Technical innovations represent the needs of different ages and the developments they generate, and these are closely related to our material culture and how we perceive our environment. That is why it is important to place the concept of design in the social context. The act of deliberately forming the everyday needs that determine how we live, the interaction of our cultural environment's operation with its image, and the intellectual background to this, are collectively known as "social design". It is becoming increasingly apparent that the workings of social design are bringing about deliberately-planned changes as the structures generated by the new content are built into people's minds. To understand this phenomenon, we must examine social groups and subcultures and how the arts are causing the boundaries between them to shift. A fitting venue for this activity is the 21st century museum, which has the dimensions, the collections and the staff to promote learning and understanding of the material culture of the past and the present, thus mapping out a direction for institutions of education, social support and rehabilitation in developing a stance on particular cultural issues. This helps to create continuity between past and future, putting present changes in context and setting off a discourse on content, function, aesthetics and art.
In the 21st century, museums face the vital task of opening themselves up to diverse social groups and all age groups. Every group of society is a potential audience, because access to art is a basic demand even if we have to make sacrifices (of time and money) to understand and participate in it. (At present many people have difficulty identifying some museum buildings, let alone what happens inside them.) To many Hungarian ears, the word "design" still sounds futuristic, even though it is a definitive ecological, economic and social component of our times (think of ecodesign, social design, etc.). For the same reasons, the concept of design seems to extend beyond the applied or decorative arts, but we have to accept it as the 21st-century interpretative framework through which we can approach the objects and cultural phenomena of past times.
We are sensitive to social and economic events far removed from us in space and time, because of the traces they have left in museum exhibits. The question is how we can interpret these objects in today's cultural environment, and how the reception, industrial base and demand for various art forms has transformed, so that we also have to reconsider how much these art forms will represent our present age. Today's design trends and products will be tomorrow's museum exhibits. The museum of the future has to get ready to present the concepts and art forms of the 21st century.
2010 was the last year of the first decade of the 21st century. So we now have ten years' experience of the new century, and this is already determining the potential trends we would like to follow, and to shape.