Alfonso Morcuende

re-new Orleans

Newborn Design

Design for a better world

Photo by Infrogmation

In the design world, we tend to use the sentence “luckily, we’re not commercial airline pilots” when we make mistakes in our work. The sentence is kind of funny, and with it we want to play down our own decisions. How important could replacing green with blue be, or one text with another…?

Let me tell you a story about a small change. The graph below this paragraph shows the percentage of people who are willing to donate their organs after they die, across different European countries.


As you can see, there are very marked differences among these countries. To explain the causes of this disparity of percentages, we could speculate as to the reasons, such as religious differences, cultural differences, etc. But if you look at the list, you can compare countries like Denmark and Sweden; the Netherlands and Belgium; Austria and Germany. These countries, we might say without fear of being mistaken, are fairly similar in in terms of culture, religion, etc. However, their organ donation rates vary quite considerably. What, then, can explain these differences?

The solution lies in the design of the organ donation form that these countries have. Basically there are two types of forms:

  • OPT-IN: Check this option if you want to take part in the organ donation program. People do not check this option and therefore do not become part of the program.
  • OPT-OUT: Check this option if you do not want to take part in the organ donation program. People do not check this option and therefore become part of the program.

The decision about whether to donate our organs is an important decision at an emotional level. We face a decision that we don’t want to make now while we’re alive. We don’t know what to do, and we leave the default option that we find on the form.

Let’s think for a moment about how many lives this “copy” has saved. The importance of the way information is presented in order to save hundreds, thousands of people every year..


Design Matters

There was a controversy this week on Twitter about the 04×10, event. Without delving too deeply into the debate, there was a sentence written by Javier Cañada on the Vostok blog that made me reflect:

“I feel that our field (the world of design) is self-satisfied, that we settle for liking each other, and we don’t think about becoming standard bearers of anything on an international level.”

Javier Cañada

It’s true. The design world is often a world that is closed in on itself; as close to companies and their products as it is removed from life and its people. Our work saves lives and on the Internet, kitties.

We think that designing experiences is something that is purely transnational between a human and a device or program. There is more out there. It is our duty to start to reclaim as our own the design of experiences that go beyond the business world.

I’m inspired by companies like vizzuality “Working to improve our world, one project at a time”. excited about programs like the School of Visual Arts”Design for Social Innovation”. in love with projects like desigNYC “Improve the lives of New Yorkers through the power of design”.


Design All Experiences

How does one design or compose music for a morgue? This was the assignment that musician David Lang received: compose the music that a person who has no hope of living was going to listen to in the moments before they die. This morgue is in a special room, the “Salle des departs“, in the “Hopital Raymond Poincare” near Paris. This hospital specializes in traffic accidents, so the people that die there are mostly people who have not been suffering from a prolonged illness.

Imagine the responsibility of this assignment. A person who is going to die is taken into this room, the “Salle des departs”, with the intention that his or her last memories are not of the white light of a hospital.

The power music has to awaken any type of emotion in us is known by everyone. Just think of the power music has to transform a movie you’re watching. What sort of feeling or emotion should the music in the morgue awaken? What purpose should it awaken in the mind of someone who is conscious and passing away?

You can listen to the piece created by David Lang here. This music was intentionally designed so it could not be played live. The vocal part consists of some female choruses, and these never end. No human being could sing this piece. The intention is to let the music be listened to or ignored by a person. It should not dictate any specific feeling in the person, but rather give the person the freedom to feel whatever emotion he or she wants to feel—in a word: accompanying. Writing music so that a dying person is moved and cries inconsolably is easy. . David Lang knows this and wanted to get away from it.

Design should be a transformative force in our society. It is our responsibility to prove ourselves as creators of a better world. In the design world, problem-solving techniques are used which, applied to everyday life, could improve the lives of millions and millions of people.

When I grow up I want to be a commercial airline pilot.