Derek Robson | The Design Observer Twenty

The Redesigners

A few months ago, I stumbled upon a quote from Zaha Hadid that stuck with me.

The Redesigners

The Design Observer Twenty | Sponsored by IDEO

The Design Observer Twenty is our curated selection of twenty remarkable people, projects, and big ideas solving an urgent social need.

“We have the knowledge and the tools to create a much better world. But I don't think we can do it unless we really have a sense of responsibility for that future.” Many of us feel that responsibility in our bones—only some of us do something about it.

That’s why I’m thrilled to celebrate Design Observer’s 20th anniversary and announce our partnership with The Design Observer Twenty: The Redesigners. The exceptional people on this list take responsibility for shaping our future, and they see design as the instrument that can help them do so. 

The list includes pioneers like Haralduthor “Halli” Þorleifsson, a 45-year old designer born with muscular dystrophy, who is building ramps throughout his homeland and beyond to increase accessibility for people in wheelchairs. Another brilliant designer on the list, Deanna van Buren, is leading "restorative justice architecture," which focuses on creating spaces and structures that promote healing, rehabilitation, and community engagement as an alternative to traditional prison designs. 

This list proves that the work of redesign is already underway. This is the work of tackling the reality of built systems and reimagining from there, rather than from a blank piece of paper, the work of building from  our shared reality, rather than a hypothetical ideal. 

The insight the leaders on this list share is that at the core, design can be an essential resource for addressing not just business challenges but also the complex, systemic problems that shape our future. Every initiative, be it the Healthy Materials Lab at Parsons advocating for toxin-free built environments or Biobot Analytics employing wastewater as a novel public health platform, integrates deeply considered design with a commitment to making things better.

I joined IDEO as its chief executive because I was drawn to design’s potential to solve real-world problems for our clients. The new customer has high expectations and the new organization must stretch to meet them. That requires taking a rigorous, human-centered approach as you integrate emerging tech like AI, surfacing Climate Era solutions, and designing with—not for—the communities most affected by our work. I now see the empathy, bravery, heart, and rigor that are required to design and redesign what the world sorely needs. 

I believe everyone on this list of twenty redesigners understands the transformative power of design. They are driving innovation that creates new value, undoes harm and advances the human and planetary condition. Their ideas are not quick fixes—they’re about making a world in which we all want to live.

So, let’s stretch our ambition, tap our networks, and shout from the mountaintops in support of these twenty. Let’s blast wind into their sails. Because a better future is for all of us to design.

Derek Robson, CEO, IDEO

Posted in: The Design Observer Twenty

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