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MADE NORTH Conference – Can Design Save The World?

As part of Sheffield Design Week 2014, the MADE NORTH conference was the centrepiece as prompted speakers and attendees alike to ponder upon, and attempt to answer the questions ‘Can Design Save The World’.

The conference theme was intentionally provocative, exploring how design, innovation and creativity can change the way we live, work and play.

Featuring sessions by the Design Council, Crafts Council, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and The Designers Republic, the conference was an inspirational opportunity to hear leading creatives in graphic design, product/industrial design, architecture, technology and craft worlds.


The conference was a full day of almost back-to-back talks, featuring sessions by the Design Council, Crafts Council, the Royal Institute of Architects (RIBA) and The Designers Republic.


Conference sponsors, Autodesk kicked-off with a showcased their technology and design innovations that aim to reduce the cost and waste of industrial design and make these processes more accessible and open.

Autodesk showcased some live 3D printing.



The guys from The Designers Republic discussed visual communication and graphic design. The power of graphic design in revolt and revolution, the symbols of fear and strength, and the ways in which design can transcend language and outlive its human creators was used to illustrate how design can change, if not save, the world.




Speakers from RIBA spoke about city planning and a radical vision of future towns. Shared, open public spaces and buildings whose functions change depending the time of day/year, such as city-centre schools that become shared community centres in the evening after the children leave, were proposed.

We heard about an eco-driven redevelopment plan of Sheffield’s Kelham Island, creating carbon neutral housing and generating energy from the local goit.


Another fascinating talk by the guys at RIBA was about biomimicry – the process of recreating structures and processes that exist in nature.

Mother nature is incredibly more efficient that mankind, so imitating nature to create a waste-free process is one of the core reasons for pursuing this route.



There was, of course beer.






Thoughts were provoked, work was showcased and questions were both raised and answered. Ultimately the core theme of the event, ‘can design save the world’ was left definitively unanswered but the general consensus was that design, creative thinking and caring can improve the lives of the individual, make processes smarter and cheaper and change the way we think. Design can’t do anything on its own, it needs to enable and engage real people to make the real difference we want in the world.

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