The Awakening: Emerging Social Design and Innovations for Future Proofing Our World

September 20, 2022



Maxine Panlilio of ACIIID

Designers are problem solvers by nature. The process of design starts with a concern, an issue, or a problem that needs to be addressed. Designing a product, a concept, or a space goes beyond just being consumables, intended for quick consumption, and without much thought afterward. Sadly, the realities of life obscure the difference between results that give money compared to what brings the solution. The design industry always has two faces, one that betters life, and another that contributes more to the problems. Both coexist given the current obscurity on the responsibilities of the designers, and the perception of the people about the industry. 

The call for sustainability, societal changes, and future-proofing at the present was brought by several drivers such as rapid climate change, resource shortages, ageism, racism, gender bias, and the one with the biggest impact – the COVID 19 pandemic, which awakened everyone to become more responsible, mindful and conscious. It brought awareness for the design industry to use their platforms to be more responsible and go back to the roots of designing, which is problem-solving. 

Meybuyan Colony by Leeroy New in Arete, Ateneo de Manila University

Leeroy New, a renowned Filipino artist-designer, saw an opportunity to use both of his works, the Meybuyan Colony in Arete and the Meybuyan Vessels in La Union, to become a platform to discuss critical issues in our society, and the viable solutions for them. Both installations were inspired by Meybuyan, the Bagobo goddess of death and fertility, who nourishes the spirits of the dead children to grow and carry on with their journey to the further afterlife. Meybuyan colony, in particular, is a collaboration primarily with Jose Felix, an agriculturist, and other experts that helped translate the vision for the installation. The colony is made out of several pods constructed using discarded materials. The pods act as elevated greenhouses that integrate agricultural systems and biotechnology into the whole structure. 

Meybuyan vessels on the other hand is a collaboration with Kurrent and Search Mindscape Foundation. The concept behind it marries the idea of environmental consciousness and is a challenge to the locals of La Union to recognize what is alien around their surroundings. It means to find themselves and their “home”, reflecting an issue that some may relate to the concerns in La Union’s readiness as an emerging tourism hotspot.

Meybuyan Vessels in La Union

The emergence of the virtual world provided a platform for designers to freely express and tackle the concerns of society. The Portal Galleries, The Magic and Mechanics of Virtual Travelling by Space Popular is a phygital exhibit exploring the concept of portals in fiction and its relationship to our history and reality. Space Popular describes the portals as people’s perspectives, and through their research, they learned that the most beloved concepts subconsciously allowed problematic issues that tolerate elitism, egomania, racism, ageism, and colonialism. 

During the Milan Design Week 2022, Memphis Milano’s exhibit, Memphis Again showcases two hundred pieces of furniture and objects that were produced between 1981 to 1986 Memphis collection. It is not a homage to the previous style but it aims to show the expressiveness and the cultural possibilities of a design beyond marketing stints and profit. The exhibit shows the essence of the Memphis movement which is to bridge the language of design and architecture. It is the appreciation of the functionalities of architecture while underlining the emotions and psychological aspects of design. 

Memphis Again photo by Eliza Del Castillo

Krista Kim’s Mars house is the first digital house to be sold through NFT in 2021. Apart from revolutionizing the virtual world and its relationship to architecture, it is an introspective project that embodied her philosophy on meditative design. It is believed that meditation, consciousness, and energy are the antithesis of technology.  Kim sees the metaverse technology as a medium to elevate mindfulness. 

Mars House fosters a sense of tranquillity, serenity, and calmness in the metaverse. Kim describes the project as a light sculpture, with its open-plan design, and floor-to-ceiling glass walls. The mood is enhanced with an overlooking mountain range and an accompanying song by Jeff Schroeder from the band The Smashing Pumpkins. The Mars house offers not just a visual delight for the users but a mindful journey to emotional wellness as well. 

Social design for some may be a form of a call to action, a protest, or an idea to revolutionize. Its essence is to understand complex social problems and build creative solutions. The heart of the practice grounds designers and pushes them off of their pedestals for a needed paradigm shift from just mere creators, into socially responsible designers. 

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