Feature: Jerusalem's annual design week highlights role in hi-tech

Source: Xinhua

by Keren Setton

JERUSALEM, June 18 (Xinhua) -- Jerusalem's annual design week, held from June 13-20, features a series of events throughout the city highlighting the increasingly important role of design in the high-tech world.

A conference called "Tech meets Design," sponsored by the Israeli non-profit Startup Nation Central (SNC), was held this year to promote the Israeli innovation eco-system.

While for years Tel Aviv has served as a main hi-tech hub, Jerusalem has recently been seen as a nascent contender with with a budding hi-tech industry that also boasts one of the leading design schools, the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design.

"Jerusalem is a gold mine," said Eugene Kandel, CEO of SNC, at the opening event of the conference.

Adi Stern, president of the Bezalel Academy and also a keynote speaker at the event, has great faith in the Jerusalem eco-system. The diverse population of the city, despite the underlying complexities, are part of its path to success.

"On one hand, there is a thriving high-tech eco-system in Jerusalem that is becoming more and more present and visible, while on the other, we have the art and design academia and a growing creative class in the city. These two facts create a unique community in the city," Stern told Xinhua.

During the event, there were panels on the future of mobility, artificial intelligence (AI), the future of food, home, health and education.

Stern also believed that the importance of design in the hi-tech world is a demonstration of the reality that design is a critical part of the innovation process. Design can make or break a new technology.

"The world is technology today. Everything around us is technological and we need designers to be there to help us," said Stern. "Design is a strategic component in the tech eco-system. Without design, one cannot succeed."

Increasingly, designers have become an integral part of the process in which companies create products, instead of just freelancers who jump in at the end of the process and have minor input on the final product.

This is also reflected in the growing number of applicants to design schools in industrial design courses.

"Nowadays, I would say 50 percent, maybe more, of young graduates and alumni of our school, are going to work in startups or multi-nationals," said Stern.

Another speaker at the conference was Kfir Damari, co-founder of SpaceIL, an Israeli organization which launched Israel's first spaceship aimed at landing on the moon just a few weeks ago.

He and his colleagues are currently working on designing Beresheet (Genesis) 2, the second spaceship they hope will make a successful soft landing on the moon after the first one crashed upon its lunar approach.

"Design shows that science and technology can be exciting and cool. This can get kids to be interested in studying engineering," said Damari.

And for the designers, "humankind will also need their help to build new things for the new places we are going to be in," Damari added.