Designing the future

“First electricity, now telephones. Sometimes I feel as if I were living in an H.G. Wells novel.” – Dowager Duchess (Downton Abbey)

One of my favorite characters in television is the Dowager duchess from Downton Abbey, who will do anything to avoid the future. Her attempts to live in the past are comical, but there is no escaping the future. 

Avoiding the future can have disastrous consequences. That is why as a designer I need to actively design for the future. While designing products I try to have foresight and awareness of the kind of society I am creating.

In my project FoodPop, my team and I preempted the future we would be designing for by world building, and creating a narrative for our autonomous car project.

The Seamless Future: Omniscient Data :  High Infrastructure

In the Seamless Future we are completely connected to the city and the city is connected to us. When we move through the city, transport and pathways are timed for our arrival and optimized for your destination. It’s a future where getting lost is an impossibility.

The Neighborhood: Limited Data :  Low Infrastructure

Autonomous vehicles make longer commutes a time of relaxation rather than frustration. Suburban and community centered lifestyles have become very desirable. Even though many in these pleasant burroughs benefit from technology they value face to face interaction and community. 

By creating tools and experiments designers can actively think about the future.

I try to remember that the future’s temporal context might not be the same as the present. It is impossible to predict the future, but the only thing that is certain is that it will be different from the present.

I also try to account for diversity and expect multiple outcomes when I design. Designing in a closed environment like a lab or classroom is a good starting point, but understanding the greater context and implications of designing in the real world is more important.

As designers thinking about the future and context of design is not only a necessity, but also a responsibility.

“Designers are always designing the future”- Herb Simon

My team: Aaron Sisneros, Rachel Roberts, Isamu Taguchi. Image credit: Aaron Sisneros

Does work rewire your brain?

A last-minute Guerrilla Test taught me a lot about the people I work with on my agile team.

As a designer I wanted to test the memorability of a page I had created for lead generation. I walked around my office to gather quick feedback on my prototype from my colleagues.

Step 1: Each colleague had 5 seconds to look at the prototype before it was taken away.

(Since this is the average time a user spends on a webpage: 5 seconds!)

Step 2: The colleague is given a piece of paper to draw what they remember.

This is what my colleagues could recollect from the prototype:

Colleague from MARKETING: Could only remember the image I used on top of the page. He told me he remembered a scenic image with mountains and a person standing over it.

Colleague from DEVELOPMENT: Only remembered the 3 CTA (Call to action) buttons on the page.

Colleague from QUALITY ASSURANCE: Noticed some misaligned text on the page.

In the limited time to view my prototype my colleagues noticed aspects on the page that directly correlate with their job. Since the marketer is used to working with content she noticed the image. The developer noticed the buttons which potentially needed coding. Quality Assurance spotted a misalignment of content on the page.

Isn’t it remarkable how a person’s perspective is influenced by their job!

This reiterated the importance of knowing your target audience. Before designing a product, you want to spend as much time as possible with your target audience and observe them on their jobs.