Posted By Administration,
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019
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Bridgette Engeler Newbury shares her thoughts with us about “the empires of mind” in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.
The empires of the future are the empires of the mind. ~Winston Churchill
Design and its outputs may reflect our individual and collective imaginations, but design is first and foremost a philosophy, based on a system of values, which seeks to solve problems. What are we creating? Why and for whom? These are questions, in no particular order, to which answers are manifested tangibly and most often in the form of a new product or service or organisational or business model.
Designers are practical agents of visual imagination, both anticipating futures and creating the sensory blueprints for the objects and experiences to come. The images, objects and technologies that surround us are rich with desirable images and symbolism; they’re powerful and persuasive, well-crafted and covetable, and often very well made. Designers can turn abstract futures-oriented concepts and ideals into visible or tangible form. Designers and design thinkers are agents in articulating futures, and therefore have individual and collective agency for humanity more broadly to sense, see and negotiate (or refuse) the transition.
Not all design is good (by any definition). So I’m contemplating what something like long-range design – ‘design with foresight’ – could be. AKA prospective design, it’s what I suggest is design that emerges when futures thinking and design thinking are used together, in a structured manner, to develop an idea that may not exist until sometime in a long-range future, or which will not be to the detriment of preferred futures.
- Prospective design relies not on technology but on human interaction, deep thought and reflection
- Prospective design embraces design’s potential to shape conversations, to (re-)frame problems, and to drive participation by understanding the needs and resources of all the differing functions in a consuming world
- Prospective design is inherently good and not just because it’s always intentional and sociological
- Prospective design does not produce novelty for the sake of novelty
- Prospective design makes a product, service or organisation truly useful. Things are purchased, used, adopted and recommended because they serve a purpose and deliver value: value that improves people’s lives and makes them happier. This is the real measurable value people desire. Prospective design optimises the feelings and experiences of customers, while being responsible to community, planet and what is yet to come
- Prospective design satisfies form and aesthetics, without compromising usage or need. Designed artefacts do not simply fulfil desire or need; they can actualise and reflect wants.
- The look and feel of something, its materiality and substance, ethereality and intangibility, ephemera and sensation are all part of the feelings it arouses – which are in turn a strategic and integral part of the user’s realisation of value
- Prospective design helps us to make sense of things. ‘Value’ (as perceived by the user) creates engagement. Good design creates curiosity and engages its audience in meaningful, valuable ways. It also conveys the intentions and trustworthiness of the organisation behind the design and helps people make informed choices
- Prospective design can be a catalyst or guide, a means for people to create their unique and evolving stories, and their own individual meaning
- Prospective design is durable and enduring. It increases the value of something over time. It remains relevant as its users, community or culture develops and matures. It may not exert influence or manipulate buyers, but it often takes risks to provoke worthwhile change.
Prospective design is concerned with context and environment. It’s unobtrusive and meaningful, enhancing people’s experience; it’s not about dominating strategic decisions. Prospective design draws together futures thinking with the principles and practices of design to frame a strategic conversation without an elitist position. Design may be part of a complex, living ecosystem, but prospective design can strive to be a positive agent of transformation that contributes to better-being.