Is the future old news?

Is it time to put the future out of our misery? Design can be valuable as a forecasting tool, and designers are great hunter-gatherers of ideas. We should develop that role further. But we should not just look ahead in time, and not just look for technology trends. In particular, we should look to nature for inspiration – it has been innovating for three billion years. We should also learn from other cultures beside western ones. And we should learn more from the here and now. Inspiring things are happening just outside the door. Read more in an article (5.4 Mb) written for the June Royal Society of Arts Journal.

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Sublime mobility project

tram.jpg

This has my vote for most sublime mobility project of the year.

A team of Karachi vehicle decorators has transformed a Melbourne tram to bring the experience of a journey on a W-11 Karachi mini-bus to the streets of Melbourne. Vibrant dancing colour in hand-cut sticker collage, sparkling reflection of sculpted stainless steel panels, and dazzling flashing lights. The tram is complete with conductors from Karachi & Melbourne, the music that you would hear on the Karachi W-11, and a special edition of collectable tickets that feature popular Urdu poetry seen on the side of buses and trucks in Karachi.

Since the mid 1990s, Mick Douglas has led a project called Tramjatra in which tramways communities and artists of Melbourne & Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) have explored relationships between their cities through the medium of tramways – a transportation mode shared from their British imperial past. After a decade of artful interventions there’s now a Tramjatra book. It unfolds a story of friendship, dialogue and imagination, and the potential of tramways to connect people together in their differences.

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Aspen Design Summit (international conference, Aspen, 2006 )

AIGA, the US professional association for design, and IDCA, the International Design Conference at Aspen, invited John Thackara to chair the Aspen Design Summit.
Conceived as “a new type of gathering for a new century”, this celebrated event brought design-minded leaders from around the world to Aspen, Colorado to make positive, measurable impacts on the global concerns of today. A
Using the design studio as a model, featured presenters at the ASummit initiated challenges as “Aspen Action” items–much like a client would approach a designer with a project.
Multi-disciplinary groups, lead by design industry leaders, were sent off to create and execute programs addressing these various social, economic and environmental issues.
In this way, the Summit served as an incubator and catalyst for strategic partnerships between design leaders and leaders from business, education, civic life and culture.

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Alternatives to Geldofism: lecture notes and resources

A few weeks back I gave a lecture at the Royal Society of Arts in London entitled “Solidarity economics & design”. The lecture was provoked by the sick-making antics of Bob Geldof and the assumptions he and others made about ‘development’. I argued that the word ‘development’ implies that we advanced people in the North have the right, or even obligation, to help backward people in the South to ‘catch up’ with our own advanced condition. And that No, this idea doesn’t make sense. The concept of development is further devalued, I said, by the impoverished but destructive mindset of economics. “The North’s purse strings are clutched by people who define development narrowly in terms of growth, jobs and productivity – and ignore broader measures of sustainability and well-being”. Anyway, I prepared rather thorough (for me) lecture notes and a list of resources – and then forgot to put them online. So here they are now.

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To my friends at Microsoft

Someone programmed Word to flash this pop-up at me Every…. Single…. Time…. that I press “Save” whilst typing. “You have 22 days remaining until the Microsoft Office Test Drive expires. To order your copy of Office 2004, click Buy Now”. This happens every 30 seconds or so. Now whether or not I have a license (I do, I think, back at the office) why interrupt me every thirty seconds? Why not every seven days? And maybe every hour or so on the last day? The result of this design act is that, also every thirty seconds, I think unworthy thoughts about the person who did this to me, and about the company that made him or her do it. Some of these thoughts entail painful and probably illegal acts. So tell me this: Is that successful marketing?

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Doors 9 and Doors 10 to be announced in Paris on Saturday

Juha Huuskonen has invited Doors of Perception to run a two hour session as part of Mal au Pixel. The session takes place in Paris on the afternoon of Saturday 29 April – ie in a week from now. Juha and Aditya Dev Sood will be on the platform, along with your correspondent, and we’ll take the opportunity to tell you about our plans for Doors 9 and Doors 10. If you’re one of those old-paradigm types who needs a time and address, the details are: Saturday 29 April, 16-18h, at Mains d’Œuvres (1, rue Charles-Garnier, 93400 Saint-Ouen). Metro Garibaldi.

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Chat about Aspen

Sorry ’bout the silence this last week,; I’ve been on the road. Still am, but Allan Cholnikov has started a discussion about what we are trying to achive with the Aspen Design Summit here. You don’t have to register or sign in, and you can choose to receive email for newly posted messages. Just click the Subscribe button when you get there.

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Green design goes A-List

Did we say that green design needs to be less sad and more glamorous? Brad Pitt, who has few reasons to be sad that we’re aware of, narrates a six-part television series on ecologically friendly architecture, called Design-e², which launches in June on PBS in the US. The series challenges us to “live smarter, greener lives with the future in mind”. Mr Pitt seems intent on putting those words into action. He’s reportedly planning a 20,000 square metre resort in Palm Springs that will boast a vast swimming pool area, a huge spa, and an outdoor cinema. It’s impressive if Mr Pitt has figured out how to design a swimming pool in a desert that doesn’t waste water; many others in the region are worried sick about energy and water issues. Autodesk, the world’s largest provider of design software, deserves credit for supporting the tv series; it opens a sustainability centre next month. It’s not in Palm Springs, but a remarkably clean and serene-looking employee is featured on their website. She must have been to a Brad Pitt spa.

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Design transformation

What, in broad terms, is happening to design right now? According to a new paper from RED in London, we are experiencing two important shifts: Firstly, in where design skills are being applied; and secondly, in who is doing the designing. A new discipline is emerging, they say, that builds on traditional design skills to address social and economic issues. “Solutions to today’s most intractable issues – the rise of long-term health conditions, the impacts of climate change, the consequences of an ageing population – need to place the individual at their heart, and build the capacity to innovate into organisations and institutions”. I’m not comfortable with the words “transformation design” – they suggest a new-agey Dr Who – but it’s a well-written piece that explains cogently that old and new approaches to design can and need to co-exist.

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