Dassault Design In Life: press days how they should be

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Press events are usually a bombardment of self promotion, injecting the company’s brand into your consciousness and feeding you enough case studies to make their competition pale into insignificance.

So it was rather surprising that for two events a software company sat back and let its products speak for themselves.

I’d been meaning to post something on the series of Dassault Systèmes (DS) events that have been held in recent weeks – its usual press and user events but with a bit of a twist and a lot of the usual marketing strategy thrown out of the window.

The first took place at London’s Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea FC and for the day a wide host of DS customers from all spheres of its software coverage.

Lastminute.com founder Brent Hobberman was the first guest speaker, and in an informal manner explained how his latest project Mydeco.com was taking off due to the ability to work, view and buy in 3D. A loose reference was made to 3Dvia.

Second to address the audience was McLaren Racing’s finance and commercial director John Cooper. An entertaining look at how Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton’s cars are developed and just how complex a procedure this really is. Much more lighthearted than the Excel sheet-heavy bulldozer that was expected. A nice overview of how PLM was working for them and how Enovia V6 played a part was mentioned.

The afternoon was split and I attended the automotive sessions where McLaren again spoke about its development process (how much effort goes into a single wing mirror? You’d be stunned), and Jaguar-Land Rover displayed its iPLM process. Both predictably used DS software, but only as part of a greater selection of tools.

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The moral of the above is that we all realised what impressive projects were being done using DS’s technology without having it rammed down our necks, and personally, as a result, I could concentrate much harder on seeing just how much it was key to the process.

Without 3Dvia Mydeco.com wouldn’t be able to let its customers see what their choices would look like in their home before they buy: a key factor in greater site retention and happier, better-informed customers who keep coming back.

McLaren has DS’s Catia and PLM solutions deeply ingrained into everything it creates, manufactures and ships around the globe to each Grand Prix. Jaguar-Land Rover has its own iPLM strategy, but much of it hinges on what DS can offer it, and its evolution will go hand-in-hand with that.

The most eye-opening of DS events was the Design In Life conference held in Paris. DS, design, PLM or any of the key areas were hardly mentioned as a collection of ‘design thinkers’ got together to discuss the “challenges of designing in the digital era”.

Amongst some moody blue lighting a dubstep soundtrack, and the slightly industrial setting of the Strate College it was all a bit arty. However, I’m an open-minded chap and as the first event of its kind I was keen to see what thoughts a group of sociologists, philosophers, politicians, researchers, industrialists, academics, designers and architects from all across Europe would throw up [plus I’d grown a beard especially just to fit in].

In brief, it went a little like this:

Dominique Cardon, a sociologist at Orange Labs, attempted to pacify fears about collaborative design by looking back at Web 2.0, where most of the web content was user built.

Pierre Musso a renowned philosopher dropped a video message suggesting we coin a new term –‘innovention’, a combination of invention and innovation aided by the web.

Stéphane Vial a philosopher turned designer outlined the history of digitally aided design, and how everything should now be labelled ‘Digital Design’ as it’s either designed for or using digital means.

Two architects from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Mette Ramsgard-Thomsen and Martin Tamke spoke about the relationship between design and fabrication, and the need for further integration between material behaviour and digital design.

All were really interesting speakers encouraging designers to explore, experiment and use innovative tools and systems to help them progress with their own innovations.

It was a gamble to hold such a diverse and unique event, but the commitment to hold it (DS’s vice president of design experience, Anne Asensio, should probably take some credit amongst others) shows a lot more thought than just another marketing men bombing run and will have us all talking for a lot longer about which direction DS will be heading in next.

www.3ds.com/company/events/design-in-life