hope lab

Design exists to solve problems.

As you’ve likely heard before, design isn’t an act of creative self-expression but rather a process of problem solving. As legendary ‘I Love New York’ designer Milton Glaser once said, “Design is the process of going from an existing condition to a preferred one.”

For much of history, design has been relegated to ornamental improvements. With a few exceptions (notably Bauhaus), design has been the last polishing step for businesses pushing their latest goods. But in recent years this reality has changed radically. Design is now synonymous with innovation and startup culture; it is now often leading business.

As consecutive design innovations have changed our lives, many have begun to equate design with hopefulness. Having trouble with something? Don’t worry! Next year’s iPhone will fix everything. Read more

HOPE Lab Activities

Hope Sans

The Hope Sans is the custom made font for the corporate design of the hope lab. The design used the existing structure of the swiss typeface helvetica and redesigned them to make them more hopeful. The font is drawn with just one line width and has little quirks and fun elements. Together with organizational information design it shows the seriously playful side of the hope lab.

The NOPE beach

NOPE beach is… a place for all the haters. ;p

Feeling overwhelmed? Tired? Not sure about this hope thing? Grab a towel and re-charge your batteries at NOPE beach!

The HOPE lab team

On designing hope

Beginning in the 1980s designers working at IDEO (a product design agency) and simultaneously teaching at Stanford University began seeding a series of methodologies that would become the basis of what is now called Design Thinking.

Design thinking consists of an iterative 5 step user centered process that begins with user empathy and ends with user validation. It’s basic principles underpin nearly every Silicon Valley success story including Google, who recently published a bestselling book with the ambitiously hopeful title Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in just Five Days.

The idea that any problem can be solved is now commonly stated in boardrooms and living rooms the world over. We believe so deeply that everything can be measured, synthesized, ideated, and solved that we rarely question the belief that whatever problems currently exist will most certainly be solved sometime soon. And yet in recent months many of the world’s biggest problems have been aggravated by some of these same solutions. Fake News helped fuel a global nationalist movement, suicides among teens bullied online are reaching record levels and livestreams of police brutality have prompted widespread social unrest.

Design has never appeared more inadequate and stubbornly hopeful all at once as it does now.


It is with this context and spirit that the Hope Lab was founded by five artists and designers intent on exploring how we might redesign the NODE Forum to be more hopeful. NODE is a festival that emerged out of a community around a specific software for creative coding. It has transformed into a vibrant meeting for designers, creative technologists, and interested non-technologists that takes place every two years in Frankfurt (Main), Germany. If one place with the capacity and the skill for designing hope exists, it is at the NODE festival.

With this context Hope Lab applied the same world changing product methodologies Silicon Valley uses to make us feel more hopeful about texting and selfies to drive our design process for NODE. We interviewed festival goers and organizers and we synthesized their top problems. With every step forward we also took a step back, to examine these processes critically – as artists do so well. What emerged from ideating solutions to these problems is a bit of a mess. Though we do believe we have solved some real problems for festival attendees, we also believe we have likely introduced many more. In doing so we believe we’ve uncovered something far more hopeful than simply solving problems, we’ve discovered a process for surfacing the invisible forces that cause them in the first place. Each of our projects is a starting line and a highlighter for problems that need a vibrant community working on them to get right. Thankfully, the NODE community is just that.

– by Jeremy Bailey

This project is made possible by