Experimental tools to include the environment and non-users in design-thinking.

Six rocks balanced perfectly on top of each other by the sea.
Six rocks balanced perfectly on top of each other by the sea.
Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

As designers and product creators, we are not just producing items with a lifecycle defined by human use. We are releasing into the world something that impacts multiple ecosystems spanning the time and distance of the product’s entire lifecycle, from the sourcing of its various materials to the manufacturing, repair, life of use, and final breakdown.

The evolution of life-centred design (also known as ‘environment-centred design’ and ‘planet-centred design’) has begun to expand our mindset from purely human-centred creation to include consideration of sustainable economical, environmental, and social solutions.

Perhaps a life-centred design approach to the introduction of lithium into the potential climate-change solution of electric cars could have highlighted an “enormous amount of mining, refining and all the polluting activities that come with it.” Perhaps we can learn from the ‘white oil’ repercussions of our rush for lithium and apply them with life-centred design to lithium’s potential healthier replacement—green hydrogen. …


Speculative Design challenges us to think beyond what’s possible, to imagine and participate in creating futures we really want.

Modular architecture suspended in the sky — a reworked photo by Pierre Châtel-Innocenti.
Modular architecture suspended in the sky — a reworked photo by Pierre Châtel-Innocenti.
Photo by Pierre Châtel-Innocenti on Unsplash

Speculative Design is a design practice combining science fiction world-building techniques with design to create prototypes of future artefacts to provoke thinking and discussion about potential futures beyond what we think is possible.

The practice emerged in the 1990s as designers began to question their role in consumerism’s impact on the planet. This values-based, experimental practice remained a lesser-known curio until the internet exposed it to the wider design folk, offering them a means to explore designing for values over profit.

While foresight practices and other futures studies start with an analysis of today and relevant data to identify unseen future opportunities, Speculative Design jumps into future ideas and works backwards to understand their potential and impact. …


Play evil, learn ethics, save the world, and more...

Girl with red eye lens that is projecting a holographic display in front to her.
Girl with red eye lens that is projecting a holographic display in front to her.
Photo by Justin Peralta on Unsplash

In a time when a pandemic has shut down the world, bushfires turn the skies Bladerunner orange, the truth becomes fake news and fake news becomes truth, it’s almost undeniable how easy science fiction can become science fact.

And yet the world’s skies remain empty of flying cars.

Because science fiction isn’t purely about prediction.

Science fiction casts present and imagined trajectories into the future to explore alternative perspectives on today, to both warn and inspire us, and possibly change the direction in which we are headed.

Designing for the fiction of future scenarios can have a similar effect on a designer’s thinking because it allows them to do what they are taught not to do—explore dark patterns and trends—to produce something ironic and provocative that by its very design tells a story about the future world it belongs to. This playful projection of what future world might exist—and how people may behave in it—expands a designer’s peripheral creativity and deepens their awareness of human behaviour and psychology. …


“The Social Dilemma” on Netflix will make you think hard and frighten you even more

Neon signage of a social media heart icon with a zero next to it.
Neon signage of a social media heart icon with a zero next to it.
Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

In 2011, former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris shared a presentation with Google calling for them to address how its products were exploiting human psychology vulnerabilities.

Many employees applauded Harris, and Google put him in charge of ethical design. But, according to Harris, the company’s commitment to change fizzled out, so he left in 2016 to co-found the Center for Humane Technology, and to teach ways of using technology to better serve people.

It’s a battle Harris is still fighting, and one that The Social Dilemma proposes could completely dismantle the fabric of society if it isn’t won. …


Exploring a future AR interface controlled only by blinks and eye movements.

A glowing ring around a human eye pupil projecting a holographic menu in front of the eye.
A glowing ring around a human eye pupil projecting a holographic menu in front of the eye.

If you could, would you apply Facebook and Snapchat filters to your sight? If the overcast day brought down your mood, would you choose a sunny day filter? What about the rows of buildings outside your bedroom window — would you prefer to wake up to the sparkling view of a giant waterfall? And the endless concrete covering the city, would you prefer it covered in lush green?

What if every day you could see and interact with a version of the world you preferred— a unique view personalised for you according to what makes you happy—all with a few blinks and eye movements? …


Combining science fiction world-building techniques with design to discover unseen potential futures. Part 2.

Photo of graffiti of Michael J Fox in Back To The Future — by Naomi Tamar at Unsplash
Photo of graffiti of Michael J Fox in Back To The Future — by Naomi Tamar at Unsplash
Photo by Naomi Tamar on Unsplash

Designing for tomorrow is like having a time machine that takes you to alternate futures. You’ll be tempted to visit the Utopias, but only a devoted Future Thief will visit the Dystopias we need to steal from to prevent dark-trend-infested products enabling the end of the world.

The path of an artifact assassin is not easy, however — you’ll have to disassemble something a fellow designer might create in the near future, or perhaps it will be something created by your older self!

If you dare to tread this perilous yet exciting path, let me introduce you to the mind-bending practice of speculative design — stealing a dystopian artifact from a future that may never exist to prevent it from plaguing the world tomorrow. …


Combining science fiction world-building techniques with design to discover unseen potential futures. Part 1.

Photo of graffiti of Michael J Fox in Back To The Future — by Naomi Tamar at Unsplash
Photo of graffiti of Michael J Fox in Back To The Future — by Naomi Tamar at Unsplash
Photo by Naomi Tamar on Unsplash

Designing for tomorrow is like having a time machine that takes you to alternate futures. You’ll be tempted to visit the Utopias, but only a devoted Future Thief will visit the Dystopias we need to steal from to prevent dark-trend-infested products enabling the end of the world.

The path of an artifact assassin is not easy, however — you’ll have to disassemble something a fellow designer might create in the near future, or perhaps it will be something created by your older self!

If you dare to tread this perilous yet exciting path, let me introduce you to the mind-bending practice of Speculative Design — stealing a dystopian artifact from a future that may never exist to prevent it from plaguing the world tomorrow. …


A speculative vision of a future where projected behaviour trends collide with advanced, fully-immersive augmented reality

A first-person view of a dull city that changes with a blink into fantastic colours and sights—GIF by Damien Lutz.
A first-person view of a dull city that changes with a blink into fantastic colours and sights—GIF by Damien Lutz.
A first-person view of a dull city that changes with a blink into fantastic colours and sights — GIF by Damien Lutz.

Imagine an advanced, uber-personalised Augmented Reality you could activate with a blink…

Unfortunately, today’s smart eyewear experience is more like a smartwatch for your face. However, companies like Microsoft and Magic Leap are investing billions in business applications for Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR). With Apple and Facebook also developing their own devices, smart eyewear could eventually replace smartphones, impacting every aspect of our lives.

But as with any new advancement in consumer technology, the hype and development of AR/MR are outpacing any research into potential effects on the mind or vision from prolonged exposure. When it comes to memories, the brain doesn’t differentiate between the virtual and the real, so users of advanced AR/MR might find themselves struggling to discern reality from illusion. …


What’s the state of Augmented Reality eyewear, and how do you get your hands on it?

Photo by My name is Yanick on Unsplash
Photo by My name is Yanick on Unsplash
Photo by My name is Yanick on Unsplash

Imagine standing in your lounge room — wearing only pyjamas and a pair of smart glasses —with a row of holographic suits floating in front of you. You touch one, and suddenly you’re wearing it. Your glasses speak in your ear, announcing your first work meeting. Members of your team appear, standing around a holographic 3D model of a hover-board you’ve been designing. Gesturing in the air like Tom Cruise in Minority Report, you tap and swipe on floating menus to update the board’s materials and specs right before everyone’s virtual eyes. Your team thank you for your great work and disappear, leaving you alone again in your lounge room. …


A short story—A robot-assassin’s near-death experience makes it more human.

Image for post
Image for post

Outnumbered by the stars above, tiny lights twinkled in the dark terrain far below me. I plummeted through twilight toward the valley, the wind whistling through the gaps in my body.

“OK, buddy, prepare to go dark.” Using the nickname he’d given me, my remote-pilot’s voice betrayed his emotion. Human sentimentality was the main reason their soldiers had been replaced by my kind. “You two are on your own from here.”

“Copy. Rendezvous at zero-four-zero-zero-hours.” Maneuvering myself into a neutral free fall position, I shut down communications and lowered the light of my internal display. Spot, my four-legged robot counterpart, curled up in its own free fall, ten meters to my left, and dropped fast. I activated Spot’s parachute, then my own. …

About

Damien Lutz

UX Designer, creator of Future Scouting design game, and author of sci-fi novels Amanojaku and The Lenz.

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