It was my pleasure recently to meet well-being researcher Nic Marks for a conversation over breakfast in Stellenbosch and share ideas about Design Happiness. 

Nic Marks at TED

Nic Marks at TED

Since first meeting Nic a few years back, it has been interesting to discover how we have both been influenced by the work of Manfred Max Neef, who has given the world the intellectual framework for human-scale development (economics as if people and the planet matter). 

Manfred has certainly provided profound inspiration for my own work over the past decade and now for my latest startup, 9Needs, where we promote human-scale, social innovation and design to help create places, products and services that will produce better health and wellbeing for all people and for the planet.

Nic is well known for developing the Happy Planet Index and National Accounts of Wellbeing, from the Centre for Well-Being that he founded at the leading UK think-tank, New Economics Foundation (NEF). He has led pioneering work to gather statistical evidence about what ‘makes us happy’. The results of this work have been used to promote policies that put the well-being of people and the planet first. There can be no doubt that Nic’s work over the years has contributed to the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress and more recent UN resolution on Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development.

My conversation with Nic helped prepare a pitch to the organisers of next years World Design Capital 2014 in Cape Town, to use this event as an opportunity to demystify and further popularise design that truly enhances wellbeing for people and the planet. 

We propose to facilitate dialogue amongst designers to identify qualities of design that can contribute to wellbeing and examples of ‘Design Happiness’. 

This could lead to measures being developed, to objectively assess designs to start setting   benchmarks for better design. 

The result could be something like a ‘Design Happiness Index’