Shauna Levy

The New Definition of Design

TBOP2017 ⋅ 5:34 ⋅ Filmed May 12, 2017

You may be thinking, how can design solve the greatest challenges our world faces: hunger, poverty, pollution, global warming, and so on? These are issues for governments, aren’t they? Using real examples of incredible projects that are making a difference in the world right now, Shauna Levy demonstrates how design is at the core of all of the solutions. From a marvelous invention that cleans the oceans to an green urban community, these eye-opening, futuristic ideas are design solutions for the world’s problems. And who knows? Your idea might be next.

Further Reading

Boyan Slat

The Ocean Cleanup

Sou Fujimoto

One Thousand Trees (Mille Arbres)


Foster + Partners


Elon Musk


Massimo Bottura

Refettorio Ambrosiano

Daan Roosegaarde

Smog Free Project

The Empowerment Plan Detroit

Google Glass


TeleView Software



Fogo Island Inn



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.

[00:13] 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.

[00:27] Sure, design is still about beauty. It's still about a great handbag or fantastically new luxurious car or a great iPhone. 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.

[00:46] 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.

[00:55] 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.

[01:22] 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.

[01:34] 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.

[01:44] 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.

[02:11] 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.

[02:20] 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.

[02:46] 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.

[03:06] This is a really fun project and it demonstrates that you don't really need to be a big designer to achieve something. Kilis 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.

[03:30] Detroit Empowerment Plan is a group that's created a coat that also turns into a sleeping bag for the city's homeless.

[03:39] 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.

[03:54] 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.

[04:18] 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.

[04:40] 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.

[05:05] 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.

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