Amrik Kalsi (UN-HABITAT), Niclas Svenningsen (UNEP)
Moderator: Karen Blincoe (Denmark)

Designers: Know thyself. Take responsibility

This session struck a fine balance between hard facts and gut understanding. Amrik Kalsi of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme and designer Karen Blincoe admirably filled the allotted time-and the minds of the roomful of participants with hope and possibilities.
Kalsi began by unequivocally and without apology linking social, political, environmental and spiritual problems not only to neo-liberal economics, overproduction, excessive consumption and waste by the minority of the world's 6 billion people, but also with commercialization and branding. The presentation of human desire through advertisements makes people want, buy and consume things they don't need. Designers are responsible. And they need to think carefully about their own moral foundations when they take on work, he said.
Kalsi is responsible for collecting and disseminating information about 250 projects to UN offices, governments, NGOs and libraries everywhere. Among the figures he quoted are: between 1998 and 2002 the worth of the Forbes 400 richest Americans grew $1.9 million per person per day. Three billion people live on $2 or less a day and 1.3 billion live on half that. Sixty nations have grown steadily poorer since 1990. 65 million Cokes are sold daily, while 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water.
Karen Blincoe's presentation defined branding, and with quotes from CEOs of multinational corporations, proved how important this design activity is. She introduced Adbusters ( as a great source of images and campaigns we can join to push for Corporate Social Responsibility, and like Kalsi urged us to consult our consciences when accepting work. (MH)

Jonathan Barnbrook (UK), Shigeo Goto (Japan)

Telling the truth

As other sessions let out, the huge C3 Hall filled with a volubly passionate audience eager to hear about "Meaningful Design in the Age of Globalization." Clearly Shigeo Goto and Jonathan Barnbrook had prepared in advance for their powerful presentation; the viewpoint was clear and the morally upright direction obvious. Designers must buck the system. Goto presented international brands (once upon a time prime-and proud-work for designers) as a brainwashing tool, and asked how we could design at all. Barnbrook then introduced the concept of designers and citizens using mass media against corporations by presenting the work of Adbusters, a Vancouver-based anti-consumption group. Among the campaigns: Buy Nothing Day, TV turn-off week, and Christmas Gift Exemption Vouchers. The whole audience laughed at an industry anti-ad that read "Designers are falling over each other to kiss corporate ass" and the painfully clear anti-Nike profit ad: "Nike $250/ Sweatshops 83."
In 2002 with 32 other designers Barnbrook renewed the First Things First Manifesto of 1964, which asks designers to put their skills to worthwhile use. His discomfort with his own work led him to work with Adbusters and otherwise encourage designers to fight the dictatorship of multinationals and consider the political and social significance not only of buying products, but helping advertise them. Alternatives are spoof advertisements and otherwise rebelling professionally against a media society controlled by corporations. (MH)

Writer:Kosuke Ikehata/Norimitsu Korekata/Junko Sakamoto/Nobuko Shimuta/Naoko Hasegawa/Osamu Hisanaga/Sakurako Muto/Naho Yoshioka/Helmut Langer/Maggie Hohle/Nicole Rechia/Trysh Wahlig/Gitte Waldman/Robert Zolna
Photographer:Yoshimitsu Asai/Yasuhiko Katsuta/Fumihiko Mizutani