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IMAGES OF FUTURES WITHOUT GAFFES AND CLICHES: REPRESENTATIONS WITH COMMON SENSE AND ORIGINALITY

Updated: Mar 18

We often find futuristic portraits packed with technological advances or stereotypical images, which are inadequate for plural representations of futures. Even though such illustrations are captivating and pique our curiosity, they tend to reduce our perception of futures to a superficial version, leaving aside cultural nuances and crucial human aspects.


Cyberpunk image. Ghost in the Shell, by Alex Feliksovich.


Reevaluating the way we communicate futures involves merging technology with the rich cultural and human fabric that shapes reality. In this way, we are able to present futures that, in addition to being spectacular to the eye, also echo and genuinely reflect the diversity of the human experience.


This article invites you to represent futures with common sense and originality, eliminating gaffes and clichés in your use of images. Visual Literacy and Futures Literacy go hand in hand when you express your views on futures. Otherwise, your work loses credibility.


You don't need to discard your technocentric views in your representations, but rather harmonize them with broader insights. What is to come will not only be made up of gadgets and discoveries, but also of human beings, their narratives, and aspirations.


Join me as I introduce some visual styles and insights that will improve your processes of representing futures.


Solarpunk image, by Jessica Woulfe.



VISUAL STYLES IN THE REPRESENTATION OF FUTURES

Understanding visual styles for representing futures is fundamental not only to appreciate the richness of perspectives on tomorrow, but also to identify which of them may be most appropriate for certain contexts or messages. The table below presents an overview of some of these styles.


REFLECTIONS FOR THE USE OF VISUAL STYLES

IN THE REPRESENTATION OF FUTURES

by Raquel Valença.

“Styles that require attention” do not necessarily produce bad futures. The problem is that there is excessive or inappropriate use of these aesthetics. Often, images are used in a way that is out of context with what they intend to convey, without taking into account underlying issues.


Another important point about the styles from the table is that we are talking about a scope that does not encompass the universe of possibilities for representing futures. There are many more possibilities available if you look for them.


Retrofuturist image, by Gunther Radtke.



FIVE INSIGHTS FOR VISUAL REPRESENTATION OF FUTURES

The risk of falling into clichés and making gaffes is real when you represent futures, as is the chance of getting lost in superficial and unoriginal interpretations.


With this in mind, below are five crucial insights to guide you on this futures representation journey. They offer a broad and insightful lens to shape the images of tomorrow.


I. STRENGTHEN CULTURAL AND EVERYDAY ELEMENTS

Futures need to be inhabited by a variety of cultures. Images must reflect diversity, avoiding stereotypes or one-dimensional representations. Recognize the layers and nuances related to people's daily lives, habits, and routines, not limited to generalist and super-technological landscapes.


II. SELECT AESTHETIC STYLE CAREFULLY

Choosing an aesthetic style should be based on the message you want to convey and the target audience you want to reach. Some styles are appropriate for fiction and entertainment stories. Others are suitable for academic discussions, planning or awareness campaigns. Therefore, reflect on how and why you are using a certain style.


III. CONNECT PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURES

The temporal triad “past, present, and future”, when well interconnected, provides connections with the historical legacy, making representations of futures more realistic. By incorporating these three times, you guarantee deeper and more meaningful images, uniting memory, reality, and new aspirations. In this way, you demonstrate future perspectives rooted in the evolution of the human journey.


IV. PROMOTE THE CONNECTION OF HUMAN BEINGS WITH NATURE AND TECHNOLOGY

The intersection of humans, nature, and technology makes it possible to represent futures where innovation and sustainability coexist. By working on this integration, you move away from sterile clichés and move towards a more holistic and realistic representation of what futures can really be.


V. VALUE AUTHENTICITY AND ORIGINALITY

Authenticity and originality help to overcome the clichés that appear in some representations of futures. In an era saturated with content, it is necessary to select or produce images that bring freshness and innovative perspectives to reflect on futures. Instead of simply replicating a visual formula, adapt it, reinvent it, or propose something new.


Post-Fossil African City Vision, By Karl Schulschenk.


I leave you with this invitation: dare to go beyond visual conventionalisms. Every image you create or select is a statement about how you perceive and represent possible futures. Make it genuine, well-founded, and diverse. After all, you are drawing new perspectives, influencing visions, and defining new horizons.


Are you ready to make a unique and conscious visual mark for the mosaic of tomorrow?


REFERENCES

ERGER, J. Modos de Ver. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1987.

JAMESON, F. Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. Verso, 2005.

STERLING, B. M: The Cyberpunk Anthology. New York: Ace Books, 1988.


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Seth Harrell
Seth Harrell
Apr 11

Great framework and advice. Visual futures inherently come from a certain perspective, so having a self-awareness of chosen style helps to bring visual cohesion to the image, while also increasing its effectiveness in communication.

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