As sustainable practices increasingly influence the way designers overcome local and global issues, the Lexus Design Award is calling on creative talent from around the world to Design for a Better Tomorrow. It is hoped that in providing crucial funding and expert guidance from world-class mentors Lexus will encourage designs that go beyond form and function — finding solutions that anticipate, innovate, and captivate.
This year, British-Japanese artist and designer Sputniko! is using her role as a mentor to challenge the finalists to captivate and innovate in the creation of their design solutions. “I’m very impressed with the finalists and their projects and I love the direction they are taking,” she revealed. “But I hope they can add an element of ‘punk-ness’ or craziness in their work. As a mentor, I give them advice and I see that they really listen – that’s a good thing. But I also want them to surprise me.”
In her own work, Sputniko! combines art and technology to create works which raise questions in society and incite change. She has worked as an assistant professor at MIT Media Lab, presented her film and multimedia installations in exhibitions around the world, and is currently Associate Professor of Design at Tokyo University of the Arts.
Working in speculative and critical design, she challenges what the future will look like by exploring topics ranging from gender issues and female health to global concerns including the human impact on nature. Known for working in the mediums of music, performance and film installations, Sputniko! uses pop culture to highlight critical and sometimes uncomfortable questions, describing her work as part activism, part art.
“If I want to design for debate, if I want to design to create discussions, then why not use this amazing media tool where people can see the work and talk about it? Because I’m an activist-artist, I always think about how I can spread my message most efficiently, or how can I impact society in a more meaningful way,” she says.
Designing for a better future is the premise of the Lexus Design Award, something Sputniko! is keen to instil in each of the finalists. “I feel that designers should be responsible and think about the best tomorrow in all their designs,” she says. Each of the six designers is trying to tackle an important social or environmental issue from their own world view and Sputniko! believes it takes courage to highlight these problems and find viable solutions. “If your design solution doesn’t work, then it’s just a glorified, beautiful-looking thing that only pretends to solve something. I’m very impressed by the finalists. If they see a problem, they are all able to change direction very fast.”
For Sputniko! design should impact the way society sees things and investigate the possible consequences of different kinds of technology. “Get technology wrong and what could be utopia for one community might be dystopia for another community, so I have always felt that perspectives on different futures are very important,” she says.
Sputniko! believes that platforms such as the Lexus Design Award open up conversations to new viewpoints. “It’s a good experience for me, seeing how the designers view things and how they try to solve the world’s issues right now,” she explains. “The most important thing that we should be challenging is for design to open people’s minds and shift people’s perceptions.”