Design for Change – week 6

This week we looked at several design trends in the past that triggered social change in the future. One outstanding example is ‘Bauhaus’, this Germany design school influenced a large number of design activities, campaigns and genres all over the world in the next many decades. Nowadays, there are many different design studios, organisations and individuals with Bauhaus spirit are seeking to change the future of the world through their contemporary design practices. In this blog I will list out several interesting practices.


1. The Extrapolation Factory


Alternative Unknowns

The Extrapolation Factory develops experimental methods for collaboratively prototyping, experiencing and impacting future scenarios. ‘Alternative unknowns’ tells new ways of thinking about emergency preparedness organised by the extrapolation factory. The artists were invited to a conversation with the NYC Emergency Management Department about emergency issues facing the city, and then responded by designing speculative artefacts. The objects created are presented at apexart in a theatrical simulation space, which served as a stage for a series of four improv performances by actors who interpreted these emergency preparedness objects and the multiple potentials for how they could be used. It is not only the idea of improv performances that interested me, I quite like the prop, setting and the atmosphere of this room. In order to fit to the tone that the future is ‘unknown’, the setting of the room sticks to the spirit of futurism – furnitures everywhere, walls are painted blue. A series of actor’s exaggerate body actions strengthened the dramatic aspect of future.



FUTERRA works with people who believe they can turn the sustainability imperative into the greatest entrepreneurial opportunity for a generation.

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FUTERRA built a strong platform to communicate with clients and audiences, their interactive website includes every project they have done and improved each of them into single webpage that communicates their idea well. They are not just doing a project for the clients, they integrated their futurist ideas into their projects. When concerning about the environment and sustainable development, their insights and strategies are quite interesting as well.


3. Futurist is found by Glen Hiemstra, an internationally respected expert on future trends, long-range planning and creating the preferred future. In his website, there are many interesting and valuable insights base on futurism. His goal is to achieve a greater understanding of and enthusiasm about the future and future-related subjects for the public. It sounds like a lot of theory-related content on the website, but it does not become less interesting to look at. In their blog section, there are lots of critical thoughts, fresh news about events and campaigns that took place all over the world, ranging from environment to energy field. It brought us some new perspectives about how to look at human’s common challenges.



Forecasting 💡 – week 5

When talking about future forecasting, some people would hold the opinion that it is a subject purely for research and theoretical purpose. However, a sufficient understanding towards future would help generating innovations for people nowadays.

NESTA is an innovation organisation who use futures techniques to help people, governments, and organisations bring great ideas to life. NESTA researcher Peter introduced us some interesting facts about processing insights into real campaigns. In the following content, I will analyse several insights that I collected from his presentation.


PART 1  Data for Good


During the presentation, there are lots of complicated terms about data research, policy and finance. Considering these elements carefully is the key to a successful implementation, as a designer, what I concerned most is the bridge between data and design output. To name a few, with the shaping of smart cities all over the world, digital social innovations have been used for addressing urban issues and challenges.

For instance, a ‘connected car’ is a car that is equipped with Internet access and wireless local area network. The car is able to share internet access with other devices both inside and outside the vehicle. Usually, the car is also outfitted with special technologies that tap into the internet or wireless LAN and provide additional benefits to the driver. The benefits are quite obvious: the passengers can easily track their booked taxi or bus on their smart phone, while the control centre is able to monitor all the devices to avoid big traffic accidents. Accordingly, obstacles like pay service, user privacy are still being challenged by the public and the manufacturer.


Connected Cars in Smart City

From ‘Big Bang Data’ exhibition last week, I noticed something interesting in ‘London Situation Room’ about information gathering. The images below are from a project named ‘London Data Streams’. Tekja’s London Data Streams visualise and explore the pulse, frequency and richness of London’s live data. The piece follows three real-time information streams: Twitter posts, Instagram photos and Transport for London updates.This is a good example of crowdsourcing – somehow people engaged in this project without knowing it.The data collected by this stream could be used for social research, in order to tackle with urban issues and form a successful campaign.



PART 2  NESTA predictions

NESTA did some predictions about year 2016: ‘In 2016 we’ll see healthcare professionals prescribe video games to their patients, boutique food producers take on the supermarkets and the emergence of new challenge-driven universities which harness the collective problem solving capabilities of the world’s students.’

It is interesting to note that the majority of these predictions is based on our living and consuming patterns nowadays. From a perspective about industries, they considered about the new possibility of traditional and downfallen industries. Indeed, some traditional industries would be replaced by new technology, which leads to some other smart predictions, ranging from healing games to hacking food. Undoubtedly, technology plays a key role in shaping new futures.

Forecasting 📊 – week 4


It’s been a long time since I went to an interesting exhibition. For CTS class this week, we went to an exhibition named ‘Big Bang Data’, where the curators tried their best to reflect our world within data nowadays through a series of samples showing scientific discoveries. The exciting part is, the visitor can actually communicate with the exhibition by the help of some interactive gadgets, which will be discussed later.

I was introduced to this exhibition by two videos, showing the physical world and the digital world of data respectively. To give a holistic view of this exhibition, I made a simple infographic to show the idea of each exhibited area.



Further consideration

From this exhibition, we are able to look at our data in a critical perspective. From Google’s privacy agreement to Siri’s record, we can feel about the importance of our personal data. At current era, I reckon that Internet companies are the winner of our data, they collect data from us, analyse data from us, and deliver customised content to us based on our data. The relationship between us and these companies is a double sided sword – when we are enjoying the environment of free entry to big data, we may lose our privacy.

In my opinion, the future of the economy and military is a war of data. People have already started to look at their data seriously. In our age, the general developing direction is decided by currency market. In a plausible future, the direction may be led by those big data, while physical money would be replaced by digital money.


The future with Big Data


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An interactive device aims to test the knowledge of visitors about London


From the exhibition, I found an interesting device from ‘London Situation Room’. There is an interactive device, which is user friendly and easy to understand. It starts with a simple introduction about how to operate the device, following a series of questions. The actual engaging part is led by the visitor. I found this interaction very appealing – the audience can control the pace and the level of interaction. This might be the future of interactive design, while we will be in a world operated by digital devices, all the dull inspecting process will be playful through this form. This is a possible future with a huge level of uncertainty. Hence we will also think about the interactive meaning of our data in the near future, looking for a good way to communicate with the data and deliver to our offspring.

Forecasting ⏰ – week 2

When does the future start?


Following the threads of the history of future studies, we looked at some abstract terms, time and timeline. Poetically, ‘time is the wrinkle on his face’, while for futurists, measuring the time becomes a significant part in future studies. Started from observing the natural changes, we developed various tools to reflect, record and remember ‘time’. With the help of these tools, we are able to imagine and look at different types of time.

Hence we got a hierarchy system of different ‘futures’. The closest two are the extended present and the near future to us, while from a geological and macroscopical perspective that deep time and big history can be introduced. When we are considering the future of our planet and what side effects might be brought to the human being in the far future, ‘long now’ and ‘eternity’ should be the words to describe.


Timeline (non-linear)

On someone’s facebook page, the visitor can easily check his/her status and experiences during the whole year. This might be the most common understanding of ‘timeline’ nowadays. There are many interesting methods to visualise and articulate time in human history. Commonly, the time is described to be ‘linear’, while here are some examples bringing alternative thinkings.


Tristram Shandy (1767)


For instance, in Laurence Sterne’s novel Tristram Shandy, there are sketches indicating the non-linear path of a well-told story; while narrative digressions appear as deviations from a straight line. This suggests that time does not progress in a straight line.


‘201 Days’ (2007)

‘201 Days’ is the documentation of physical sensations felt by the artist Katie Lewis. She used simple tools like pins, thread and a pencil to map her sentiments on a invisible grid. Each section of the grid on the wall is correlated with a different part of the body. Every time she felt a sensation in a particular area on her body, Katie documented the feeling onto the corresponding place on the grid with a pin and the date.While the idea of concretisation and materialisation were mixed into the possibility of output of timeline.


Timeline (linear)

At class, we did a linear timeline to predict the future of computer virus. This timeline is introduced by an online infographic tool, it might be the easiest and the clearest way to present the idea of timeline and present different visual outlooks. In this timeline, we wrote about different possibilities of the future computer virus from present to 2050 with a prediction per decade.

Links here:

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The New Media Timeline


Nowadays, analysing and visualising data is not difficult anymore. With the help of new technology and digital art application, it is easy to map a contextual and artistic timeline. The video below introduces an interactive way to look at the timeline, which strengthen the communication between the audience and the timeline. All these contributions may lead to a new perspective to look at our future.




Lecture: Bleached dreams

Virtual reality became more and more popular in 21st century. Not only indoor people is addicted to this unreal environment in their video games, but different industries also started to join this ‘game’.

I’d like to divide this lecture into three parts: the simulated space, non-places and unreal spaces. The earliest practice for simulation is the ‘Lunar Orbit’ last century. It was an era of exploring the outer spaces, when it became important for the space evaluation. The need for an imaginative space started to form.

I want to put the Disneyland and the Dubai Mall together as a commercial branch of the simulated space. Disneyland tries to let people believe the reality of disney world, through a quite straightforward way to build a world from the cartoon. The Dubai Mall is more close to our reality, it uses gorgeous decorations to attract people.

To explain the non-places better, sainsbury supermarket is a good case. Customers in sainsbury always change, and, they barely have common points and communication. The time they met each other only lasts for a short time, not even talking about history.

When it comes to ‘unreal spaces’, it may cause mental fear. We always believe what is around us, however, what if all of them are not real? If so, what is real? Inception is an impressive film, where the hero is trapped in the dreams. Yet it attracts the issue about reality: how can we prove that the world we used to live in is real? It is not possible to prove this point now, we wish we could understand our surroundings more.

‘Materiality and Method’

This lecture has a strong connection with Andrea’s another lecture – (un)creative writing. We concentrate more about both the inside (concept) and the outside (sound and look) of the work. The specific approach is regarding the ‘language’ as ‘material’.

We witnessed the shift from literary realism to modernism from 20th century. During this time, the pursuing towards the inner concept of writing form did not stop, from Dada poetry to Flarfism.

Here I want to put emphasis on the form of ‘concrete poetry’. Personally, it is an art form that interests me very much. It can trace back to the early 1950s. It has an utopian agenda to create a “transnational, panlinguistic way of writing that anyone … could understand.”. (Goldsmith, 2011:54) It is worth mentioning that the aim of the concrete poem is to thrust poetry into the modern age, while it requires that “like a logo a poem should be instantly recognizable”.

The first show for concrete poetry was in 1956, at an international exhibition in São Paulo. This kind of art form ‘begins by assuming a total responsibility before language: accepting the premise of the historical idiom as the indispensable nucleus of communication, it refuses to absorb words as mere indifferent vehicles, without life, without personality without history.’ (wikipedia, 2015) Another early example of typographically based concrete poetry is a poem by George Herbert (1593–1633), in which the poem is merely a comment on the title, which presents the poem’s principal meaning typographically.

For me, I think concrete poetry has a strong power to affect people emotionally. When we look at the concrete poetry, it is strong and passionate, trying to let us understand the outstanding charisma of poetry. Nowadays, with the help of new technology, the concrete poetry becomes a common exercise for young designers and poetry lovers. They can easily produce concrete poetry through the software, however, it is not easy for them to understand the core of this art form.

Lecture: The Author

[An engraver is drawing the outline of a ukiyoe, using a small and sharp grave. The only beam in the room comes from a wooden lamp. You can barely hear things in this room, except for the lasting little noise of the knife hitting that superior wood brick.]

This is an normal scene of an normal day at Takahashi studio, where is known as inheriting the almost lost woodcut technique from ancient China. Here, the craftsmen not only evaluate their works from a designer’s perspective, physically, they run this craft as a business as well. They design the pattern, they produce the painting. It bridge the gap between the designer and the manufacturer(also trader sometimes), keeping the production line at an intellectual, healthy and secure level.

This Thursday we focus on Ellen Lupton’s theory about encouraging the ‘author-mode’ designers to transform into the ‘producer-mode’ designers. Ellen proposed his insight at 1998, a time period while designer’s authorship became controversial. Though I want to list several interesting topics from our lecture.

The first interesting collection is the ‘original’ series. There are lots of artists and designers tried to connect their initial creative ideas to their outcomes by themselves. ‘’ is a vivid example in this field, which helps defending the status of the contents of the websites. However, ‘Tree of Codes’, a visual publication created by Jonathan Safran Foer can be hardly copied. While another work published by Visual Editions called ‘The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman’, is even too busy for the reader to handle with.

Duchamp, to some extent, represented this fashion, while his ‘fountain’ work astonished the world at 1917, his pseudonym profile refreshed the art history. He is a pioneer in the field of ‘free art’, a man who never hand over the work of production. Nowadays, another world-famous artist got the spirit, created stinging works and speak free for people. His code name is ‘Banksy.’

For me, I am quite into the idea of ‘designer as producer.’ Many people have already made effort to create a new world for designers, though it is still a really long and painful process for all of us to take over the responsibility of author and producer.