No more white tea cups!

INDEX: Award was conceived in 2002 as a world event for design and was awarded for the first time in 2005. The name INDEX was an abbreviation of INternationalDEsign eXhibition and when the organization was founded, the goal was to brand Denmark by the use of a large-scale, traditional design award – hoping to attract attention, tourists and investments to Denmark.

However, in the organization – headed by CEO Kigge Hvid – we were not fully convinced that a traditional design approach was going to yield a big enough impact, and therefore we worked hard to figure out what a world event for design should then focus on in order to be globally relevant…

So, we traveled, talked, and listened to designers, the media, CEOs, heads of design and innovation, academics, and to artists from all over the world. And everyone – no matter who or where – pointed to the human potential of design and the value of design perception. Not only in traditional products, but also in the design of services, processes, and systems. And via these conversations, we established the concept of Design to Improve Life, not only because it was (and still is!) globally relevant but also because in a beautiful way, it could perpetuate the humane and democratic tradition of Danish design.

No design events were built around this focus in 2002, and most designers back then did not focus on designing to improve life. They simply did not see the commercial potential in designing social and sustainable solutions to global challenges.

But significant events such as Muhammad Yunus receiving a Nobel Peace Prize, and the publication of The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid by C. K. Prahalad gave way to a new focus of finding innovative solutions for both developed and developing countries.

The INDEX: Design to Improve Life® organization, however, was not alone in the quest for encouraging designers to stop designing white tea cups and instead focusing their creative skills on more pressing issues: We just sat on the tip of the wave looking ahead.

And now, all design events, design conferences and design agencies around the world recognize the power of Design to Improve Life and allocate at least part of their program, work, or resources to advance this important agenda. The private sector has also followed suit, realizing the sizable commercial potential in designs that have the capacity to improve people’s lives. International foundations have also adopted innovative approaches to philanthropy, most notably the Rockefeller Foundation with a focus on “Innovation for Development”.

Today, INDEX: Design to Improve Life® has become a key player in the global design community in the field of social and sustainable design by continually promoting Design to Improve Life by working collaboratively with people from all over the world to find tangible solutions to pressing global challenges.

In early 2016, we added an investment leg to our Design to Improve Life agenda. Specifically, designers from all over the world now have the possibility to receive seed and venture capital for their life-improving design solutions – provided that they have been nominated for INDEX: Award via the award’s free, open source platform.