Carnegie Mellon University School of Design’s Stuart Candy has just published Design and Futures, a major volume about the intersections of the two fields.
Together with Cher Potter from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Professor Candy spent several years assembling contributions on subjects from moviemaking in Los Angeles to street art in South Africa, game design in Macedonia, and climate-resilient architecture in Tuvalu.
In all, thirty pieces from 49 writers around the globe, examining different aspects of how the fields of design and futures studies (aka foresight) overlap, are gathered in Candy and Potter’s edited collection. It was released late December in paperback and ebook by Taiwan’s Tamkang University Press, the publisher since 1996 of transdisciplinary quarterly Journal of Futures Studies.
“This was an exciting project”, says Candy, “partly thanks to a real surge of interest in these practices while the effort was underway.” What began as a one-off special edition of the journal ballooned into two issues, released back to back last year, becoming in the process the largest themed project in its history.
“In this fast-moving space, practitioners and scholars from all over are eager to share perspectives,” Candy says. “Relevant courses, conferences, and even cultural institutions are popping up everywhere, and people are developing valuable new frames like strategic design and transition design. These broaden out from design’s traditional spheres of concern to ask about what kinds of futures, essentially what kinds of world, we are designing for or against.”
“Helping support this big-picture shift,” Candy continues, “is a groundswell in transmedia practices, like worldbuilding and experiential futures, bringing possible scenarios to life in the present, and pushing the boundaries of idioms recently popular with designers such as speculative design and design fiction.”
Design and Futures incorporates contributions from dozens of leading scholars and makers.
There are essays and interviews from the likes of curator Paola Antonelli (Museum of Modern Art), visual strategist David Delgado (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory), design futurist Anab Jain (Superflux), philosopher Timothy Morton (The Ecological Thought and Hyperobjects), Hollywood production designer Alex McDowell (Minority Report), designer Lucy Kimbell (The Service Innovation Handbook), and theorist Tony Fry (Designing Futures).
CMU School of Design alumna Anne Burdick writes about her doctoral work in “narrative-based design fiction”, and there is a manifesto by the Decolonizing Design Collective, which includes Ahmed Ansari, another of the School’s PhD alumni.
The collection also includes peer-reviewed articles about hybrid design futures work in Ghana, Taiwan, Canada, Germany, Mexico, and more.
“There’s plenty to learn from any given piece,”, says Candy, “but one of the main takeaways might be at a more meta-level –– the range of contributions and the multi-faceted quality of the conversation.”
Meanwhile, the study of futures and foresight extends into the day to day work of students at Carnegie Mellon. The School of Design is currently in its third year of an ongoing initiative, led by Professor Candy, to weave a “Foresight Thread” through the curriculum at all levels.
He says he is looking forward to seeing how the ideas, methods and case studies presented in Design and Futures may inspire further experimentation and exchange as they move through the global communities of practice and scholarship.
“Both the book and the journal are published by a press that has great reach, and that we were delighted to collaborate with, thanks to their open access policy,” Candy explains. “Paywalls and high prices often make academic publications inaccessible to most of the world, but this collection is well placed to find and inspire readers far and wide.”
The collection suggests that the potential of futures approaches, and their significance for the ways that designers design, are now being grasped and explored much more widely.
“Design has by now become an indispensable companion to foresight, and foresight is becoming an essential aspect of how designers think and work, too,” says Candy. “Part of what design does is render otherwise abstract possible futures in a form concrete enough to help us think and feel them through more effectively. The promise there is to enable better collective choices, so that we can shape our society in wiser ways.”
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