Thursday, May 02, 2019

Design and Futures, Volume I

Exciting news: a project years in the making has been published!

Together with my colleague Cher Potter of the Victoria & Albert Museum and University of the Arts London, we've been co-editing a special issue of the Journal of Futures Studies, about the intersections of Design and Futures.

This is an interdisciplinary garden I've been working in for about a decade and a half, and on which I completed what I understand was the first doctoral dissertation, back in 02010. It has been booming in recent years: witness the ascent of design fiction, experiential futures, speculative design, design futures, strategic design, speculative enactments; and their various ties to transmedia storytelling, alternate reality games, worldbuilding, larp, and immersive theatre. It's exciting and gratifying to see so much activity in this hybrid space.

JFS is an open access journal published electronically and in print by Tamkang University, Taiwan, usually quarterly, going back to 01996. It's also where I published my first piece in an academic journal, about establishing Open Space as a method for foresight practitioners, in 02005.

Cher and I received far more expressions of interest, from scholars and practitioners all over, than we could accommodate, and still the effort ballooned to fill two back-to-back issues, becoming in the process the biggest themed project the journal has put out in its 23-year history.

Below is our introduction to Design and Futures, Volume I, a collection of five peer-reviewed journal articles, and six manifestoes and interviews from an amazing array of contributors.

The whole thing can be found and accessed, for free, at the Journal of Futures Studies website.

Our hope is that anyone with a practitioner or academic interest in design/futures relationships will find value in the work; a labour of love by many hands.


Introduction to the Special Issue: Design and Futures (Vol. I)

As Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon famously observed: “Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones” (Simon, 1996).

Designers and futurists, it turns out, have a great deal in common. This mutual recognition is reaching critical mass as each comes to appreciate how their respective traditions have much to offer to making urgent change in the world, and even more so, together.

It is increasingly acknowledged within the futures studies community that operating with a largely verbal and theoretical bent over the past half century has afforded too little impact on actual future-shaping behaviours. Meanwhile, those in the design community recognise a need to interrogate higher-level consequences – the futures, the worlds – that their products, systems and other outputs help produce.

Part of what bringing design and futures into sustained dialogue does is to allow each field to become more fluent in a second language which is the other’s native tongue.

How may designers systematically map out preferred futures, and what frameworks might futures studies furnish to help them? Conversely, how might futures scholars and practitioners adopt designerly modes of exploration, working more materially, visually and performatively to instantiate and illuminate possibilities?

‘Design and futures’ together offer ecosystemic and embodied approaches to shaping our collective prospects, informed by a diverse range of practices.

We are excited to have been working with the Journal of Futures Studies over several years to bring readers a special double issue dedicated to ‘Design and Futures’.

In this first issue, Vol. I, we have five peer-reviewed articles: Stuart Candy and Kelly Kornet introduce a new framework engaging communities and individuals in tangible forms of speculation. Ramia Mazé argues for the significance of how political dimensions suffuse futures thought. Cher Potter, DK Osseo-Asare and Mugendi M’Rithaa analyse the worldviews embedded in a makerspace platform in Accra, Ghana. Jake Dunagan offers an account of teaching experiential futures, written in collaboration with a whole class of graduate students. Anne Burdick shows how a multilayered experiment around developing a storyworld, characters, prototypes, and plot, delineates a rich design space scaffolded by a simultaneously narrative, conceptual, and material brief.

Powerful shorter contributions by speculative designers James Auger and Julian Hanna, design futurist Anab Jain, Hollywood worldbuilder Alex McDowell, architect Liam Young, design scholar Jamer Hunt, and the geographically-distributed Decolonising Design Collective round out a remarkable first cross- sectional scan of design and futures perspectives.

In the next issue, Vol. II, curators, strategic designers, policymakers, and philosophers join the conversation.

As guest editors of this special edition, we wish to thank all authors who submitted articles and essays, and also the peer reviewers who so generously gave their time.

Our own practices originate in futures and design studies respectively, but we have both been actively ‘hybridising’ for a while now. In promoting such entanglements more widely, we aim to offer readers across both communities, and well beyond, insight into how disparate perspectives and tools, in combination, can challenge, remix, and strengthen each other, as well as open on to further exchange.

Of the immensely exciting community weaving that is underway where futures and design meet, these pages represent just some initial strands. We foresee many more to come.

Stuart Candy and Cher Potter, Guest Editors

Simon, H.A. (1996) [f.p. 1969]. The Sciences of the Artificial (3rd ed.) Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, p. 111.


The second half of the JFS special issue Design and Futures, including peer-reviewed articles, essays and interviews from around the world, is coming soon.

Update 10jul19: Volume II is now out as well.

> I Design Worlds: An Interview with Liam Young
> Critical Activism: An Interview with Anab Jain
From killer apps to killer imps
Ghosts of futures past
Designing futures
The Futures of Everyday Life
> Design is a team sport


Linda Booth Sweeney said...


This is an amazing resource. Thank you for sharing. It serves to feed my curiosity: Can SYSTEMS provide a rich, integrated picture to support/enable/stoke FUTURES + DESIGN collaborations?

If you find yourself in Boston, be in touch!


Alessandro Ardovini said...

I wanted to contact you and this is the only way I found.
I am an Italian citizen living in Barcelona and I'm writing a novel about permaculture in a solarpunk fashion. Imagining and designing a better future.
In the novel I would like to refer to your future cone, basend on Bezold and Hancock 1994 work possible futures, preferable futures.

I would add you as a reference. Would it be possible?

Thank you!

Stuart Candy said...

@Linda, thanks for that question. In my view the answer is definitely yes – futures and systems have a great deal of shared DNA, and some practitioners attend to and use those overlaps explicitly. For example, one of the first formal definitions of the futures field that I came across, which was offered by Wendy Schultz in an intro workshop she ran at the World Futures Studies Federation biennial conference in 01997, describes it as "a transdisciplinary, systems-science-based approach..."

FWIW selected futures methods are modules that I teach within "Systems", a required freshman course at Carnegie Mellon School of Design (together with many other futures methods I've been incepting elsewhere throughout the four year program).

Looking forward to reconnecting some time – hopefully soon – and exploring further! :)

@Alessandro, I didn't invent the cone but the most comprehensive discussion of it that I can think of is in The Futures of Everyday Life (02010), pp. 33-36. Some of the citations and variations noted there may be helpful to you. Do by all means let us know when your work is ready to share! :)