‘I claim that the ultimate purpose of design is to contribute to the creation of a good society, one that is fair and just.’ In his opening essay to ‘Design for the Good Society’, the publication that looks back on 10 years Utrecht Manifest, design historian Victor Margolin pleads for a new ‘action frame’ for the world. ‘We need to rethink the way we organize our lives at every level from the local to the global.’ Margolin sees a big role for designers in this cause.

Ten years ago the biennial event Utrecht Manifest was born during a symposium leading up to the anniversary exhibition ‘NOW. Pastoe 90 Years’ in Utrecht’s Centraal Museum. From the event celebrating the furniture manufacturer’s 90 years of existence the idea developed to organise five biennial events leading up to the 100th anniversary aimed at fostering the development of a socially engaged and critical design practice.


With the fifth edition, which started last year, Utrecht Manifest closes off the series. Today ‘Design for the Good Society’ is to be presented at Salone del Mobile in Milan. The entire project will be finished with the publication of a manifest at a closing event in June.

The book ‘Design for the Good Society’, that will be presented tonight in the studio of architect Michele De Lucchi in Milan, reflects on the five biennial events with essays by sociologist and artist Willem van Weelden, and design historians Guy Julier and Alison J. Clarke and interviews with architect Alfredo Brillembourg – a speaker at WDCD2013 –, design writer Alastair Fuad-Luke, and philosopher Peter-Paul Verbeek.

A new strategy

In his opening essay, Margolin, professor emeritus of design history at University of Illinois, refers to utopian visionaries from the design realm including William Morris, Walter Gropius and Richard Buckminster Fuller and calls for today’s designers to follow in their footsteps. Designers should come up with ‘a new strategy of action on a global scale’ in answer to the pressing issues that trouble our world.

‘The question I pose,’ he concludes, ‘is whether the international community of design educators and designers can recognize its own power as a collective agent of change and undertake a radical rethinking of how we could live, a rethinking that this community, better than anyone, can translate into propositions for projects that inspire people to carry them out.’

We at What Design Can Do couldn’t have said it better. The challenge we are preparing and that will be launched at WDCD2015 is exactly aimed at the same thing: incite designers of all sorts across the globe to come into action and use their skills for the better.

Max Bruinsma, Ida van Zijl (ed.), Design for the Good Society. Utrecht Manifest 2005-2015. 184 pp. Design: 75B. Published by nai010 publishers in cooperation with Stichting Utrecht Biënnale. ISBN 978-94-6208-205-2. Price € 34,50


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