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Change from within


Thank you. Thank you for the introduction, Aral, and yeah, I'm Global Head of Brand Design at a very, very, very big multinational corporation and I was fascinated by the conversation around design and how design is changing and how our capabilities are changing as well, and especially in a large organisation I deal with this on a daily basis.

But today I don't want to talk to you about or pitch to you about privacy or data or about indie in relation to Philips. I rather want to talk to you about a personal story. You might wonder who is this guy, because it's obviously not me, but I share the same last name. He is my father and my father not only influenced me in my belief and when I grew up as a person and as a child, but he influenced me as a designer; my father is a designer as well and he was the Chief Design Officer of Philips from '91 to 2011, so twenty years that he played that role in this organisation, and when he started in '91, he wrote a manifesto that basically was the foundation of how he envisioned the role of design to play for a large organisation and how he wanted to shape the function of design within Philips. I would like to read the opening paragraph of this manifesto, because I think it's fundamental.

"Some months ago, I was on board of an airplane, looking out of the window at the ground below. I could see the bright neon lights of a city standing in the middle of a desert. As you may already have guessed, its name is Las Vegas. Today, activity in Las Vegas is geared for the lust for money, the lust which is seldom satisfied. Money and materialism are the city's guiding principles, and this probably explains why most of the people who go there to play the slot machines seem to be so unhappy. On my own visit I was confronted with an awesome vision of the future Hell. This detailed description of Las Vegas is, I think, relevant, for it gives us a warning of what the future could look like if we are not careful. It is this type of world which environmental carelessness and materialism supported by technology could lead us. But it's not technology that determines human destiny, but rather the people themselves in how they decide to use this technology. The future does not happen by itself; it can be influenced by those who are prepared to shoulder the responsibility of making decisions today. Inaction is also action. The future then is made by those who take responsibility for it today that means that we too can participate in shaping this future and by virtue of the enormous number of products they put onto market, large companies play a major role in determining the quality of our lives. Such corporations should therefore shoulder their responsibility and become conscious of their power. Those of us who work for them must play our part in this. Technology is not the challenge: it is the way that we apply it. We must use technology as a force for good rather than evil. It is possible; we can create a landscape of happy object, a harmonious, peaceful paradise regained, rather than the hell I described in my opening remarks."

So this was the start of shaping the design philosophy in Philips in '92 and aside being slightly humbled by my father having this vision in '91 in a time where the web had not even really reached the masses yet, but I do realise that the challenge that we face as designers is exactly the same as it was then. It has shifted to somewhere else.

And it is with this philosophy now stepping into his shoes that I drive my design team, and it was this philosophy that I personally wake up every morning and I go to the office trying to influence whatever I can to create a future that not only I want to live in, but that hopefully also you want to live in, and a future that I want my son to grow up in.

Thank you, Aral, for inviting me today.