Saša Kerkoš is the initiator of Design Biotop, an experiential discussion platform that explores the problem‑solving and trans-disciplinary nature of design. Design Biotop promotes a new kind of design‑thinking mindset and encourages its impact on social, political and economic challenges by developing grassroots projects promoting interdisciplinary connections and collaborations. All Design Biotop events call for action from all levels of society and strive to nurture active participation, where individuals can learn from direct experience, co-working and open sharing.
Data Mining and Designing Solutions
Rethinking problem solving
By Saša Kerkoš
Design Biotop, Ljubljana
Teaching different ways of thinking and allowing for more creativity can work as a catalyst for real, actual change.
— Saša Kerkoš
Cross-sector and inclusive, the Design Biotop platform takes a different approach to urbanism in the public sector by aiming to rethink problem‑solving through areas such as the gathering and analysis of data – as initiator Saša Kerkoš explains.
Design Biotop is a platform originating in Ljubljana, Slovenia, staging events that bring people together who rarely get the chance to meet. The platform aims to create a friendly, non-biased environment in which various disciplines can intersect, bringing together different social actors with an emphasis on the public sector. Design Biotop events call for action from all levels of society and aim to facilitate active participation. Those who take part learn from direct experience, collaborative working and knowledge exchange. What the platform strives to carve out over the long term is a new approach based on system design.
We need to rethink how we approach problem solving. Through its programme, Design Biotop focuses on the process of how to ask the right questions in the first place and on making time to think about them, resulting in better-for-all systemic solutions. The answers to really important questions often need time to be visualised and verbalised effectively but often, dealing with the day-to-day does does not leave much room for broader, holistic thinking when it comes to the decision-making processes.
In 2014, inspired by the effect that data has had on such processes, we organised the Design Biotop Data Project, run by Finnish information designer Juuso Koponen, to explore the true value of the creative industry and culture for economic growth in Slovenia. Using different sources and aided by the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia, the outcomes of the workshop revealed facts that were not clearly apparent before; findings pointed out, for example, that the classification of creative industries in the country is not coherent and therefore does not allow for the coherent gathering and analysis of the data.
We also realised that lack of data is not the problem; the challenge lies in why and how it is sorted and presented. Working with the Statistical Office, information designers and creatives showed that specific themes or data analyses and extractions of data are scattered. Time and again different sources are not properly compared. Often, once the data is gathered from these various sources and combined, the results show a completely different image from what was expected, revealing new knowledge and challenges. For instance, before the Data Project, we didn’t fully appreciate that Slovenia has almost no exports related to its creative industries. Organising the data in clear, visual form also showed that the Ministry of Culture receives far less than other ministries when viewed in the wider context of the country’s financial purse. However, discourse in the media suggest that funds for the Ministry of Culture need to be cut further due to the current recession. But the data also showed that despite an overall decrease in attendance of cultural events in the country, the volume of cultural production actually rose.
The data visualisation that Design Biotop focused on in 2014 proved that information design is a good method for presenting facts in a tangible way that be easily communicated to both specialist and non-specialist audiences. As a result, the project was awarded best accompanying event at the Slovenian design biennial BIO 50: NOW and was presented to several ministries and garnered much interest in and discussion on the topic explored. Data gathering in itself is not new, but as part of the systemic approach to problem solving, it remains a cornerstone of Design Biotop future actions. ■
“Lack of data is not the problem; the challenge lies in why and how it is sorted and presented.”