Shauna Levy

The Future of Design

TBOP2017 ⋅ 20:51 ⋅ Filmed May 12, 2017

Quick! A patient is dying; they need a blood transfusion. The closest blood bag is a thousand miles away, separated from the patient by the rough terrain of the Rwandan mountains and valleys. What do you do?

Shauna Levy would tell you it’s a design challenge.

She didn’t always see it that way. In fact, it was one line in an email that sparked her epiphany. For Shauna, CEO The Design Exchange, of Canada’s only museum dedicated exclusively to design, that one line was a URL. The video that URL led to changed not only the direction of the festival she was planning at the time, but the direction of the institution she runs and her philosophy about what design can, should, and must accomplish.

Introducing the audience to the United Nations’ Global Goals for sustainable development, Shauna explains that it will take innovation, creativity, collaboration and courage to solve the greatest challenges of our era — and we all have a part to play designing the future we wish to see.

If you’re thinking, “how can design solve poverty or end global warming?”, just wait. Using examples of real projects that are making a difference in the world right now, Shauna shows the audience the out-of-this-world design innovations from real people around the world who are tackling these very problems. From greening urban centres to cleaning the ocean to feeding the homeless to building self-sustaining communities, the projects Shauna highlights for the audience are truly eye-opening and amazing. You’ll be inspired — and called — to direct your efforts towards the global push to end the toughest struggles of our generation.

And, as an added bonus, you’ll get to hear first about the Expo for Design, Innovate and Technology (EDIT) which takes place September 28- October 8, 2017.

Further Reading


Re-positioning The Design Exchange

I'm here to talk about The Future of Design and first, I want to give you a little bit of context in terms of who I am, who we are. For those of you aren't familiar with The Design Exchange, we're Canada's only museum dedicated exclusively to design and that's design within all of it's disciplines so everything from interior, graphic, fashion, industrial and so forth.

[00:19] Five years ago, we re-positioned and we relaunched as a design museum offering programs that have a broad public appeal. We believe that design shouldn't be in the silos of professionals. It shouldn't be in the silos separated from other creative disciplines but rather, it's really about experiencing it on a wide scale. So we do all kinds of exhibits, design programs, competitions, difference type of events where we demonstrate how design is important and relevant to everyday life.

Working with Pharrell Williams

[00:46] I would say that a highlight for me over the last several years, was working with Pharrell Williams. As most of you know, he's a big performer, producer and Pharrell came to us through a mutual friend and agreed to curate an exhibition for us about designer toys and urban vinyl. He did it completely pro bono for us. Now, why would one of the world's most highly paid, successful performers in the world agree to do something pro bono?

[01:13] Because he felt that design and Contemporary Art are not accessible to a broad audience. He felt that many people are intimidated to walk into a museum or cultural institution or an art gallery, for that matter. This was a way to dispel some of those ideas and make it accessible. I know he was right when I received numerous telephone calls from young people asking us what the dress code was because they simply had never been to a museum before. And it was that kind of thinking and that kind of attitude that really started to inform how we positioned and talked about design and did our programming.

UNDP Global Goals For Sustainable Development

[01:50] At the same time, we were starting to work on a design festival. There are lots of events around the world that the design industry goes to. It was important once again to create something that was accessible to a broad audience. We talked about doing all these cool things with technology and innovation and creating this really cool, exciting experience but it really wasn't until I received this one line email from one of my directors on my board that was a one line email that simply was a URL. The URL was that changed the direction of not only the festival, not only the direction the institution but own personal thinking about the real power and opportunity for design. So I'm going to show you now the video that was part of that URL and took us [in] this new direction (plays video).


"We can be. We must be. The first generation to end extreme poverty. The generation most determined to fight injustice and inequalities. The generation that saves the planet from climate change and this is how it will get done. The global goals, a 15 year plan for everyone, everywhere with no one left behind.

  1. No Poverty. We will live in a world where nobody, anywhere lives in extreme poverty.
  2. Zero Hunger. Where no one goes hungry. Where no one wakes in the morning asking if there will be food today.
  3. Good Health & Well-Being. We will live in a world where no child has to die from diseases. We know how to cure. And where proper health care is a lifelong ride for us all.
  4. Quality of Education. We will live in a world where everyone goes to school and education give us the knowledge and skills for fulfilling life.
  5. Gender Equality. We will live in a world where all girls and all women will have equality opportunities to thrive, and be powerful and safe. We cannot succeed if half the world is held back.
  6. Clean Water & Sanitation. We will live in a world where all people can get clean water and proper toilets at home, at school and at work.
  7. Affordable & Clean Energy. We will live in a world with sustainable energy for everyone. Heat, light and power for the whole planet, without destroying the planet.
  8. Decent Work & Economic Growth. We will live in a world where economies prosper and new wealth leads to decent jobs for everyone.
  9. Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure. We will live in a world where our industries, our infrastructure and our best innovations are not just used to make money but to make our lives better.
  10. Reduced Inequalities. We will live in a world where prejudices and extremes of equality are defeated inside our countries and between different countries.
  11. Sustainable Cities & Communities. Where live in cities and communities that are safe, progressive and support everyone who lives there.
  12. Responsible Consumption & Production. Where we replace what we consume. A planet where we put back what we take out of the earth.
  13. Climate Action. Live in a world that is decisively rolling back from climate change.
  14. Life Below Water. Where we restore and protect the life in our oceans and seas.
  15. Life on Land. Restore and protect life on land, the forests and most of the earth itself.
  16. Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions. With peace between and inside countries where (inaudible) are open and answer to us for what they do at home and abroad and justice rules with everyone equal before the law.
  17. Partnerships for the Goals. Where all countries and we, their people, work together in partnerships of all kinds to make these goals a reality for everyone, everywhere.
These are the United Nations global goals for sustainable development. Let's get to work. Let's make it happen.

[05:33] So how many of you are familiar with the UNDP's goals for sustainable development? Show of hands? Got a couple of you here, excellent.

[05:41] For me this was a really important moment. At that point was not familiar with the goals and I saw the video, and I have to confess that the hair on my arms still stands up every time I see it. There were two things I took away from this video. One was that, clearly, these challenges will never be met if we don't all work together. It's a question of government, corporate and people to all come together that will make these things happen. Second, what the video showed me was that, they were all design challenges. I believe that if we apply innovative thinking, creative thought and throw in a dash of courage in that, we will be able to solve challenges like the ones outlined here.

The New Definition of Design

[06:19] If even we look at the situations we deal with today in Canada, whether it's issues around affordable housing or issued that are faced by our indigenous communities on a daily basis, again, whether it's housing, access to food and so forth, I would argue the design with innovation and technology can address these goals. I would argue that design can be a catalyst for positive change. So this, to us, is the new definition of design. Design has the ability create tremendous social impact.

[06:47] Sure, design is still about beauty. It's still about a great handbag or fantastically new luxurious car or a great iPhone. But what if that iPhone can be used to have an app transports blood by drone to communities in Rwanda? What if that handbag had a portable medical kit for communities in northern Canada? And so forth.

[07:05] And so I'm going to show you a little bit about what we think design is and what the capacity and the strength of an opportunity is for what design is today. Here are a few examples of my favourite projects.

[07:13] This is Boyan Slat and he's 19 years old. He discover a way in which to create an artificial barrier reef to clean the oceans of plastic. He was a big scuba diver and was constantly being bombarded, literally, with plastic and came up with this idea. And Ocean Cleanup will launch in 2018 and within 5 years, they predict that all of the ocean's plastic will be reduced by 50% and completely removed within 10 years.

[07:42] This is a project by an architect name, Sou Fujimoto, it's in Paris. It's called One Thousand Trees (Mille Arbres). It's the idea that we can bring green living back to our urban centre because certainly today, we're struggling with that balance.

[07:54] This is a project by Terreform out of New York. It's a fantasy kind of approach to what could the greenest New York look like. Certainly, very green and very exciting.

[08:04] This is two projects that we have side by side, here. The one on the left is by Foster & Partners with Nasa and basically, it's a project where the road powers the cars. On the other side, we have a project that a pre-fab, off the grid, completely sustainable home that also powers the vehicle that's adjacent to it.

[08:31] This, of course, is Elon Musk's Hyperloop. We all know the story that it's an open source opportunity for people to compete to be part of this program.

[08:39] This is Massimo Bottura's Refettorio [Ambrosiano]. As you may now, Massimo Bottura is a world famous chef and what he did is that he designed this beautiful experience during Expo Milan and during the Rio Olympics where homeless people could come and have food. The food that they were eating was being prepared from the leftovers from the restaurants that day and all created with some of his friends who are some of the biggest designers in the world to create a really beautiful environment and space.

[09:07] This is Daan Roosegaarde's Smog Tower. He's a Dutch designer who has created this tower that literally cleans the air of smog. There is currently one in Beijing. I saw him last week and he told that the response from countries all over the developing world has been insane and even within the developed world. There's a huge demand for that project.

[09:26] This is a really fun project and it demonstrates that you don't really need to be a big designer to achieve something. Achilleas Souris is 15 years old. He did a fun architecture program at Columbia University in the summer and he went back to his native Greece and he created shelters out of life preservers from Syrian refugees that had been washed up on the shore. We actually will be showing this in the project I'll talk about shortly.

[09:50] Detroit Empowerment Plan is a group that's created a coat that also turns into a sleeping bag for the city's homeless.

[09:59] This is a project by Google Glass with Philips and TeleView Software. The idea is that as a surgeon is operating on a patient, he or she can actually see the patient's vitals right in front them rather than having to turn away when operating.

[10:13] Design, technology and innovation can obviously be used to created empathy. This is a project by Verse in conjunction with UNICEF. The idea is that when you put the VR goggles on you literally feel like you're in a refugee Syrian camp. They are using it to raise funds for refugees but certainly a way in which to create empathy and beyond just using technology for fun.

[10:38] Fogo Island, you might be familiar with this project. The Fogo Island Inn was created by Zita Cobb. Zita was originally from Fogo Island. A very small community, less than 5,000 people in Newfoundland. She went off and made millions of dollars and then came back to invest in her community and in her town. She created this beautiful hotel with Todd Saunders who was originally from Newfoundland and now lives in Norway.

[11:00] What's interesting about this project is that she worked with all local craftspeople, local artisans. The boat makers were taught how to use their expertise to create architecture. The people who are weavers wove the blankets and all the needs for the inn. Now, this inn is ranked as one of the top 5 around the world and is definitely one of the most sought after locations to vacation around the planet.

[11:25] This is a project by EFFEKT out of Denmark and the idea behind that is that it's a community that completely 100% self-sustaining so everything that the community needs, can be found within the community.

Zipline Lifesaving Deliveries

[11:39] And now, my favourite project or recent I want to share with you. We've got one last video (plays video).


"Rwanda's known as the land of a thousand hills.

It is a very difficult country in terms of typography and many areas are hard to reach. Traversing that terrain to get to a rural village and take hours, even though it's a very short distance.

Today, if a mother is giving birth, and suffers from postpartum hemorrhaging, her life is dependent on getting a blood transfusion.

There are many different types of blood types that have a limited self life and the challenge is when you need blood, you need it immediately but it unpredictable which geography that will occur in.

Hospitals in more remote areas, can have a very hard time getting enough reliably-supplied blood.

The time to order and get the supplies by truck is just too late.

There's no way that we can overcome the time that is take to get anywhere during the rainy season. People would say, 'ok, during the rainy season, we're just not going to make it'.

The best case scenario it would take at least 4 hours but with Zipline, we're looking at cutting that 4 hours to something like 15 minutes.

It is a team of Rwandese who came together with Zipline to groom the project and make it happen in Rwanda.

Their ultimate vision is to put each and every one of those 11 million citizens within a 15 minute delivery of any essential medical product that they can need. That's a revolutionary idea for any country in the world.

The use of drones to deliver life-saving medical products can overcome the lack of road infrastructure. We need to let our imaginations soar.

We you have a commodity where end supply, that might be an unusual blood type or something like a rabies vaccine, and you need it immediately, the idea that we can use a drone to be able to deliver this to the country is absolutely brilliant. There's nothing else that could do that, in that way.

It is like we no longer go around hills, but we fly over the hills.

We've pulled together a team from places like Bowing, SpaceX, Google and Lockheed Martin and it's an honour for Zipline to partner with the government of Rwanda.

We place a hub next to an existing medical warehouse and it instantly enables that warehouse to make hundreds of deliveries per day to any location within range.

The doctor send us their order by text, by phone, whatever is convenient. Somebody identifies the need and prepares the package, puts it on the drone and then we take that vehicle and we put it through a pre-flight test. It's launched. Flies automatically out to the clinic. The path has already been calculated, it's in the computer. Then they'll receiving a text message saying, 'Zip is 2 minutes away. Please walk outside'.

It drops the packet. Somebody goes and collects it.

It turns around, it flies home and then we get it ready for the next delivery.

Our service not only makes it possible but also affordable for countries to deliver reliable access to essential medicines for all of their citizens.

What we're looking forward to seeing here, is saving lives.

This isn't a small step forward, this is transformational change to how we provide medical care to people across the world.

[15:17] I'm always so excited to feel people's response to that video. My 12 year old daughter, every time she watches it, she always says her favourite part is when he says, 'we now no longer have to go through the mountains, we can go over the mountains'. And she just lights up and I think it really speaks to the power of design, innovation and technology.

Design Exchange Launches EDIT Design Expo

[15:40] So what are we all about? What is the Design Exchange about? What do we think the future of design is all about?

[15:44] For us, it's important to demonstrate the power of design, innovate and technology to change the world for the better for everyone. We believe that design can be a catalyst [for] positive change. We believe that design deserves a seat at the table. Should have a seat at the table when discussing these very important challenges and issues that we're facing as a planet.

[16:04] So what are we doing with that? We're launching a design expo. It's call EDIT which is the acronym for Expo for Design, Innovate and Technology. It also refers the the fact that it's an edited, curated experience. We're running it this Fall, September 28 to October 8. And we decided to do it at a very important time, it's Canada's 150th anniversary as well as Ontario's 150th anniversary and we want to speak about the future. The next 150 years. What will the future of Canada, the future of our province look like in 150 years? And we think innovation, design and technology is a big part of that. So we'll be looking at how the intersection of those 3 things work together to make the world a better place for all people.

[16:45] And so, when I saw that video that I showed you earlier with the global goals, it inspired me enough to contact the UN and I went to meet with them in New York. I remember standing in front of the UN thinking, what am I doing here? And had a great meeting with the person there and told them all about our project and what we're hoping to achieve and asked the UN to partner with us on EDIT and they said. 'yes'. So EDIT is in partnership with the United Nations Development Program and it's inspired and informed by the 17 global goals for sustainable development. We chosen the theme of 'Prosperity for All'.

[17:19] We'll be creating an immersive experience. It's 10 days. We'll be doing an interactive experience that has all kinds of exhibits, features, speakers, programs that all highlight the global goals and all highlight the projects, some of the projects that I've shown you recently.

[17:34] We're doing a whole series of exhibits. Bruce Mau, is a big global thinker who works with the major corporations and governments around the world to institute and implement designed thinking. He'll be curating the main exhibit on 'Prosperity for All'. He'll be working with Paolo Pellegrin who's a magnum photographer


[17:50] 'Shelter + Cities' will be curated by Carlo Ratti who is from the Sensible City Lab at MIT, looking at how we're integrating nature back into our cities, combined with technology.

[18:00] 'Care' is being curated by Julielynn Wong who is a Toronto-base Engineer, Doctor, Technologist. Julielynn's latest project is called '3D for MD' where people have the ability to 3D print prosthetics anywhere in the world. Most recently, she's 3D printed prosthetics on the space station. She also is the one that shared the Zipline project with us.

[18:23] 'Educate' is being curate by Kentaro Toyama, the author of Geek Heresy, a book that dispels the idea or explains the idea that when we design for people in the developed world, those people have to be part of the conversation and they have to be part of the solution.

[18:38] 'Nourish' is being curated by the Jamie Oliver Foundation. We all know Jamie Oliver, of course, is a big celebrity chef but Jamie also has an advocacy line apart [from] his business and what he does that looks at food sovereignty and looks at obesity, sugar tax and all that kind of stuff. Jamie is quite excited about this project.

[18:55] We're working with all kinds of consulates, education institutions, universities, colleges and a whole bunch of programming partners like NXT City, like Actua, like The Breakout Project and so forth to create this very interactive immersive experience. I see lots of students here, we have a youth day on October the 4th where admission is free to all schools. Lots of programming for people of all ages.

[19:21] Exhibits, performances, talks, all kinds of interactive experiences and really, ultimately the idea is that we want the visitors coming to EDIT to leave inspired about the whole of design, to understand that, they too, can be part of the solution, to understand that design is a catalyst for positive change and for making the world a better place.

[19:42] Two of my favourite quotes that I'll finish off with, Stephen Hawking, "Never before has there been more innovation. Never before has it done more damage. And never before can it do so much good." Last week, we had our press conference to launch EDIT and Bruce Mau was at the conference and he said this, which I thought was brilliant, "This is the greatest time in human history to be alive. Connection and collaboration across borders and fences and religion - that is the idea of our time. And that is the culture of design thinking."

[20:15] So, I think that comes to the end of our presentation and I hope that you'll join us in this journey and this challenge to make the world a better place and to think about design within a different context. Yes, it is about beauty and it is about the beautiful things in your life but there is an opportunity for design to have a seat at the table and really implement important change.

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