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Date 31.07.2017
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Domus Academy Graduation Event 2017: George Bouvier’s speech to our master graduates

Graduation Speech, July 2017

Welcome to the Designers of Tomorrow

Thank you Line, Signore e Signori, dear graduates thank you for the warm welcome.

I am deeply honoured to be invited this year as the graduation speaker and to share with you this very important moment.

There is so much that I want to say to you …and there is so little time!

Today is a day of celebration.

A day of looking back and realising… feeling it… knowing it…that it was all worth it.

A day of graduating from one of the greatest schools in the field of design.

………

Seeing so many familiar faces here today, and having met so many of you before, inevitably makes me think of the journey of becoming a true professional.

Speaking of journeys, it is very apt for me to mention here, today, another traveller, one of the most famous ones that have ever existed.

He took part in one of the biggest, bloodiest and most talked about wars of his time. He managed to survive it and as soon as the war ended he boarded a ship and set off to go back home …but one thing followed another…one adventure appeared just as the previous one had ended.

He went from one place to the next. Meeting monsters, semi gods, fighting with the sea and the elements in an adventure which in total lasted, according to legend, almost 20 years. At one point, he even reached his beloved island until he could see the landscape and the houses on the shore and smell the distant perfume of the wildflowers… and then the winds took him far away and he continued to move from one destination to the next….

His story is a beautiful one. I am talking of course about Odysseus whose epic journey was beautifully captured by Homer.

I am mentioning Odysseus to you, the Designers of the 21st century, purposefully.

Firstly, because it is fascinating that we identify with his story so much even after more than 2 millennia. We know that in spite of our smartphones, space travel and industrial robots, deep down we are not very different from him. Homer really talks about our own personal Odysseys. It’s just that in our modern times, the Scylla and Charybdis, the lotus eaters, the island of the sirens, they all have different names for each one of us. They may be fear of failure. Searching for our own identity. Fighting to be heard. Dealing with a profound disappointment.

Secondly, because even though this might sound like a cliché, the story is about the journey being as important as the destination itself.

When Odysseus arrives at each destination, he hopes it is his last. But it isn’t. There is always something else happening, something beyond his control that either leaves him stranded or brings about something unexpected or moves him further away from his goal. The one thing that doesn’t leave him is what lies deep inside him: his love for the destination. His trust. His appreciation of what he encounters.

As you fight and survive each one of these monsters, I hope that you remember one thing:

Your life will not begin when these challenges are resolved. Your life will not begin after you defeat the next big monster.

All this IS your life.

As designers, as you slowly and steadily find your own two feet, your aesthetic signature, it is very important that you extract the essence of every moment and every struggle, that you squeeze every last drop of what has happened and that you own it. All these experiences are invaluable and help you become who you are:

The seasoned, professional, designer AND thinker.

In my mind, one of the biggest attributes of a good designer is his/her ability to see beyond the obvious. The ability to see beyond the object that must be designed and see the wider picture. The ability to get deeper than the superficial wants, to get to the point of finding the human needs.

We are no longer living at the time of Odysseus. Our world is an increasingly designed environment. We are surrounded by branded products many of which have a global presence and are created by companies whose turnover often exceeds that of entire countries. We live in apartments and houses that are designed within cities that are themselves also zoned according to civic demands.

We may walk entire days and remain within purposefully designed spaces where even the nature has been positioned there on purpose by a landscape architect.

[…]

But I do want to highlight, before we go on to the happy event of your graduation, how much we need you to be part of this world. How much we want you to help us create solutions. Not to create new Frankensteins.

[…]

As Designers we are also creators. And that places us in a position of power. As with all positions of power, it is our duty to accept the responsibilities that come with it.

Whenever we design something we must always think of how it will be manufactured and what the production process means. How it will be used. And how it will be discarded. We need to think of the total and real cost of our actions. And that cost is never just monetary.  There is also the human cost, the working conditions, the scarcity of resources, the pollution caused, the effect on wildlife, the energy required to break it down, the percentage of its recyclability.

Each one of us has a responsibility to leave this place, called Earth, better than we found it. Not worse.

Why am I sharing all this with you today? Why did I not pick something easier, more superficial than the long arduous of the Designer, then the importance of our role.

Well, call it “paternal instinct” if you like. You are now part of the family, Our Family, and like all your tutors and lecturers, your well-being is at the very top of our working priorities.

With your graduation you are joining a growing family of Thinkers, all of us connected with an invisible bond.

I promise you, the epilogue of my speech is a happy one!

How can there not be?! There is a tremendous amount of joy in our lives too. There is beauty in almost everything, if only we recognise it. Einstein said:

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

So, here we are… you came to Milano on your own… many of you from other cultures… and you’ve done so much more than that just study…. You’ve survived on your own…  You made new friends… you opened your eyes to different way of living… a different way of thinking. And today you are graduating from one of the best Design Schools in Europe.

So, without any further ado, the time has come for me to Congratulate you for your achievement.

The floor now belongs to you.

I wish you from the very bottom of my heart the very best of luck in your careers.

Thank you.