Until recently people interconnected mainly within their local communities. Today the world is one global village, where everybody and everything seems to be connected. Through the almost limitless possibilities of digital and wireless networks people, countries and economies are increasingly interwoven. 

This infinite connection opens countless ways for new forms of solidarity, helpfulness, neighbourly relations and co-operation. The flipside of this 24/7 global connection is that people sometimes seem to lose their grip on things. They get overwhelmed by the overload of information and feel powerless against economic and political developments that seem to evolve on their own. 

Such feelings drive people to long for disconnection, to get rid of Facebook, Twitter and the lot – which is quite difficult by the way –, and to step out of international co-operations like the European Union or the combined euro currency. This can lead not only to a renewed focus on close and immediate networks of family and friends, and local communities, but also to a more grim celebration of nation and homeland.

Designers of all disciplines are in a position to embrace, facilitate, improve, exploit, simplify and make manageable the unbounded human interconnection. Creativity can be the bridge between people, cultures, companies and governments. Designers also profit from international co-operation and can find solutions to problems by bringing previously separated worlds together. 

The 2012 edition of What Design Can Do explores the positive and negative sides of a connected world and looks into the role of the designer as a connector.