Moving People

A short essay for Damn Magazine nr. 39 as part of the "Manifesto Series"

Moving People

It was one of those beautiful summer days, but the whole morning I was locked in a dark room in the studio, discussing with my colleagues a new mobility project we were designing. We were talking about the paradigm shift that’s needed, away from the vehicle as an isolated object and towards a pulsing and intelligent system in which people and vehicles connect. The flip chart was full of schemes, new possibilities, and lots of fancy words. But in essence we were not talking about mobility, we were talking about technology.

It was only during lunch in the sun on a lovely outdoor terrace in the city centre that a colleague brought us back to the core of mobility. While watching the buzzing activity of people in the square, he asked: “But what sense does mobility make, if it’s not for meeting other people and allowing them to share happiness?” That flip chart in the studio suddenly felt very redundant and the discussion finally became more passionate and involving. We talked about people, about how mobility makes us happier, and about what values we need to feel - with a view from within.

That is the perspective and role we need to take as designers when working on new mobility solutions, a personal, sensitive, and fragile role. We must inject a strongly human approach within a mobility context that will be more and more defined by big systems and complex technology. And we should start by changing the mobility design schools where all too often talented students graduate with the false impression that mobility is just about the styling of objects – sometimes hardly knowing where, and if, people fit in. We need these schools to teach people about society and psychology, and take them back to the core of their creative thinking. Only then will designs emerge as mobile tools for happiness.

(Lowie Vermeersch)