Posted Monday 16 September 2019
A visionary academic from Kingston School of Art has been awarded the prestigious Design Innovation Medal as part of the 2019 London Design Festival showcase. Professor of Design Daniel Charny has carried off the coveted award for his trailblazing work that includes Fixperts – an initiative that challenges students to use their imagination and skills to create ingenious solutions to everyday problems.
Professor Charny is founder and creative director of the learning programme that has grown from a small-scale volunteer design venture to achieve worldwide recognition. "Fixperts is a simple idea. Designers meet a person, discuss and focus on a problem they have, fix it with a design-led solution and hand the prototype over to them," Professor Charny explained. "It's about creative problem solving, teamwork and communication, with human values at the forefront of the thinking."
Collaboration is integral to the process, Fix Partners share their ideas by uploading documentary-style short films on the Fixperts' website so their designs can be viewed by a worldwide community of fellow fixers. "Fixperts takes the process of making and puts it at the centre of the experience. Problem solving and making the prototype are also important ways of supporting emerging designers to develop skills employers are looking for," Professor Charny said.
The project addresses both social and sustainability agendas, using local resources to solve the problems posed. "Being an educator and teacher the project naturally gravitated towards what I do to encourage people to use their creativity in social contexts," Professor Charny explained.
"The shared experience through a digital platform brings together a generation of people who care about these values and want to connect with like-minded individuals. It's very much a digital era project, but, at the same time, is also an interaction focused on just one person. It's not driven by identifying a wider market or design for manufacturing at this point. It's far more about putting people first on an extremely local and very personal basis."
Fixperts is now embedded in 39 universities in 20 countries across the world, with Professor Charny's Kingston School of Art research looking at the initiative's global impact. "Examples include the Kyoto Institute of Technology in Japan, which uses the project to work with less visible layers of society, they focus on ‘invisible people' or ‘Silver Workers'. In contrast, in Israel the Holon Institute of Technology is focused on physical disabilities, completing more than 100 projects improving people's daily lives."
The project has now also evolved to make its mark in secondary and primary schools across the United Kingdom through FixEd, a new think and do tank that houses all the teaching resources.
Fix films, including favourites made by Kingston University students, are being used as tools to stimulate classroom discussions in design and technology lessons. "During the past year we have been working with STEM Learning and the RSA, training more than 200 teachers across the United Kingdom to bring Fixperts into their classrooms," Professor Charny said. "We are now seeing Fixperts being delivered in primary school and secondary schools – it's expanding outside design into science and engineering, which is very exciting. I'm excited by the possibilities of a human-centred design process to teach science or maths, drawing on what we refer to as applied creativity."
Highly regarded for curating the influential Power of Making exhibition at the V&A museum, Professor Charny has taught at some of the top design schools in Europe in a career spanning more than 20 years. He is also creative director at From Now On, with clients including Google, the Design Museum and Dartington Hall all benefiting from his inquiring mind and entrepreneurial instincts.
He said he felt enormously honoured to have his work recognised with the Design Innovation Medal award. "My success and that of Fixperts is down to the fact that I work with great people," he said. "I always work in collaboration – from my core partner Dee Halligan, CEO at From Now On and director of Fixperts worldwide, to the students and academics at Kingston School of Art.
"Openness, responsiveness and engagement are the great aspects of creativity. Inspiring conversations with colleagues and students are a critical lifeline. The dynamic, energising atmosphere on campus informs my thinking and invigorates my research."
Established in 2003 by Sir John Sorrell CBE and Ben Evans CBE, the London Design Festival celebrates and promotes the city as a global design capital. The Design Innovation Medal is one of four awarded by a panel of established designers, industry commentators and influencers to recognise the contribution made by leading figures and emerging talent both in London and across the wider sector.