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Interview with Professor Sabine Foraita

We spoke with Professor Dr. Sabine Foraita, juror of this year's iF YOUNG TALENT AWARD, about the future of design, creating products and patterns for local markets and evil design.

Would you introduce yourself?

My name is Sabine Foraita, and since 2006 I've been professor of Design Science and Design Theory at the University of Applied Sciences and Art in Hildesheim. I studied industrial design at the University of Fine Arts in Brunswick. My interests include design sciences and theory, design research and design ethics.

You mentioned speaking to students about evil design. What do you mean by evil?

Perhaps 'evil' is the wrong word. You could also say: ethically dubious or questionable. And it is always an individual answer: every person defines 'evil' for him or herself differently.

It starts with the kind of questions you ask: Do I want to work on this topic? What kind of product is it? Is the organization I'm designing for ethically acceptable to me?

Then there are the questions of the production itself. What methods and technologies are used, which materials are chosen? What about child labor and working conditions?

Once we have answers to these questions, what then? Not every young designer can choose its clients.

Of course not. But as a designer, it's up to me to decide how far I am willing to go. Every step of the design and production process is one that I can question: transport, distribution, advertising and packaging.

I certainly don't want to stop anyone from designing things. But I would like to introduce a bit more reflection into the process: consider, then design. If this happens, we might accidently find out that by doing so, we're able to make the world a little bit better.

It starts with small steps: a printing process that uses only environmentally-friendly dyes and paper that is sustainably forested. Small measures that can have a large impact.

Back to 'evil design': can you give a concrete example?

Of course, I won't name names. But one example that almost everyone has seen are dark patterns (http://darkpatterns.org/) in the Internet: user interfaces that are designed to confuse people and make them do something they did not intend to do.

Which product urgently needs to be redesigned?

That's a tough question. Perhaps because I've been thinking about it recently, but what comes to my mind are certain social media and Internet services. Flight booking websites. Some of this falls under the category of dark patterns by the way.

As a designer and a human being, what I wish for is that the Internet learns how to forget.

What do you think will happen in design in the next 20 years?

I think the work of a designer is going to change again. In the future, I believe that we'll see more designers in consulting roles, all throughout society. Science, too: I believe that designers will work in a number of scientific and academic areas as partners.

I also hope that design acquires a different significance within companies. A lot of big companies already include designers in decision-making roles.

As you can tell, I think very highly of designers.

Universal design, local design, or mixture of both?

For some products or categories is a universal approach the best. Door handles should work the same the world over, and should be accessible to everyone. But I think in some cases it's good to keep design local.

A group of students and I designed a product for cloisters working with the company Manufaktum (http://www.manufactum.de/klosterprodukte-gutes-aus-kloestern-c195077/). We worked theoretically, but we also sent the students into the cloisters.

They got to know the workshops there, they went to the locations in person. They took part in the life at the cloisters as much as is really possible.

One project that came out of the study is a collection of patterns, designed for one specific cloister. It was a great success in the cloister network. Now we have patterns coming from a number of different cloisters, and they are being used to design fabrics, post cards, and other products.

It has a certain charm, because it is so specific.

You can give one piece of advice to a young person who is thinking about studying design: what would it be?

If you really have a burning passion for design, then you should do it. If not, you shouldn't do it. You should think a lot beforehand whether you really want to create something new in the world.

The world of design (and the world in general) is not getting any easier. We need very reflected, very focused people coming to us to learn design. That's what I would wish for.

Prof. Dr. Sabine Foraita

Professor of "Design Science and Design Theory" at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hildesheim since 2006.