Better by design – from furniture to society

Danish Design Center CEO Christian Bason explains how design and the Scandinavian DNA go far deeper than aesthetics.

For speakers and visitors alike, SXSW represents an opportunity to learn not only about upcoming developments in technology, but also show what they have to offer, on an individual, company and even regional basis. 

Christian Bason, CEO at the Danish Design Center, is taking part in a series of presentations, panel discussions and workshops in Austin this year, reflecting the growing global realization of how influential Scandinavian design and the area’s “DNA” has become.

“If you ask around the world what characterizes our region, design quickly pops up as a major factor for both tourists and business,” says Bason. “More than just things such as furniture and architecture, we’re also advanced in well-designed cities and urban environments. If you dive even deeper, our region has a societal DNA that’s reflected in this design. The things we produce, our services etc are an illustration of the kind of societies we are,” he adds. 

Expanding on the theme, Bason will take part in a panel as part of the official SXSW program this year, entitled Human Centered Tech and Deign and Design Shaping Society, alongside Casper Klynge, Tech Ambassador of Denmark, and Ann Rosenberg, Global Head of tech giant SAP’s Next Gen. In short, they will be asking broad questions about technology’s role in society, such as privacy, gender equality, security and technology’s influence on society. 

“If you want to look for a different model in design and society, the Nordics offer a very powerful story that differs considerably from Silicon Valley’s, so it’s an interesting perspective. We’re weaving a design narrative together with a broader narrative, with a business perspective, asking what the opportunities are for creating business.”

It’s a timely discussion to take up, given recent discomfort over the power being wielded in both political and media spheres by the behemoths of the tech world. 

“Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen a model powered by tech innovation, internet platforms and businesses. Add to that artificial intelligence, voice recognition and so on, and you realize we’ve been led very much by technology that we’ve long been leveraging for commercial use. A major part of that story has been just one path – which has seen more social media, the increased use of algorithms and the use of more devices in all aspects of life. Now, we’d like to take a step back and ask some quite radical questions – what’s a good work life? What’s a good childhood? A good relationship? What actually makes a good society?” says Bason. 

“These can be framed as design questions, because they’re about how we design the future products and services that we’ve been using and consuming. At the Danish Design Center, we do focus on business models, but also the future of work, health and education. 

Meanwhile, Bason was also invited to hold a panel discussion with a group of American mayors from all across the country, with the aim of seeing what lessons their cities could possibly learn from the Scandinavian model. 

“They’re starting to look at how American cities can deal with these kinds of questions,” says Bason. “How do they handle it when large tech firms want to move in? Or the impact disruptive technologies can have on the way a city works. The fact that they want to hear what we have to say demonstrates how far we have come in our region and what Scandinavians can do in a global arena.” 


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