Prof. Vilim Vasata, keynote speaker of the conference
The US-american designer Brian Switzer
Discussions during Coffee Break and Formal Dinner

Doing things together

Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen Organises International Design Conference

The design and advertising industries require new and efficient forms of communicative processes in order to be able to successfully position a corporate image and the products associated with it on the market.

The participants of the conference “Emerging Paradigm: Design and Change. Inventing New Forms of Experience and Communication,” which took place from May 15-16, 2003 in the red dot design museum at Zeche Zollverein in Essen, was dedicated to this need.

Doing things Together

“Doing things Together” is the description of the act of communication devised by the sociologist Dirk Baecker. He turns against the conventional understanding of communication as an act of transforming information and instead emphasises the common experience of the participants in communication. “Doing things Together” underscores the characteristics of design and communication that produce human and common sense and it was at the heart of the thoughts of most of the speakers.

Designing Humanity

Design cannot escape life, as keynote speaker Professor Vilim Vasata said to the participants of the conference, who had come from all corners of Europe. Design is a force that understands itself as a form of communication. Good design is vivid design that communicates with the observer and user, Vasata said. His film about the calligrapher Yu-Ichi was a terrific prelude to the two-day conference.

Creating vivid symbols – as the Japanese say about calligraphy – should also be the maxim of the design production in our Western Hemisphere.

No Good Communication with Bad Design

Design has to take on the leading role in the act of communication between companies and clients – this was the appeal from Harry Rich from the London Design Council. Even the best communication strategy cannot help a badly designed product. The company has to initiate trust-building measures from the onset in order to win over the client – for example, with good service and durable and aesthetically designed products. These are the preconditions for successfully positioning the product on the market.

Trust, Inspiration, Story-Telling

For the American designer Brian Switzer, direct communication is necessary between the designer and the client as well as among designers. The formation of networks as corporate structures is increasing. Especially for the design and advertising industries, this means the increased establishment of trust and inspiration as values. Switzer’s understanding of “making common cause” targets a common basis of trust between the client and designer as well as among the designers in networks.

The Genetic Code of a Company

The communication designer Knut Maierhofer of the Munich agency KMS also makes common cause with his clients; he explained that a company’s corporate identity could be developed only in co-operation with the client. In the communication process the client has to take a stand in order to filter out the core of the order, similar to a genetic code. Only then can a successful design process begin.

Cultural Critisism about Commodities and Happiness

The cultural philosopher Professor Dr. Francis Smets from Limburg University critically examined the diverse product variations and the oversaturated markets. His thesis is that the world of commodities presents a false sense of happiness to people. Happiness has thus degenerated into an economic commodity. The society that thirsts for adventure has become addicted to consumption because it strives for happiness.


Common experience is not only part of a culture of experience but also part of old forms of communication. In stories that a company can tell about its design quality, the information transfer becomes a common experience and thus intuitively tangible. The communication, good design and trust-building measures of a company are aimed at enabling the client to participate in the corporate image through the act of communication via the common experience. The common experience makes the corporate image vivid and strong.

Other speakers were: Professor Tönis Käo (Wuppertal University), Thomas Elser (Bruce B. GmbH, Stuttgart), Professor Wilfried Korfmacher (Düsseldorf University). Professor Dr. Peter Zec, President of the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen, moderated the conference.

The Documentation

The Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen will publish detailed documentation with the results of the conference in the summer of 2003. You can order the brochure through info(at)

European Design Forum

The conference is part of a lecture series of the European Design Forum (EDF) in which the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen is an active partner. EDF has set itself the task to promote design throughout Europe via educational programmes. The project is sponsored by the EU within the framework of the Culture 2000 Programme. Other EDF partners are:

VIZO, Design Department, Brussels (Belgium)

Design Museum, Helsinki (Finland)

The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Architecture, Design and the City, Glasgow (Great Britain)

Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona (Italy)

Pro Materia, Brussels (Belgium)