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Alexandra Klatt: "Design education is one of our key topics"

The Berlin Design Week’s CEO explains what visitors can expect from the upcoming edition, taking place from 27 May to 6 June.

Berlin Design Week (BNDNWK) starting on 27 May is an international podium merging scientific progress and ethical responsibility into the design of tomorrow – since 2019 even in collaboration with iF Design. In this interview, CEO Alexandra Klatt talks about how a design event can work as a hybrid format in times of corona, which program highlights with iF Design experts are coming and what designers need to be responsible for these days.

iF: Why did you decide on "New Traditions" as the theme of this year’s edition?

Alexandra Klatt: The theme NEW TRADITIONS deals with our current felt and lived uncertainty. Our current situation is an accelerator for new approaches and design has the power to offer new visions and to show new ideas and concepts. Traditions give us a sense of security and now we are forced to do many things differently. While this was clear to all of us before, it has now become inevitable.

About Alexandra Klatt

About Alexandra Klatt

Alexandra Klatt studied Landscape Architecture at Beuth University of Applied Sciences, Berlin, as well as Communication Design at the University of Applied Sciences, Potsdam, both in Germany. In 2015, Alexandra has become co-founder and co-director of the association state of DESIGN which organizes the BNDNWK. Since 2016, Alexandra has organized events for BNDNWK and since 2017 in the leading position as CEO.

Keeping this vision in mind, what are the highlights and major aspects of the program?

We have topics like Circular Design, Design Education, Mobility, Healthcare and Wellbeing in panel talks like "Ready to thrive in a VUCCA World", "Designing Voices" with international speakers and experts but also take a closer look at 100 years of BRAUN and Luigi Colani and bridge the gap between traditions. User experience, AI and contemporary product design will also play a major part in BNDNWK. In other words, everything BERLIN DESIGN WEEK stands for: New thought and design concepts.

How did you and your team meet the requirements of a concept that serves to protect the health of all employees and participants under the conditions of the pandemic?

Being prepared for whatever may come, we planned everything as a hybrid format from the beginning. Presenting our content this way is the highest protection we can offer now. Our participants are informed about all protection measures and possibilities to avoid taking any risks. We know that all exhibitions and showrooms will have to limit the number of visitors at a single time, but at least will be open to visitors. We also realize that there will be little to no visitors from abroad due to international travel restrictions. This has all led us to map everything online in our interactive BNDNWK Arena and pop-up TV studio, BNDNWK TV. There will be a lot going on live there.

There are events planned in cooperation with iF Design. Could you please go into detail here?

Design education is one of our key topics, and one that will benefit immensely from the iF Design Foundation with its publication “Designing Design Education: White Book on the Future of Design Education” – a seminal work on design education for future generations. We'll dive in here and take a closer look at the findings from five years of research. On 1 June, at 6 pm, René Spitz, author, professor of design science, design and communication management and member of the iF Design Foundation board since March 2021, will introduce us to this topic with Fritz Frenkler, one of the editors. There will also be a panel of experts, I cannot reveal more yet, except that it will be exciting. On 27 May at 6 pm there will be a talk with the two iF Design CEOs Ralph Wiegmann and Uwe Cremering as well as other guests on BNDNWK TV. The discussion topic and the talk guests will be announced next week.

Design education is one of our key topics, and one that will benefit immensely from the iF Design Foundation with its publication Designing Design Education.

On your website, you state that clear-cut, sustainable and trend-setting design could initiate a new normal. How exactly are today’s designers able to initiate a new normal and what are they responsible for?

A good designer is a keen, mindful and creative observer. They recognize needs and design solutions or give shape to something yet unknown and possibly strange, while making it intuitive and usable. Hopefully we don't have to talk about the misappropriation of or by design anymore. Design cannot introduce a new normal for everyone. That can only be a social, cultural process. Design is a medium and can have a driving effect on processes. The innovation we’re showing lies in the new discourse that is being both initiated and substantiated. Things we’ve anticipated for years are now becoming inevitable challenges.

Could you give an example?

Designing Voices, for example, presents a new discourse on sound design. How does our city sound with the multitude of objects that surround us? How can we learn to listen again and what is multisensory design? “Designing Design Education: White Book on the Future of Design Education” underpins the necessary discourse on the future of design education and makes an important contribution to the new "tomorrow" with very concrete examples.

The coronavirus has been challenging all of us for more than a year now. Other than Berlin Design Week, which design event in the world could you hardly do without in the past 12 months?

The first blow came in March 2020 with Milan Salone del Mobile. By the time the event had to be postponed and finally canceled, the virus along with its terrible scenarios had already entered public discourse. After all, professional discourse and exchanging ideas within the creative industry was the easiest thing to shift online. But online formats are no way as concentrated and intensive as attending on-site events.

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(published in May 2021)