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  • Design is a slippery and elusive phenomenon,

  • which has meant different things at different times.

  • But all truly inspiring design projects have one thing in common:

  • they began with a dream.

  • And the bolder the dream,

  • the greater the design feat that will be required to achieve it.

  • And this is why the greatest designers are almost always

  • the biggest dreamers and rebels and renegades.

  • This has been the case throughout history,

  • all the way back to the year 300 BC,

  • when a 13-year-old became the king

  • of a remote, very poor and very small Asian country.

  • He dreamt of acquiring land, riches and power

  • through military conquest.

  • And his design skills --

  • improbable though it sounds --

  • would be essential in enabling him to do so.

  • At the time,

  • all weapons were made by hand to different specifications.

  • So if an archer ran out of arrows during a battle,

  • they wouldn't necessarily be able to fire another archer's arrows

  • from their bow.

  • This of course meant that they would be less effective in combat

  • and very vulnerable, too.

  • Ying solved this problem

  • by insisting that all bows and arrows were designed identically,

  • so they were interchangeable.

  • And he did the same for daggers, axes, spears, shields

  • and every other form of weaponry.

  • His formidably equipped army won batter after battle,

  • and within 15 years,

  • his tiny kingdom had succeeded in conquering

  • all its larger, richer, more powerful neighbors,

  • to found the mighty Chinese Empire.

  • Now, no one, of course,

  • would have thought of describing Ying Zheng as a designer at the time --

  • why would they?

  • And yet he used design unknowingly and instinctively

  • but with tremendous ingenuity

  • to achieve his ends.

  • And so did another equally improbable, accidental designer,

  • who was also not above using violence to get what he wanted.

  • This was Edward Teach, better known as the British pirate, Blackbeard.

  • This was the golden age of piracy,

  • where pirates like Teach were terrorizing the high seas.

  • Colonial trade was flourishing,

  • and piracy was highly profitable.

  • And the smarter pirates like him realized that to maximize their spoils,

  • they needed to attack their enemies so brutally

  • that they would surrender on sight.

  • So in other words,

  • they could take the ships without wasting ammunition,

  • or incurring casualties.

  • So Edward Teach redesigned himself as Blackbeard

  • by playing the part of a merciless brute.

  • He wore heavy jackets and big hats to accentuate his height.

  • He grew the bushy black beard that obscured his face.

  • He slung braces of pistols on either shoulder.

  • He even attached matches to the brim of his hat and set them alight,

  • so they sizzled menacingly whenever his ship was poised to attack.

  • And like many pirates of that era,

  • he flew a flag that bore the macabre symbols

  • of a human skull and a pair of crossed bones,

  • because those motifs had signified death in so many cultures for centuries,

  • that their meaning was instantly recognizable,

  • even in the lawless, illiterate world of the high seas:

  • surrender or you'll suffer.

  • So of course, all his sensible victims surrendered on sight.

  • Put like that,

  • it's easy to see why Edward Teach and his fellow pirates

  • could be seen as pioneers of modern communications design,

  • and why their deadly symbol --

  • (Laughter)

  • there's more --

  • why their deadly symbol of the skull and crossbones

  • was a precursor of today's logos,

  • rather like the big red letters standing behind me,

  • but of course with a different message.

  • (Laughter)

  • Yet design was also used to nobler ends

  • by an equally brilliant and equally improbable designer,

  • the 19th-century British nurse, Florence Nightingale.

  • Her mission was to provide decent healthcare for everyone.

  • Nightingale was born into a rather grand, very wealthy British family,

  • who were horrified when she volunteered to work in military hospitals

  • during the Crimean War.

  • Once there, she swiftly realized

  • that more patients were dying of infections that they caught there,

  • in the filthy, fetid wards,

  • than they were of battle wounds.

  • So she campaigned for cleaner, lighter, airier clinics

  • to be designed and built.

  • Back in Britain,

  • she mounted another campaign,

  • this time for civilian hospitals,

  • and insisted that the same design principles were applied to them.

  • The Nightingale ward, as it is called,

  • dominated hospital design for decades to come,

  • and elements of it are still used today.

  • But by then,

  • design was seen as a tool of the Industrial Age.

  • It was formalized and professionalized,

  • but it was restricted to specific roles

  • and generally applied in pursuit of commercial goals

  • rather than being used intuitively,

  • as Florence Nightingale, Blackbeard and Ying Zheng had done.

  • By the 20th century,

  • this commercial ethos was so powerful,

  • that any designers who deviated from it

  • risked being seen as cranks or subversives.

  • Now among them is one of my great design heroes,

  • the brilliantszló Moholy-Nagy.

  • He was the Hungarian artist and designer

  • whose experiments with the impact of technology on daily life

  • were so powerful

  • that they still influence the design of the digital images

  • we see on our phone and computer screens.

  • He radicalized the Bauhaus Design School in 1920s Germany,

  • and yet some of his former colleagues shunned him

  • when he struggled to open a new Bauhaus in Chicago years later.

  • Moholy's ideas were as bold and incisive as ever,

  • but his approach to design was too experimental,

  • as was his insistence on seeing it, as he put it,

  • as an attitude, not a profession to be in tune with the times.

  • And sadly, the same applied

  • to another design maverick: Richard Buckminster Fuller.

  • He was yet another brilliant design visionary

  • and design activist,

  • who was completely committed to designing a sustainable society

  • in such a forward-thinking way

  • that he started talking about the importance of environmentalism

  • in design in the 1920s.

  • Now he, despite his efforts,

  • was routinely mocked as a crank by many in the design establishment,

  • and admittedly,

  • some of his experiments failed,

  • like the flying car that never got off the ground.

  • And yet, the geodesic dome,

  • his design formula to build an emergency shelter

  • from scraps of wood, metal, plastic,

  • bits of tree, old blankets, plastic sheeting --

  • just about anything that's available at the time --

  • is one of the greatest feats of humanitarian design,

  • and has provided sorely needed refuge

  • to many, many people in desperate circumstances

  • ever since.

  • Now, it was the courage and verve of radical designers

  • like Bucky and Moholy

  • that drew me to design.

  • I began my career as a news journalist and foreign correspondent.

  • I wrote about politics, economics and corporate affairs,

  • and I could have chosen to specialize in any of those fields.

  • But I picked design,

  • because I believe it's one of the most powerful tools at our disposal

  • to improve our quality of life.

  • Thank you, fellow TED design buffs.

  • (Applause)

  • And greatly as I admire the achievements of professional designers,

  • which have been extraordinary and immense,

  • I also believe

  • that design benefits hugely from the originality,

  • the lateral thinking

  • and the resourcefulness of its rebels and renegades.

  • And we're living at a remarkable moment in design,

  • because this is a time when the two camps are coming closer together.

  • Because even very basic advances in digital technology

  • have enabled them to operate increasingly independently,

  • in or out of a commercial context,

  • to pursue ever more ambitious and eclectic objectives.

  • So in theory,

  • basic platforms like crowdfunding, cloud computing, social media

  • are giving greater freedom to professional designers

  • and giving more resources for the improvisational ones,

  • and hopefully,

  • a more receptive response to their ideas.

  • Now, some of my favorite examples of this are in Africa,

  • where a new generation of designers

  • are developing incredible Internet of Things technologies

  • to fulfill Florence Nightingale's dream of improving healthcare

  • in countries where more people now have access to cell phones

  • than to clean, running water.

  • And among them is Arthur Zang.

  • He's a young, Cameroonian design engineer

  • who has a adapted a tablet computer into the Cardiopad,

  • a mobile heart-monitoring device.

  • It can be used to monitor the hearts of patients in remote, rural areas.

  • The data is then sent on a cellular network

  • to well-equipped hospitals hundreds of miles away

  • for analysis.

  • And if any problems are spotted by the specialists there,

  • a suitable course of treatment is recommended.

  • And this of course saves many patients

  • from making long, arduous, expensive and often pointless journeys

  • to those hospitals,

  • and makes it much, much likelier

  • that their hearts will actually be checked.

  • Arthur Zang started working on the Cardiopad eight years ago,

  • in his final year at university.

  • But he failed to persuade any conventional sources

  • to give him investment to get the project off the ground.

  • He posted the idea on Facebook,

  • where a Cameroonian government official saw it

  • and managed to secure a government grant for him.

  • He's now developing not only the Cardiopad,

  • but other mobile medical devices to treat different conditions.

  • And he isn't alone,

  • because there are many other inspiring and enterprising designers

  • who are also pursuing extraordinary projects of their own.

  • And I'm going to finish by looking at just a few of them.

  • One is Peek Vision.

  • This is a group of doctors and designers in Kenya,

  • who've developed an Internet of Things technology of their own,

  • as a portable eye examination kit.

  • Then there's Gabriel Maher,

  • who is developing a new design language

  • to enable us to articulate the subtleties of our changing gender identities,

  • without recourse to traditional stereotypes.

  • All of these designers and many more are pursuing their dreams,

  • by the making the most of their newfound freedom,

  • with the discipline of professional designers

  • and the resourcefulness of rebels and renegades.

  • And we all stand to benefit.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

Design is a slippery and elusive phenomenon,

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【TED】Alice Rawsthorn: Pirates, nurses and other rebel designers (Pirates, nurses and other rebel designers | Alice Rawsthorn)

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    Leo Kuo posted on 2017/05/16
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