily decision-making and the long-term strategy formulation of organisations. Once mental concepts have become taken for granted, they are held implicitly and can be barriers to novel thinking around a common aim.

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Posted in Design by Mario Gagliardi

Social consciousness and design

Larger shifts in social consciousness can pose a threat to established products and offer a chance for new product concepts. The green movement, the emerging consciousness of our environment, is a long-term influcence which in the nineteen-nineties gave way to concepts such as Body Shop, in the early 2000’s supported the emergence of organic and fairtrade food, and  in the twenty-tens leads to the popular adoption of Veganism. It also changed corporate communication strategies: Petrochemical company BP, for instance, changed their corporate identity from a shield to a sunflower in order to communicate an image of environmental consciousness.

Shifts in the fabric of societies also gives way to new product categories. For instance, the growing number of single households in the nineteen-nineties gave rise to the new category of convenience  food. In the nineteen-nineties, convenience food was frozen food to be microwaved. Combined with a new awareness for organic ingredients and freshness, convenience in the 2010’s led to delivery services for meal kits and the success of all-in-one guided kitchen machines such as the Thermomix.

Shifts in the understanding of oneself in a society finally give way to a new understanding of consumption as self-actualization, boosting the consumption of designer fashion and interiors as expression of individuality and as signs of belonging to a social group.

If no products are offered which tap into these shifts in social consciousness, consumers also recontextualize objects and brands to fit to them. For instance, in the late nineteen-sixties, cars such as the Citroen 2CV and the Volkswagen Beetle have been adapted by the 68´ generation as their own. The original intent behind the design of these cars was very different. The 2CV was designed to be a cheap car for rural France and the French territories, while the VW Beetle (“Volkswagen” is German for “people’s car”) was designed for Hitler’s “KdF” car program. Coincidentially, both cars had features which attracted the 68′ generation: Their affordable price, their small scale and their design, defined by round shapes, made them stand out on American streets full of large sedans.

Posted in Design by Mario Gagliardi

From Photoshop to Artificial Intelligence

President Trump recently tweeted about allegedly photoshopped pictures of Melania. It shows that in our social media age, the task of editing images becomes increasingly important. The current market leader in image manipulation is Adobe’s Photoshop, namesake of the now common verb “photoshopping”. Photoshop is part of Adobe Creative Cloud, a subscription service for image software which generated a revenue of over 1 billion US$ in 2017.

The playing field is changing with a new breed of image software powered by Generative Adversarial Networks. Photoshop features intricate workflow processes, making it useful only for trained specialists. AI-powered image manipulation is however capable of much more, with the potential for a much larger market.

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In Memoriam Alessandro Mendini

New bridge for the Accademia, Alessandro Mendini, Biennale di Venezia, 1985

In European living spaces, the classical credenza was an important interior object full of meaning. Depending on the household, it was in the the kitchen or in the dining room, containing objects which could reveal the status, memory and history of a family – plates, cutlery, candlesticks.

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Posted in Design by Mario Gagliardi


For the event FUTURE CITY at MAK Vienna, I invited three creatives to collaborate and show perspectives for the future of cities. I asked: In the not too distant future, how will we get from home to work? How will we dress and express ourselves? How will we nourish ourselves?

Performance at MAK Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna with fashion by Dr Noki, sculptures by Kristiane Kegelmann, and visuals by myself

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Posted in Design by Mario Gagliardi

Like friends, follow uses

Digital machines such as smartphones frame behavior and instill new cultural and social practices. ‘Liking’, ‘sharing’, ‘following’ are relational activities which have been defined by social media and established as new normal in the shaping of human relationships. The phenomenon of communication devices prompting new behaviors and expressions is not new: for instance, the word “hello” did not exist until the development of the telephone.

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Three approaches to the design process

The design process as it is usually taught and applied at the beginning of the 21st century is concerned with goals, aims and targets. It is dealing with business and industry, target groups and financial targets. It is looking at the often “wicked” problems found in all areas of life. It is, in general, working with – or trying to work with – the world, its structures and problems, including its systems, its territories, its politics and power struggles. But is this the only way the design process can be approached?
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The 5 C’s: Design skills for the near future


Since the first introduction of CAD and 3d modeling systems, code is behind most products. With generative design, the code becomes the design itself. Big data about user behaviour in combination with machine learning and adaptive production methods (Industry 4.0) will make highly personalized and adaptive design solutions the new normal. To master code, designers should be able to write it.


With the Internet of Things, the division between interaction design and industrial design is about to disappear. A designer should know how to code, prototype, and build intelligent products with embedded applications. Starting points are the Raspberry Pi, Arduino or Nanode.


Global economic, technological, social and environmental issues are getting increasingly intertwined. There are no simple solutions to complex problems. The ability to navigate complexity will be a key skill for the designer of the future.


In a globalized world, cultures can adapt, mix, or clash, and differences can be hard to handle. Deep-seated assumptions rooted in a designer’s own culture can lead to products which do not work in other cultures – psychologically or in terms of use. Openness, the ability to emphatize, and an understanding of different cultures and users will be as important as understanding economy and technology.


In a world of limited resources, knowledge of recycling technologies, biodegradable materials, and the ability to design for a circular economy – by considering disassembly and recycling already during the design process – becomes increasingly important. Designers should be able not only to conceive new products, but to plan the way these products are made, unmade, and recycled. What comes around goes around.


This post was originally published in February 2014.