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Ghio: «It is not about conceiving design as the center of human life and the solution to all its problems, but to understand it from a human-centered perspective, as a useful, essential, and transformative element to co-create a better world»

Marcelo Ghio, director of the agency OXB Branding and the Madrid-based magazine Experimenta, presents and analyzes the links among people design, and new technologies.

Having earned a degree as a Graphic Designer at the FADU-UBA and after studying post-graduate courses related to corporate management and sustainable communication at the Mayor University in Chile, Marcelo Ghio landed his current post as the head of the design and visual communication agency, OXB Branding, with branches in Madrid and Buenos Aires. He is also the director of Experimenta Printing Press and of Experimenta Magazine, its prestigious design, architecture, and technology publication made in Madrid.

He has a vast career as a consultant of branding and strategic communication management topics, which inspired him to create the concept “oxitobrands”, a term that merges branding and commercial elements with behaviors that are stimulated by positive emotions. He wrote the book Oxitobrands: Human Brands for an Emotional Market, published in Argentina (Gräal Ediciones, 2009), Peru (Editorial Planeta, 2011, 2013 y 2016), Colombia and México (Liquid Thinking, 2015 y 2016), and Spain (Experimenta, 2017). A new edition of the book, improved with new content and case studies, was released in 2019. Ghio is currently working on a new publication Biobranding: Towards the Creation of a Sustainable Brand Ecosystem.

On this occasion, invited by IDA Foundation to participate in the “Expert Opinion” section of the September issue of the Old&Newsletter, Ghio delves into the dynamics that fuel design and connectivity.

–Can we rethink or redefine the meaning of design from a connectivity standpoint? And redefine connectivity from design’s perspective? Can either one be separated from the other?

–The first thing we must clarify in this respect is which definition of connectivity we will refer to. On the one hand, connectivity is related to the capacity of connection and the creation of connections among people and between people and objects; on the other this connection has configured a new paradigm in our digital era ruled by devices. This new model, defined by the IOT (Internet of Things), establishes a new physical-digital alignment that expands the way in which objects work and modify our daily lives.

As it happens in any new setting, it becomes mandatory to rethink –more so than to just re-define– all disciplines that intervene in it. This is particularly relevant in the field of design, specially because it is a discipline that works as an interphase between human beings and the artificial world created by themselves. That is why connectivity, in all its possible interpretations, is a substantial part of design.

–What cases, actors, products or elements related to Argentine and international culture embody an uplifting experience of that sort?

–We are surrounded by products that merge design and connectivity. GPS navigation systems for cars and appliances that can be programmed, among a wide range of other products, show how, as part of our daily experiences, we have “naturalized” this relationship that turns the extraordinary into commonplace. The app Waze, with its simple user experience, enables us to anticipate road-related problems. Timers on our kitchen appliances, activated remotely from a smartphone, become time savers that improve our daily lives.

On the same note, the possibility of closing business transactions through online banking at home or an ATM; printing books at a distance by connecting our computers to printing presses that can be located thousands of kilometers away; or creating a 3D prototype by verifying all its features before producing it are just some of the countless possibilities available in our contemporary context. Things that only half a century ago belonged exclusively to the science fiction realm, are, today, platforms that boost the creation of new products and services.

–Has the bond between design and connectivity changed throughout the XXI century as a result of new technologies and new ways of teaching, living, consuming, and interacting?

–Of course, I would claim that is an expected event. We are undergoing a constant learning and adaptation process in which design is transversally present in our culture and social structure. Through this transversal interaction, the relationship between design and connectivity has arrived at a point in which the latter has eclipsed material resources, as has been highlighted by Barry Katz in his book Make it new. In that process, the so-called Internet of Things has blurred the division between hardware and software, now perceived as a single unit in which the material nature of “design objects” has faded in such a way that it has become a mere facilitator of processes, uses, and solutions to problems located outside its direct “area of competence”.

Because of this dynamic, sometimes design acquires a silent role; in certain instances that is desirable, however, by not perceiving the true dimensions of its contributions, they are not valued as they should. Nonetheless, design is still present in all aspects of our lives. From the integration of technology into classrooms to the optimization of physical space and furniture aimed at enabling interaction in the sphere of multiple types of learning, each of these situations reveal the implementation of ideas, reflections, and productive actions originated from design. This happens in all settings, including contexts in which we perform as consumers, interact with other people, and carry out our activities.

–How can we boost the potential of this pairing in order to produce innovative solutions that foster improvement in such areas as social inclusion, cultural diversity, gender equality, environmental care, and access to education?

–By offering solutions to people’s problems. In the age of connectivity, no product is an island since it emerges from the reality of an interconnected world with interconnected people. Common problems must be understood and analyzed within the contexts where they evolve in order to develop appropriate design solutions.

Systems to detect diseases in early stages, interactive educational platforms, trackers and alarms for people at risk, accessibility to public and private spaces for people with reduced mobility: these are some simple and wonderful examples of the ways in which design, in collaboration with other disciplines, can –and should- help to improve life standards for us all.
It is not about conceiving design as the center of human life and the solution to all its problems, but to understand it from a human-centered perspective, as a useful, essential, and transformative element to co-create a better world for everyone.