Future Book Forum 2023: The Power of Liquid Design

June 21, 2023 at Munich, Germany (2 days)

What is “design”?

A beautiful chair by Marc Newson. Modular fashion by Donna Karan. An affectionate corkscrew by Philippe Starck. Bagless cleaners by James Dyson. Chupa Chups logo by Pablo Picasso. The scent of Singapore Airlines. The opulent luxury of a Prada store. The stunning architecture of Frank Gehry at the Bilbao Guggenheim.

When we think of design, we jump to the object – its function, and form.

But design is much more. It’s the approach we take, the process of design. And it’s the engagements we deliver, the brand experience. Activity design. Service design. Channel design. Experience design. Business model design. And more.

Jony Ive, the famed design chief of Apple says “To design something really new and innovative you have to reject reason. There is beauty when something works and it works intuitively. Make each product the best it can be.

His designs were objectified. The iMac, the iPod, the iPhone, the Apple Watch, and Apple Park. But these only succeeded as part of a broader design system – the brand, iTunes, the stores, Mac OS, the packaging, iMessage, Twitch, and much more.  The user experience. The brand experience. The ecosystem. The community.

To design, is to solve a problem.

Asking the right questions. Exploring potential solutions. Bringing together all the components. Considering their function. And their form. How they work. How people engage with them, physically and emotionally.

Design thinking. Graphic design. Strategic design. Industrial design. Designer brands. Interface design. Design management. There are endless components and jargon associated with “design”.

In recent years, most focus has been on human-centred design – finding the solutions to the right problems, thinking more holistically about what people really need and want, rapidly developing prototypes to engage people in more collaborative evolution of concepts, open design with more diverse partners.

Tyler Brule, the Canadian entrepreneur, likes to say “People think of design as logos, shapes, colours, graphics. Design is about human engagement. Making an experience simple, desirable and valuable.”

Enfant terrible of design, Philippe Starck reflects ““My idea is to bring happiness, respect, vision. poetry, surrealism and magic to design. Design elevates a product or service into something more human. It touches people.”

At FBF23 we will focus on “Liquid Design”.

How can we design a better book experience for readers?

How can we work more effectively together, to connect the dimensions of output – the physical book, the ebook, the promotion, the community, the author, the activities? And also all the activities which are inputs – raw materials, production, publishing, selling, transportation, disposal, and more?

How can this be more desirable, more useful, more sustainable, more profitable?

How can can we create a “liquid” approach – a dynamic interaction between digital and physical, rather than interpreting them as just alternative formats – a more flexible ecosystem to respond to the different needs of audiences and content?

“Liquid” is about being agile, connected, and responsive to a rapidly-changing market. “Design” is about thinking bigger, more creatively, more critically and more holistically, about how we do it.

At FBF23 we bring together the world’s publishers and partners to explore new inspiration, ideas and expertise to reimagine, reinterpret,  and redesign the book experience.

The Future Book Forum is now in its 10th year, and I will be hosting it again, joined by a live audience, and many more publishers joining online from across the world. 10 years ago Joerg Engelstaedter and I got together to help the book publishing industry reinvent its future. Each year we have progressively focused on crucial issues and opportunities by which we can all innovate and grow.

Back in 2014 we started by envisioning possible futures, which we then tested with consumer insights and emerging business models in the next years. In 2017 we sought to define the DNA of a book – from the physical form, to its content, and limitless deliveries. Growth became a key ananda, particularly smarter growth, fuelled by data analytics, consumer power, and sustainable innovation.

Last year, FBF22 was all about sustainable growth – not just about climate change, emissions and waste – but also about how books have the power to change lives. And where the real opportunities are to think and act differently.

We brought together many of the industry’s important stakeholders, from the IPA and EPA to the UN Publishing Compact, and founded the “Publishing 2030 Accelerator” an initiative to catalyse and facilitate cross-industry change. The accelerator is coordinated by Rachel Martin from Elsevier, but with a broad team of industry experts and stakeholders – including Richard Charkin, Michiel Kolman, Jesús Badenes, Dalia Ibrahim, Peter Kraus vom Cleff, Karina Pansa and myself.

We created the Future Book Manifesto as a commitment to do better together, and as a directional roadmap by which we can make significant and practical difference to our planet, and our businesses. I

The Accelerator seeks to practically address some of the big problems – unsustainable manufacturing to over-produced waste, inefficient selling to technological aversion. And also to promote the positive opportunities – the power of the book, the written word, to inspire, and educate, and enable. At FBF23 we’ll review our progress.

Join us at FBF23 in Munich on 21-22 June 2023 to explore the future of book publishing. Again, it will be hosted by Canon at their Customer Experience Center in Poing, a fabulous opportunity to connect, explore and innovate together.

And this year, specifically, to unlock the power of “liquid design”.