Futures Final Reflection

Thien Le
5 min readDec 13, 2022

Situated Design Practice

Right now in my studio courses and other design courses I’m in, I focus mainly on learning design skills through assigned projects. These include apps, web experiences, and digital exhibits. I often try to think about the actual impacts of the apps, technological devices, or digital services I’m designing. Often times designers and “creative problem solvers” view design simply as inputting a complex problem and using design research and strategies to output an “empathetic” and “inclusive” solution. But what does that mean? I recognize that many of the things I’m designing aren’t supposed to last and right now I’m learning mainly how to design forms and interactions but I would like to, in the future, move towards sustainable and more social innovation projects and problem spaces. I also recognize that currently, I have almost complete control over the type of projects that I work on and that everything I create is due to my own desires and needs. Some industry standard that influences my work is definitely the role of technology in our everyday lives and how that industry has dominated the economy recently so some of my more digital projects, while they are interesting to me and I enjoy working on them, are definitely influenced by that.

Thinking about the Future

My current assumptions about the future are that people will continue to only care about issues that affect them. Regardless of knowledge about issues of sustainability and human rights, humans will always only care about themselves. My biases about the future as a designer is that I have the ability to take in information and stories and tell them in ways that are critical, creative, and convincing that most other people cannot. This grants me the ability to have empathy for people and issues that do not necessarily pertain to me. I only realized this from some of the lectures we had in class but also from the gift from the future project. In that project, we really had to take in another person’s opinions and worldviews and think critically about how they perceive the world and I don’t think that that is a skill that many people have.

Design Futures Methods

One futures method that I really found useful in developing projects in this class is the experiential futures ladder. The visualization of how to design an experiential artifact and experience in this way really allowed me to world-build and try to hit all of the marks to convince them of my message. In building more speculative projects, I can see this method being useful because it is simple to see the scale of interactions that should be addressed and designed in an experiential future. I found this framework especially helpful when designing the university future. It was difficult to understand where to even begin with that project because of the speculative nature of the future and how distant it was from my perception of reality. However, referencing the experiential futures ladder really helped to start designing because we had a framework to build off of and to “fill in the blanks”. Usually, in studio courses, we start with the concrete to abstract which can sometimes be difficult because as designers we sometimes focus too much on the form, but starting with the abstract and moving down to designing the minutiae was very helpful.

In contrast, I found Dator’s “Four Futures” to be a method that I don’t see myself utilizing in the future. To me, it was difficult to grasp how this applies to my design practice and it seems too specific to the future for me to apply in my work now. I think the concept of measuring what future scenarios looks like at specific times and periods, but the representation of this method made it inaccessible to grasp.

Bringing the Future to Life

This semester in this course allowed me to see that designing future experiences can be useful for designers to think critically about the world we live in. I enjoyed the more speculative projects and ideas because they really made me consider what is not going well in the present and how I would address it in the future. I also think an exploration into what could be is sometimes more useful than what is. Imagining future scenarios allows designers to recognize the pitfalls of the present and stage experiences that allow others to see that as well. The futures that we staged in this course were really evidently designed to accommodate students in all three tracks which is unique from other projects that we worked on in other design systems classes. It was because of the diversity of students working to stage a future that we were able to have comprehensive and richly designed experiences. Working on university futures with other types of designers shaped the way that I thought about how design projects would be executed in the industry. With a variety of skills, designers are able to work on multiple mediums to convince audiences of future scenarios. We are able to provide screen-based and tactile experiences providing audiences to experience the scenario to be immersed in it.

University Futures

Closing Thoughts

In closing, I really enjoyed the ability to think speculatively in this course. Many of the things we considered when designing future scenarios are things that I wish we discussed more in our studio courses. I think that speculative design is something that is really interesting to explore the possibilities of the future. Rather than using design as a tool to problem solve, in this course, I really enjoyed our use of design as a tool to discover how the world could be and as a tool for storytelling.

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