Design Beyond Technology: Digital Realities! #2. 2021.

Guillem Ferran
14 min readMar 31, 2021


Once every two years, the Association of Industrial Design of the FAD (ADIFAD) organized the Design Beyond Technology (DBT), with the motto Digital Realities! The main objective is to think around the Industrial Design role with technology, sostenibility and future development goals.

Last 2019, Design beyond technology: Visions of Future brings together different professionals and visions, this year is much better!

Digital realities

In streaming, from the Roca Design Gallery and available on YouTube in the original version and on Vimeo in the Catalan and Spanish version, a 6-hour pill and 12 speakers with twenty-minute interventions
The first day was presented by Rafaella Perrone, one of the three curators of this second edition together with Joan Recasens and Gennis Senen. On the first day, a continuous 4-hour session began with the introduction of the president of ADI FAD, Salvi Plaja.

As Salvi Plaja, president of ADI-FAD explained, “We brought together industry, design and technology in a conference since the design has a creative potential to humanize the future and make it easier for companies to humanize this technology as part of their products. and services “
Rafaella Perrone introduced the theme of the conference: Digital Realities, with the main theme of the coexistence between reality and virtuality, in person from the Roca Design Gallery presented the objects, winners of the Delta 2020 Awards (the BD Barcelona Armchair, the GOFI lamp and the BQ Router), which through the Crowd graphic design studio have generated the windows and transitions by animating them, “These three objects represent a chair to sit on, the light to illuminate and live the space and a router that is A symbolic object, according to De Fusco, is a container object, which contains within it a technology that is invisible to the user, but which allows the user to access another world ”.
These new realities of digital realities contain many concepts, from virtual reality to augmented reality, 3D visualization, robotics, artificial intelligence, digital manufacturing … concepts that are becoming essential and common among companies, designers and students. Rafaella Perrone presents the DBT as a day to learn, think, and do critical thinking, a few days of inspiration for ADIFAD partners and those interested in design and technology.

Rafaella and Salvi

We can find the session of Thursday 25/3/21 on Youtube, the conferences in Original version, in Catalan and in English with the following timing:

– Fredo De Smet 0:41:00 (30').
– Kris de Decker — Low-tech Magazine. 1:10:00 (34').
– Diego López — Norman Foster Foundation. 1:44:00 (33').
– Manuel Jimenez — Nagami. 2:13:00 (33').
– Qin Li — Fuseproject.2:46:00 (35').
– Isabelle Olsson — Google. 3:17:10(35').

One of the first speakers was Fredo De Smet (0:41:00) who graduated with a thesis that questions the value of reality, he has worked as curator of Media Culture Fast Forward, the Hello Robot exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum and the Artificial Stupidity publication.
Fredo raises and sets the day the conjuncture between design, technology, society, economy and knowledge, what he calls “A cultural revolution”. Silicon Valley companies have allowed, for example, to put Mark Zuckenberg, the man of the year in 2010 and consider him a thief in 2018. It is important to claim to the future, that we are in digital culture and we are closed behind the screens, we use machines as tools, physical machines as clocks that influence us in the scheduling of time and meetings.

Fredo de smet

According to Fredo, we are in a world of abundance, digital offers us a paradise of possibilities, nobody is waiting for your design or your photography. It is a world everywhere, without borders, where we look for areas without Wi-Fi, in order to isolate ourselves, allow us to disconnect like a vacation. It is a hyperpersonal world, easy but conflictive, a school of attention.
Is it necessary to reclaim this human part from the future, place women, men or an animal in the central part of the system, what do we want to value? profit or profit? care or intention? the competition or the competitions? It is a historic time to rewrite our digital culture.
The 10 rules for digital reality, in Artificial Stupidity, are: Let yourself go with dignity, embrace ambivalence, activate your network, value your attention, live your body, share the commons, break the bubble, rethink your identity, learn to learn.

The second speaker is Kris de Decker (1:10:00), from lowtechmagazine, beliefs in technological progress and knowledge to design a more sustainable society, a low-tech website is a website that is not updated every second, it complies with its principles and generates benefits on a planetary level.
We have to go to renewable energies but we have to rethink products, cars and objects that consume much less energy. The Internet is not tangible but it consumes a lot of energy and we must know how to use it conscientiously, just like cars that consume more weight, web pages work the same, we must reflect and think about websites that are not so interactive but more efficient. How can we build more effective websites? We can find solutions in the past, at the beginning of the Internet where we had a greater level of patience and immediacy did not consume us.

The third speaker was Diego López (1:44) from the Norman Foster Foundation, located in the heart of Madrid, in a palace with an archive of Foster’s works from his university days, with a pavilion of inspirations, which includes the pieces that inspire his work, such as Le Corbusier’s Voisin car.
Buckminster Fuller and Norman Foster collaborated for 12 years, they shared the principles of “Design Science”, doing the most with the least, they created different projects such as the Samuel Beckett Theater in Oxford or the Climatroffice, Diego focused on the Autonomous house, created in 1982, where Fuller combines his own patented geodesic domes, one translucent and the other transparent that rotate to allow transparency and darkness according to the needs of the day of The foundation preserves a model that was presented in London, 12 days before his death, just as Fuller received the Gold Royal Medal.

Diego tells us about three large blocks: the geodesic dome and its structural elements that compose it, about the subdivision of a spherical icosahedron, cutting the sphere at five-eighths of the height, using repetition and efficiency for its construction. The interior spaces, in a 2.6-meter cascade procession, connect several levels to house the rooms up to the cars, Foster adapted the levels to ellipses so that they did not compete with the exterior dome. The place where the Autonomous house will be installed will be at Chateau La Coste

The fourth speaker Manuel Jimenez, from Àvila, co-founder and CEO of the robotics design and manufacturing brand spinoff Nagami as well as other companies such as Automated Architecture Ltd (AuAr ), with the intention of democratizing the digital construction arts (2:13). Automation is happening everywhere, while construction is still very expensive and consumes many resources, in fact, construction is one of the least automated disciplines, which means that we cannot meet the demands and needs of housing. The modern movement was born from the standardization of the first industrial revolution and impacts on housing, in the current industrial revolution the space race is being experienced, but there are very few examples beyond Katerra, construction focuses on the automatic assembly of parts by industrial robots and in large-scale 3d manufacturing. Innovation in materials or the creation of algorithms that facilitate the use of materials such as bamboo.

Nagami is the spin-off that experiments in the creation of products that can be personalized, products designed by Ross Lovegrove, Hector Serrano, Patrick Schumacher of Zaha Hadid Architects, Daniel Widrig and Manuel Jimenez. These are furniture and products that are printed in 4 hours, do not generate stock and are competitive in price, around 500 euros, but they have also developed The Fashion Awards trophy, an award made with Parley Ocean Plastic® and also sculptures. Manuel comments that he is at a magical point where he can explore the possibilities of 3D printing by applying it to architecture and everyday objects.

The fifth speaker was @Qin_Li VP of Design of Fuseproject (2:46:00), founded in 1999 and directed by Yves Behar, Qin works with Yves, since 2004, he shows us three projects that show solutions on how technology can be incorporated and improve our quality of life (35 ‘): Moxie, Snoo and Ori.
Moxie is an assistant or companion that helps girls or boys to develop their skills, Qin shows the main challenges that this product has been developing revolutionary who wants to look like a good friend and not a robot, with large eyes that allow eye contact and improve interaction with children.

Snoo is a project developed with the paediatrician Dr Harvey Karp for 5 years, children cause many insomnia problems to their parents during the first months to two years, Qin shows the challenge of creating furniture with technology and sensors incorporated inside, taking into account safety regulations and prototyping to adapt to create a comfortable and safe product for the diversity of baby sizes. Sensors react to crying and allow us to be an example of how design and technology can satisfy the most complex problems.
Ori Systems is a holistic project that works 360 from the product to the interface, robotics applied to improve the quality of life of small homes in cities, the challenge of large cities is with how small the apartments are and the design can find solutions to improve the experience of living in 35 square meters, with a configurator that allows the walls to be separated and moved through a module that It can transform the space into the dining room, the bedroom or the office. From one room, millions of options.

The sixth and final speaker was Isabelle Olsson, Senior Design Director, Google Nest and Wearables (3:17:10). Isabelle reviewed the philosophy, methodology and portfolio at Google Nest, entitled “The softer side of technology”, leads the desired forms of the tangible from a design that aspires to create its own technological language, inspired by covering from snow technology, being optimistic and with the sensitivity of generating a smile in its user, moving away from the black boxes.

Products such as speakers, assistants, thermostats, computers, game consoles or headphones that claim to be familiar, intuitive, simple, gestural, natural, sustainable and follow Google’s bold, optimistic, and humane design manifesto. Isabelle proposes to replace design thinking with design feeling, as designers we are educated in methodology to be rational but we forget to think about how the things we design make us feel. Although you have to use data and intuition at the same time, not just facts and statistics but instinctual feelings that operate without the need for a rational conscience.

Isabelle proposes a pyramid of needs where the useful, functional and reliable are at the bottom and what is truly important is pleasure and meaning, that is why she proposes a tool that she uses with her team, when we ask about a design, let’s not ask, What do you think but what do you feel? That question will provide us with stronger and more reflective answers. Isabelle proposes a methodology to work in a word cloud of perceptions to value products.

Isabelle works on the colour proposal of the Pixel Buds headphones, which should represent and adapt to any skin type, she suggests painting her nails with the colour proposal of the products she designs to be able to value colour in different places, lights and moments of the day.

Isabelle shows us a cartoon where two people are sitting talking about a house but each one is imagining a different house. Isabelle insists that it is essential to eliminate this ambiguity in the early stages of the design process, in order to make products faster. Rehearse the future in the present through models, prototypes and variations of the same idea, variations that are imperceptible but allow making decisions, thinking about action and involving forms in the process so that the design team can assess, reflect and explore the limits so as not to fall into the error of selecting your first idea, he proposes to restyle, reconsider and reinvent the idea.
In the studio they surround themselves with physical objects to be inspired, a library of objects that can allow imagining the digital from the physical and insists on the importance of the physical in order to bring challenges closer to opportunities, considering cost, appearance and privacy while maintaining simplicity, use and fit.

Day 26/3

The second day, Friday, March 26, were almost 3 hours of succulent contributions and exchanges led by Joan Recasens who began by commenting on the challenges of World Climate Day between Climate and Technology as well as the concepts of real reality and fake reality.

We can find the session on Friday 3/26/21 on Youtube, the lectures in Original version, in Catalan and in English, with the following timing:
- Matteo Guarnaccia & Gabriel Alonso — Institute for Postnatural Studies. 0:17: 00 (40 ’).
- Jamie Cobb — Map Project Office. 0:57:00 (33 ‘).
- Bas Van De Poel — Modem | Former Creative Director at SPACE10. 1:29:00 (23 ‘).
- Juan Umbert & Adrià Colominas — Makeat. 1:52:00 (30 ‘).
- Danae Gómez & Clara Subirats — Nacar Design. 2:22:00 (30 ‘).

The first speakers were Matteo Guarnaccia and Gabriel Alonso from the Institute for Postnatural studies (0:17)created this past year with the aim of exploring artistic experimentation and fostering critical thinking.

They presented how a man with technology is modifying the concept of nature.
The human being has become a mineralogical force that is transforming the chemical composition of the earth’s crust, this turning point in which nature and culture are related, a new post-natural geological era. This post-natural era requires another ecology and another language, image, archetype or aesthetic that represents it.

In 2000, when Paul Crutzen and Eugenie Stoermer presented the idea of ​​the Anthropocene, they were 50 years late, according to Gabriel Alonso, human action dates back to the first nuclear tests with Trinity in 1945, where the human being created Trinita, also known as Alamogordo glass. Gabriel introduced the “antrobscene” as a planetary moment in which technology modifies the territory of the planet. The duo raises the use of materials and their impact on ecology and the associated aesthetics of representation of the climate crisis.

The second speaker was Jamie Cobb, from Map Project Office (0:57), a company founded in 2012 by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby to accommodate the portfolio of projects for technology companies such as Google, IBM, Sony … With the title Digital ornaments, describe physical practices in digital, with the aim of increasing the interaction between technologies and people, the environment is key. Facilitator of daily tasks and what apparently seems like the challenge is to make technology invisible, to make it disappear in ambient intelligence.

According to Cobb, the vision of futurologists is materialized in reality through industrial design and although it seems that the disappearance of the real world is looming due to the miniaturization and integration of the technologies of the physical world.
The question is, will we design in a world with few physical products? will we end up designing digital products?

Jamie is clear that in order to satisfy virtuality, we must go through the physical possession of goods, in the future, objects will maintain a small physical part, which must be designed and has to take into account the behaviours, relationships and commitments of the world virtual in the real.

The third speaker was Bas Van De Poel, former Creative Director of SPACE10 (1:29) Digital signs that can alter the physical, Bas commenting that in some years 45% of people will be unnecessary and that will have many implications in society, but before imagining the worst future, the best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Design what the post-pandemic conditions are and take advantage of the capabilities that artificial intelligence has and will have, as well as its implications in the practice of design and especially its applications in creativity.

Bas teaches different examples of how algorithms create images, shapes and new languages, the new aesthetic standards and hyper-realistic and symbolic images that are applied in everything from producing bedroom proposals for Ikea or reinterpreting images with artistic styles to reinterpreting the human line, formalizing settings and designs relating concepts, from descriptions for Figma or the classic example of the avocado chair, as well as integrating virtual reality and leaves us with a shocking and thoughtful quote read in FastCompany: Training and directing creative machines will be one of the jobs more interesting and important creatives in the future.

Bas proposes 5 predictions, on the one hand, the democratization of the use and application of creativity, as well as its large-scale application, warns that dramatic productivity is approaching that will increase the ease of creating in designers using new tools, allowing to create millions of possibilities and offer many varied addresses at the push of a button, transforming your craft as a job of curating and editing, reviewing and selecting.

Adobe is integrating Artificial Intelligence into its tools and it will be a matter of time before more examples and real tools appear that facilitate and enhance the designer’s work. Bas sends us a hopeful message and it is that the machines still do not recognize “What it looks cool” that looks good, it will be important to control the aesthetics and the image to be able to develop an own style and coherent enough not to be copied, imitated , reproduced or developed by a machine.

Juan Umbert and Adrià Colominas presented Makeat, as innovation connectors and food professionals. They raised examples of how technologies merge in the gastronomic space. Both in the creation of imaginary to real sideboards, in the future, the sideboards of our everyday stores will be digital and the images will require personalized solutions and the creation of a gastronomic ecosystem that must be designed between a group of designers, the intentions of the clients and user needs.

Danae Gómez, design strategy and Clara Subirats, product designer presented Nacar Design, a Barcelona design agency of 80 creatives, they offer what they call a design of transitions, composed of three elements, elements, bridges and platforms, for this they have explained different cases for HP, Bioceryx DNA, Correa, Vueling … One of the services they offer is to translate technology into design principles, humanize through user experience and test, how to unite the real world and corporations or how businesses and industries connect. Transitional Design allows creating visions from outside to create alignments or realities from within large companies, as is the case of printers as furniture for HP in Sant Cugat, in fact, printers are connectors that unite the digital with the physical, but they tend to hide. Clara tells us that in the past the physical was very important, in reality, the digital currently seems essential but in the future, there will be a balance between both worlds.

These two days have served to reflect and understand the challenges offered by the relationships between the digital and the real, from science fiction to fears and possible futures that may arise, that design will surely know how to offer answers, humanize and improve the entire process.

This year the graphic has been made by Crowd, who created the graphic for the first edition, the event was digitized by Flop Barcelona at the Roca Design Gallery.

This article has been written for ADIFAD webpage. To know more about the first edition you can read Visions of future.



Guillem Ferran

Product Design Teacher. Empower entrepreneurs, products and ideas. Barcelona.