– reflections and perspectives

 

 

A conversation with Alberto Barreiro

In 2022 Kaospilot and Elisava pioneered a new master program in Barcelona with Kaospilot Principal Christer Windeloev-Lidzelius as program director. Here Christer speaks with one of the pillars of the program, Albert Barreiro, and his views on value of the program and its future.

 

 

Greetings Alberto, just quickly for readers who may not know who you are – can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Thank you very much for the invitation to answer these questions and discuss a program that holds immense relevance for the design discipline, the professional future of students, and the times we’re living in. The most suitable way to describe myself is through my personal purpose. I often state that my purpose is to make transformation irresistible, i.e., to instigate new ways of understanding businesses and organizations through design, consultancy, art, and most importantly, education. These new perspectives aim to enhance our relationship with the world. Pursuing this purpose, I have carved a career spanning almost three decades.

 

What has been your relation to the strategic design program that we have run this year?

My relationship with the program has been both beautiful and intense. The caliber of the students, coupled with the need to adapt to their evolving expectations, presented a profound learning opportunity for me as well. This program stands at the forefront of the design discipline, focusing on its potential contributions to a society in the midst of a paradigm crisis. The emphasis isn’t so much on imparting existing knowledge but rather on co-creating with students the very future of Design.

While my daily work involves convincing corporate clients about the necessity for change, within the program I found myself in the midst of students who already harbored a radically transformed vision. The challenge shifted from fostering new mindsets to exploring how to materialize and render irresistible the vision they already possessed.

 

In your own words, what is strategic design all about?

The best definition of Design is the one shared by Herbert Simon many years ago, which goes something like “Design is to devise courses of action intended to change existing conditions into the prefered ones”. Following this definition, design is always strategic as it implies a critical understanding of the existing reality, possessing an intention for positive change, having the criteria to imagine preferable conditions and being able to build bridges between understanding, intention and impact through creativity. This activity, if we look at it from the needs of the contemporary context, implies learning to think in a systemic, critical, intentional, long-term, transformative and experiential manner.

 

What have been your takeaways from being a person who has been with us since the start and followed the program to its end?

This program is extraordinarily relevant. There is a societal demand for professionals who can fearlessly and creatively confront the complexity of the problems we face. The dominant linear, reactive, short-sighted, simplistic, and opportunistic perspectives prevalent in both the institutional and business worlds perpetuate an unsustainable reality. We need agents of change—individuals equipped with the mindsets and tools that can help us navigate, co-create, and intervene in the current context, and guide our actions towards a positive impact. The world is full of good intentions, but few individuals possess the know-how to translate these intentions into action. Working with the wonderful group of international students who constituted the first generation of this program allowed me to comprehend that the mindset change the world needs is already in existence, and that it is an honor to be able to contribute to making their visions a tangible reality for the sake of our future.

 

What make a program like this one unique and relevant would you say?

Design, as a discipline, must evolve from merely being a tool serving business interests to becoming a catalyst for transformation. Being able to creatively and collectively intervene in systems, Design must be placed at the heart of efforts aimed at creating a more regenerative and equitable economy and society. This is why this program is not merely an efficient training environment on certain crucial themes, but also the seed of a movement that fuels the evolution of the discipline itself. It’s the origin of a new generation of professionals whose value is, and will remain, critical. With the students, we explored this dimension of the program as an exercise in activism, community, and collective movement.

 

For whom would you say this program is a great match?

This program would be a great match for anyone who is uncomfortable with the reality they’re currently facing and is in search of structured methods to instigate change and ensure that what an organization does or produces aligns with today’s complex, uncertain, and evolving context. Hence, it’s pertinent for individuals who aspire to create significant value in fields like business, non-governmental organizations, public institutions, consultancy, urban planning, strategic planning, art, and culture, etc. In other words, it’s ideal for those wanting to bolster their role as agents of change through sensitivity, creativity, and design.

 

Read more about our Master in Strategic Design in Complexity at ELISAVA in Barcelone right here on our website or visit Elisava

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