The Scottish Design Summit 2015

Held in Edinburgh last month, the Scottish Design Summit featured an eclectic mix of high profile figures from the UK and international design industry.

Through talks, workshops and an exhibition they shared their work with the Scottish design and business communities and the insights it has brought them. The role of emerging technology and big data in design decisions were the main themes that emerged throughout the day.

Despite going along with little knowledge of the organisers, Design in Action, and uncertain of the lofty-sounding event title, I came away impressed by the scale of the event and the high calibre of speakers.

The highlights for me were as follows:

Jason Bruges

Creative Director of Jason Bruges Studio, a London-based design studio specialising in interactive installations, Jason shared his insights on the creative process, production and technology.

Their diverse work ranges from the interactive Nature Trail project for Great Ormond Street Hospital, to the visitor-tracking Panda-Eyes installation for WWF.


John Mathers

Chief Executive of The Design Council, a UK charity whose vision is to ‘create a better world by design’, explained his belief that the UK design sector is currently ‘surfing on a seventh wave’ of unprecedented growth and is the second-largest design sector in the World.

He also strongly believes (and had the numbers to prove it) that investing in design can have a major impact on a company’s bottom line and, interestingly, advocated the idea of having a ‘Chief Design Officer’ in every business.


Alice Keating-Withers

Consultant from IBM introducing Watson, IBM’s cutting-edge cognitive computing technology, and showing it’s amazing potential. Apparently, ‘90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone’. The vast majority of it is unstructured, such as emails, web-pages and documents. Watson’s has the ability to derive insights from these large volumes of information.

One example of the way Watson has been applied is the Cognitive Cooking book, where unexpected flavours were blended into brand new combinations based on Watson’s ability to extract facts from millions of pages of literature, in this case recipes. Another, is when Watson beat the human contestants in an episode of the US game show Jeopardy.


David Cleaves

Executive Creative Director of the Munich office of Frog Design, a highly regarded global product design and innovation agency, he spoke about designing connected car experiences in his workshop on the future of mobility.

It was fascinating to hear insights from his collaborations with major car brands and about the disruption that’s currently occurring in the car industry with brands such as Google, Sony and Uber. The workshop included some exercises including a 3-minute challenge to come up with an idea for the car of the future based on weather + time of day + direction of travel data – pretty chuffed with my effort:

Working for an agency with one foot in Edinburgh it was heartening to see the ambition and confidence that the event represented.

It would have been great to see the event more widely promoted within the design and business communities as there were plenty of empty seats. If it is held again in 2016 let’s hope it is better supported (we’ll be playing our part!).

Design in Action’s website has more background on the summit along with information on the other interesting work they’re involved in.