Bridget O’Rourke on “New Generation Designers”

Bridget O’Rourke, Director Parsons Europe, was invited to give a presentation on the theme of “New Generation Designers” at a conference sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris, France Design Education and the French Agency for the Promotion of Industrial [Design] Creation. Supporting government ministries included the Ministry of Culture and Communication, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Industry (Ministère du Redressement Productif).

Ms. O’Rourke examined how designers are increasingly acting as facilitators for creative processes within highly diversified, transdiciplinary teams working on projects that encompass complex social, economic, political and ecological systems. The broadening role of the designer combined with expanding ‘design’ territories contribute to a trend away from single designer authorship or ‘signature design’ toward creative collectives and collaborative, multi-designer authorship. Young designers are working in between and beyond established disciplines to reduce gaps in traditional approach and methodology. Global environmental and socio-economic concerns mean that designers must consider what they make and what we as a society keep or throw away.


Positive forms of commodity fetishism were posited as increasing ‘useful’ attachment to objects, linking the maker and the user/participant in a more equitable exchange. Instigating object longevity can be an alternative to automatic replacement of consumer goods and planned obsolescence in product design. Object adaptability and repair-ability are also important factors to improving object lifespan.

A renaissance of the vernacular (locally sourced materials, environmentally-specific design, artisanal craft, etc.) combined with new design techniques and materials will help move us towards more globally sustainable design while addressing some of the basic needs for local autonomy.

Co-presenters included Gert Van de Keuken, Artistic Director at Trend Union, and Alain Cadix, former Director of ENSCI-Les Ateliers and Lead Administrator for the Michel Serres Center for Innovation.