Designers – your time is up. Make way for co-creation

This Thursday sees a number of leading lights from the world of design and innovation, and myself, join forces for what promises to be an exciting session session at the Global Design Forum, part of the London Design Festival 2014. We will be discussing the role of designers in a world increasingly connected, and where traditional singular design vision is giving way to Co-Design and Collaboration.

I find this topic fascinating as consumers no longer simply consume, but instead are active, engaged, playful and creative – also increasingly entrepreneurs and critics in their own right. Just witness the explosion of platforms like KickStarter and IndieGogo, where ideas big and small are finding their audiences and funders, well before these ideas have even hit the high street.

Connectivity shapes products into services, services become relationships, and relationships scale into networks that form communities and eventually become cultures. As brands we invite interaction, yet this connectivity makes consumers expect brands to be as fluid and real-time as the media we use to connect to each other. These fluid laws of human interaction mean that new opportunities are opening up for companies to form much richer, deeper and long-lasting relationships with consumers. Relationships that give consumers more than just products and companies more than just money.

For us at the LEGO Group it has meant realising our role as part of the broader eco-system surrounding the creative medium that is the LEGO brick, the toy that is actually a tool for creative expression, a medium in its own right, a language that bridges linguistic barriers, the origin of countless memes, as well as a system for endless ideas and metaphors, but also shared memories as much as it is a well-known brand and product. These attributes are not ones that we could have created on our own, but are the product of welcoming our fans and community as partners, to create and give value to one another, from the company to consumers, but similarly from consumers back to the company and most importantly to each other.

It calls for radical authenticity and transparency that typical archaic company structures and ways of working are struggling to catch up with. As companies we want to be part of the conversation, but as conversations happen between individuals, it is often employees that must be the participants and earn their right to be part of the conversation through the value they individually bring to each conversation. What then is a product, when is a product complete and what does it mean to be a designer in a world where people no longer borrow equity from brands, but brands borrow equity from people?

As Miyata put it in the recent Cultures of Creativity report published by the LEGO Foundation:

The Act of creating community is grounded in the act of creating meaning, which in turn is grounded on the act of creating relationships, which in turn is grounded on the act of creating products

I’m looking forward to the conversation around this and to your comments: how do you see the role of a designers and companies in this world of increasingly blurred boundaries between products and relationships, and communities built on meaning?

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