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Anticipating the Age of Passion + Purpose

Anticipating the Age of Passion + Purpose

As the keynote speaker at DESIGN WEEK RI, Anthony Pannozzo 91 ID predicted that designers will shape a better future for everyone.

Boston-based designer Anthony Pannozzo 91 ID addressed a crowded house when he presented DESIGN WEEK RI’s keynote address in the Chace Center on Tuesday, September 19. As President Rosanne Somerson 76 ID pointed out in introducing him, his track record of successfully using human-centered design strategies to solve problems within a broad range of industries made him the perfect choice for the trade-focused event.

“Anthony’s ability to reframe questions and redirect the design conversation helps him and the clients he works with establish a new way of seeing the world,” Somerson said. She noted that more than 300 RISD alumni have launched businesses in and around Rhode Island, adding that “RISD and the organizers of DESIGN WEEK RI have a shared mission of supporting their creativity, innovation and growth.”

“Anthony’s ability to reframe questions and redirect the design conversation helps him and the clients he works with establish a new way of seeing the world.”president rosanne somerson

Pannozzo is an executive creative director and lead of customer experience design at frog design, an international firm that started out in 1969 designing consumer products, including the groundbreaking Sony Walkman and the look and feel of the first Mac. Frog now focuses “not just on objects, but entire systems, ideas and experiences,” he says, working in such far-flung fields as energy, healthcare and education.

The premise of Pannozzo’s talk was that design is not only experiencing a big moment in 2017, but that its importance to the contemporary economy will only grow as our way of life changes at ever-increasing speeds due to technological breakthroughs. “Technology is disruptive,” he explains, “and design’s role is to humanize tech and the change it creates.”

While tech products are expected to be cool, Pannozzo adds, good design is so ubiquitous today that it’s turning up in every industry, from insurance to government to healthcare. “It’s pretty much impossible to go out and buy an ugly chair,” he quips.

After graduating from RISD, Pannozzo says he was surprised to discover that people outside of the design world were not using the “solution frameworks” and other tools he’d come to take for granted in the studio. And they weren’t big on taking real risks and having their work critiqued either. “The design industry values learning from failure,” he points out, “but other industries never even admit to failure, let alone learn from it.”

Now that design has taken a more central role in the business world, it’s no longer an afterthought, Pannozzo notes. Rather than designing a product from start to finish and then asking the team’s designer to “slap a logo on it,” mechanical engineers and other collaborators working on new products or user experiences fully expect design considerations to be woven into the creative process.

Pannozzo fielded questions from (left to right) junior Will Zhang 19 ID, President Rosanne Somerson 76 ID and DESIGN WEEK RI’s Lisa Carnevale.

“Design adds pleasure or (more commonly) removes pain,” Pannozzo enthuses, pointing to the way that fellow alumni and Airbnb cofounders Joe Gebbia 05 ID/GD and Brian Chesky 04 ID successfully utilized design to create an entire business model. He also cited the company’s hands-on approach to building trust among would-be renters by encouraging them to share information. Through testing, he says, Airbnb discovered that users are spooked both by potential renters who say too little about themselves and by those who share too much, prompting them to build a character limit into their online interface.

“We need more designers to solve big problems like climate change, globalization and threats to democracy.”keynote speaker anthony pannozzo

So, how will the role of design play out as increasingly more jobs become automated and more Americans find themselves looking for work again? “Automating routine tasks gives us more time for higher-level thinking,” Pannozzo says with optimism. “We need more designers to solve big problems like climate change, globalization and threats to democracy. Designers will lead us into the age of passion and purpose.”

Simone Solondz

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