Nico Macdonald | Spy   Communication, facilitation, research and consultancy around design and technology

InterSections conference
October 25–26, 2007 (Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead)
Chaired the Interactions thread at InterSections, a two-day conference exploring what designers need to know for the future


InterSections logo

I chaired the Interactions thread at the InterSections conference in NewcastleGateshead in October 2007. The conference, subtitled ‘design know-how for a new era’, was a collaboration between Dott 07 (announcement on its site), Northumbria University School of Design (event listing on its site), and the Design Council (event listing on its site), and tied into the Designs of the time: Dott 07 Festival, which took place 16–28 October in NewcastleGateshead. InterSections was lead programmed by my colleague Kevin McCullagh and was very well received.

The conference chair was Jeremy Myerson, and interesting sessions included: ‘The challenge of design thinking’ with Tim Brown (president and CEO of IDEO); ‘Mission creep – the limits of design’ with James Woudhuysen (Professor of Forecasting and Innovation at De Montfort University); ‘Leviathan: the rise of the polymath’ with Richard Seymour (co-founder of Seymour Powell); and ‘The silence of design’ with Clive Grinyer (Director of Design at Orange France Telecom). Apart from my Interactions thread, there was a Culture thread, chaired by Blueprint editor Vicky Richardson, and a Business thread (chaired by Jeremy Myerson).

This was the most significant design conference in the UK since SuperHumanism in 2001 (about which I wrote the piece ‘Can designers save the world? (and should they try?)’ in New Design) and, perhaps, since Design Renaissance in 1994 (publication edited by Myerson). I hope the best and the brightest people interested in the future of design, from the UK the rest of the world, will be there. See the full programme. If you are (thinking about) attending do indicate your status on the InterSections entry on

The conference also has a wonderful poster, based on the ideas of disciplinary overlaps, whch was created by Bibliothèque.

My sessions

My seminar sessions in the Interactions thread were:

Interaction blur

Participants were Daljit Singh of Digit London, Durrell Bishop of Lucky Bite, and Andy Altmann of Why Not Associates, and asked ‘What do designers from different backgrounds and who are designing interactions to different ends, consider to be their core skills?’. Report back on Interaction blur...

Can good design be ‘co-created’?

Participants were Future Cities Project director Austin Williams; Dr Lynne Maher, Head of Innovation Practice at the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement; and Joe Heapy of Engine, and asked ‘What has design got to learn from the open-source software movement and ‘wiki-nomics’? and ‘While everyone is a designer, isn’t it the job of professional designers to champion good design?’. Report back on Can good design be ‘co-created’?...



Commissioned by the Design Council, Jeremy Myerson, Chair of InterSections 07, “reflects on some of the key themes that emerged from the conference in the pamphlet titled InterSections: Pressing the Pause Button [PDF, 7 MB]. It considers how design practice has widened its repertoire and Designers are adopting new roles – as strategists, co-creators, rationalists and story-tellers”.

Recordings and transcripts

As well as my Report backs (see links above), the podcasts are available on the School of Design site to download or stream, and the transcripts are available on the Design Council site.


See the InterSections conference blog, which I was involved in setting up. There has been some interesting reflection on the content and format of the conference. See Matt Jones on Interacting with InterSections 07 and Lucy Kimbell of the Saïd Business School on Intersections that don’t intersect all that much.


Some attendees flagged themselves on the InterSections entry on


There are a number of photos tagged Intersections07 on Flickr. If you happen to post any images to Flickr can please tag them Intersections07 and upcoming:event=208665 (a ‘machine’ tag that will cause them to appear on the event listing).
More Flickr photos tagged with Intersections07


Riding the Flux: Design is changing in myriad ways. Are you? Kevin McCullagh, Core77, July 2007 [Shared bookmark]


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Nico Macdonald | Spy 2007