Their topic: The future of design.
The publication resulting from this conference, “Quo Vadis Design?”, includes four theses by different experts, which, eight years after they were formulated, are still of central significance for the concept of design today. The speakers, Andreas Dorschel, Winfried Nerdinger, Nils Ole Oermann, and Wolfgang Sattler worked their presentations into essays. Some of the participants in the discussion (Thorsten Frackenpohl, Sandra Hirsch, Lisa Hoffmann, Kristian Gohlke, Johanna Kleinert, Helge Oder, Ingo Wick) also developed essays from their contributions. The book has long been out of print, but now a PDF version is available for free download.
The meeting on the island of Frauenchiemsee was driven, on the one hand, by a concern that design would only play a cosmetic role dictated by marketing. "The deeper concern that gave rise to the meeting is the lack of clarity about the place and significance of design in the sciences and in society," says Prof. Dr. Vossenkuhl in his foreword to the book “Quo Vadis Design?”, which he published in collaboration with iF. The participants in the discussions wanted to take seriously the ambition that the whole of our environment should be designed in a humane and dignified way. "Anyone who is serious about this today cannot ignore the fact that planet Earth is endangered by both ecological and economic threats, by overexploitation and excess debt," Wilhelm Vossenkuhl continues. "That's why, unlike before, a design conference cannot just be about the drawing and technical aspects of design." For example, a recurring question in the discussions was as to whether and how design could also live up to ecological responsibility. This question was also specifically posed in the context of design education, which should – as many demanded – be given a solid scientific foundation in order to create effective and beneficial connections to other disciplines in science and research. One of the conference’s findings was that there were existing approaches, which demonstrate how design can contribute to finding solutions to the crises humanity is facing. For example, a foundation course covering a broad spectrum of scientific knowledge would enable designers to work with and develop environmentally compatible materials.
The conference participants agreed that reconsidering the role of design would also have to include the corporate significance of design in the context of global competition. Where in the development, planning and production process should design be positioned in order to create real benefits? These questions are also of central relevance today – for designers and for design education.