At What Design Can Do in Amsterdam (16 & 17 May 2013), Anthony Dunne will talk about how designers can bring humanism to technology. Dunne is Head of the Design Interactions department at the Royal College of Art, London and a partner in the design studio Dunne & Raby. The pair recently opened the show United Micro Kingdoms at London’s Design Museum.

What Design Can Do is annual event, started by Richard van der Laken in 2011. It brings together inspiring people from a mix of disciplines to think about design with a wider purpose.

Why did you want to get involved with WDCD?
It has a clear, strong theme which is expressed in the title.

The event is about design with a wider purpose. What recent projects will you show that reflect this?
My talk will focus on United Micro Kingdoms (it’s showing until 26 August). We re-imagined the UK devolved into four zones each combining a different political ideology and technology - neoliberalism and digital, communism and nuclear, social democracy and biotechnology, and anarchism and self-experimentation. The project is presented through scale models of 4 fictional transport systems.

What is the key message from your practice that you want to get across as a speaker?
That there are many more roles for design in the tech industry than making technology sexy, easy to use and more consumable. That we need to think more about the implications of technology, not just its applications. That design can bring humanism to technology in the form of hopes, dreams, fears, ideals, and anxieties. And, that design can act as a catalyst for social dreaming.

Tell us about a project (whether yours or another) that has had a successful influence beyond design.
Many of our graduates achieve this, mainly by working with scientists but more recently, with think tanks and policy makers. For instance Daisy Ginsberg and James King worked with scientists at Cambridge University exploring applications and implications for ‘living colour’ in the form of bacteria that can secrete colour pigment. The project, called E.chromi, won the Grand Prize at the 2009 International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM) and inspired many scientist-designer collaborations. 

As a designer, which other discipline would you most like to  team up with for a project and why?
We are very fortunate and regularly collaborate with other disciplines - scientists, ethicists, political scientists, writers… But a film production company would be interesting. I’d love to gain access to advanced visualisation technologies and expertise to explore new ways of ‘telling worlds‘, as Bruce Sterling puts it.

Frame readers can get a 10% discount on tickets for What Design Can Do, just click here and enter the code BP6195.