Designing Products in the 21st Century

Living in the 21st century is fundamentally challenging. Elena Corchero’s fascinating talk reminded us that being challenged is the basis of innovation and that it’s crucial for creating viable solutions.

Traditionally the creative process has been much less exclusive and we need to reconnect newly segmented disciplines like art and technology. This extends beyond the immediate creative sphere and into society as a whole. The gendering of certain realms (technology as masculine and design as feminine) is damaging and unnecessary. Only by deconstructing this can we truly create meaning through human connection and manufacture successful design.

Elena explained that for all our technological advancements, we retain an innate human need to connect. We have created our lives and societies around this need to interact with each other and design should reflect this emotional depth. Touching on the previous point of gendered realms, Elena turned technology on its head and looked at how we can re-examine technology through different perspectives. This extends to making appealing build-your-own soft toys for girls with electronic components; creating solar panels that look antique, feminine and delicate and using UV reactive crystals in jewellery to raise awareness of skin cancer.

This talk is especially poignant as we move into a future dominated by global warming, population pressures and resource availability. We must face these uncomfortable truths head on to focus innovation and mitigate the effects. The scale of these global challenges actually work in our favour – the issues and disciplines required to solve them need extensive collaboration, something that humans excel at.

At the core of Elena’s talk was the key concept of ‘meaning’. We have the means in the form of materials and tools but the focus should be on how we impact consumers, societies and the planet as a whole.  Multi-disciplinary approaches and differing perspectives are catalysts that businesses and agencies need to successfully innovate and thrive.


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