03.10.22
Lee Moreau | Audio

The Futures Archive S2E0: Introductions


Season two of The Futures Archive launches next week and we’re excited to introduce you to our four co-hosts for the season. Just like last season our host Lee Moreau, his co-host, and a variety of experts will explore an object to learn about it's design and cultural history, and unlock a larger conversation about human-centered design and the future. This season, each episode will take an object with power, look for the human at the center — and keep asking questions with our following co-hosts.

Liz Danzico
is part designer, part educator, and full-time dog owner. Liz is the Founding Chair of the MFA Interaction Design program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) and was most recently Acting Senior Vice President, Digital for National Public Radio (NPR), as well as Vice President, Design, responsible for leading human-centered design across NPR’s products and platforms. She helped found and lead the Public Radio Incubation Lab, a new path to bringing transformative ideas to life in public media. She seeks to be at the intersection of digital strategy, product, design, innovation, and education.

Rachel Lehrer works on high risk, high reward projects that span violence to pleasure. She builds global, multi-disciplinary teams to design and test life-changing, scalable solutions for those affected by conflict and disaster. She most recently developed a program that resulted in 27% reduction in the frequency of intimate partner violence, in half the time and at half the cost of the leading violence prevention programs. She's now building a company for men with the goal of increasing pleasure for women. Rachel was also a professional dancer. She has a BA from Columbia University and a Masters in Transdisciplinary Design from Parsons School of Design.

Sloan Leo (they/he) is a Community Design theorist, educator, and practitioner. They are the founder of FLOX Studio, a community design and strategy studio FLOX Studio is on a mission to alter the future of work by integrating community & social justice values, design thinking, and organizational development. We work with nonprofit capacity builders, design institutions, and social impact leaders to foster collaborations, facilitate meaningful conversations and prepare for the near future. In January 2020 they were appointed as the inaugural Designer-in-Residence at the School of Visual Arts Design for Social Innovation Master’s program. For seven years they were an adjunct professor of non-profit management at NYU Wagner’s Graduate School of Public Service and now he is on faculty at The School of Visual Arts (SVA) Design for Social Innovation Master’s Program, and SVA’s Products of Design Program.

Sara Hendren is a humanist in tech—an artist, design researcher, writer, and professor at Olin College of Engineering. Her book What Can A Body Do? How We Meet the Built World explores the places where disability shows up in design. It was named one of the Best Books of 2020 by NPR and won a 2021 Science in Society Journalism award. Her art and design work has been widely exhibited in museum exhibitions and is held in the permanent collections at MoMA and the Cooper Hewitt. In 2021-22, she is Lecturer in Architecture at Harvard Graduate School of Design and a fellow in Education Policy at the New America think tank, where she is researching the future of work for adults with cognitive and developmental disabilities.


Transcript

Lee Moreau
Hi, I'm Lee Moreau, founder and director of Other Tomorrows, a design studio based in Boston. And I'm also the Professor of the Practice, Design at Northeastern University's College of Arts, Media and Design. Last season of The Futures Archive for every episode, I was joined by a different co-host to learn about the design and cultural history, about an object which unlocked a larger conversation about human centered design and the future. In this season, you'll be hearing from me, as well as four other co-hosts where each episode will take an object with power, look for the human at the center — and keep asking questions.

Liz Danzico
Hi, I'm Liz Danizco. I am a part time designer, a part time educator and a full time dog owner.

Lee Moreau
Liz was the co-host of last season's finale, an episode that was all about the pet, and I'm so excited that she is joining us again this season.

Liz Danzico
Yeah, I'm excited to be back. Currently, I'm the founding chair of the MFA Interaction Design Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Previously, I was the senior vice president of digital and the vice president of design at National Public Radio, NPR, where I was responsible for a leading human centered design across NPR's products and services and platforms. I've done a good deal of work setting up new labs where we can bring experiments to the public doing things that are unconventional and complex. And previously before those roles, I was an independent consultant working with clients primarily in the media space, so newspapers which are now more digital publishing houses. So I've been in, you know, whether it's public radio, journalism, or media and publishing for many, many years and really enjoy that space. Alongside, I am still guest lecturing, participating in thesis, helping out education across the board and tend to be an advisor to all kinds of projects that would support any of these efforts to embold, embody, and support particularly marginalized communities or communities that otherwise wouldn't have a voice in any of these spaces.

Lee Moreau
You'll be hearing from Liz when we have objects like the dongle, the car radio, and the microphone. These are all objects that are at the intersection of communication and human centered design.

Liz Danzico
I'm excited about imbuing these objects with with power and the theme that we'll be discussing. Um, my background— whether it's been about human centered design in sort of product and service and digital design, or in education, or in my sort of third track of my career kind of writing or editing. It's always been focused on thinking and designing around audience communities. And one of the ways of thinking about keeping relevant to to communities and keeping relevant audiences is is thinking about being where the audience is. So always thinking about how do we make sure that we are where the audience is? And so how do you align the object or the product or the service that you're thinking about to be where the audience is? And so the-the opportunity to think about communication, particularly when it comes to an object, is so interesting. And so I'm just excited to dive in and and get started.

Lee Moreau
Another one of our co-hosts, new this season is Rachel Lehrer.

Rachel Lehrer
Hi, my name is Rachel Lehrer. I'm a designer who for the past decade or so have been focused on projects that center around our bodies.

Lee Moreau
So Rachel and I worked together at Continuum Design, an innovation consultancy based in Boston, and she brings such a unique perspective and an interesting background to the space of design research and for understanding people.

Rachel Lehrer
0I started straight out of Design Grad School at the Transdisciplinary Design Program. I started working at Continuum. It was really my dream job. At that point, I had managed to tell a story about how my experience as a postmodern dancer, professional dancer, was relevant to a design and innovation consultancy. And part of the reason I picked like design and innovation work was because there was such an expansive understanding of like what could potentially be a valuable input into that work and approach and process. I was still performing professionally when I was starting and I had moved my desk chair from my desk and was like sitting on the floor because I felt so uncomfortable with this new role as someone who was largely behind a desk. And so I was like the weirdo who was just popping a squat on the floor with my laptop. I've spent the past six years creating impactful programs that reduce violence against women. And these are programs that have been tested and built and co-created with folks in Liberia, Uganda and now Peru. And these are projects that have specifically looked at how to really bring men into the conversation and have them willingly and voluntarily change their behavior to improve the lives of women. So the core pieces of my work have been essentially changing men's behavior to improve the lives of women, and that's been very much focused on what happens in their most intimate relationships.

Lee Moreau
For objects like the disco ball, the air conditioner, or even the vibrator we're going to find the relationships between design and pleasure through our conversations with one another throughout the season.

Rachel Lehrer
I spend so much of my time doing and enabling amazing design work with folks who are really outside of our space. And it is just a total thrill to me to be able to like geek out on design and pleasure, which are two of my absolute favorite things. And I really find that, like you know, one is enabling of the other. So in-in my career, I've been a dancerI was a postmodern dancer, and I spent the majority of my time moving around barefoot and like threadbare clothes with other dancers in a studio making work right and being able to communicate with my body, understand my body, control it like work with other people through my body. And now it is very much the center of my work when I think about the design work that I have done, which is very much about thinking how our body holds both power and pleasure and how our sort of social environments, right, and social norms and cultural constructs can either create freedom or sort of repression around that. So it's really, you know, the- I think my story is very much about sort of how pleasure is both experienced and repressed in our bodies and controlled either by ourselves or other people. And so I'm just thrilled to be able to talk about that in a way that, you know, is not just about how you can give people more freedom in their bodies, but really talking about like the end of the spectrum, which is — at our body's most free, what is the best thing we can experience? And that is pleasure.

Sloan Leo
Hi, I'm Sloan Leo and I am a community designer, theorist and practitioner. I also work in design education at the School of Visual Arts.

Lee Moreau
Another host I'm very excited to be working with this season in Sloan Leo, who I actually didn't know before starting planning for this season. And it's one of the most wonderful things that's happened is being able to meet all these new practitioners and and thinkers in design through this process.

Sloan Leo
Eight years ago, I fell in love with human centered design. I was working for the Environmental Defense Fund as a director of board relations, which meant my job was to essentially be designing with 700 other employees like these massive nonprofit board meetings, four to eight times a year. And I remember sitting there in my office saying, like, this isn't working these systems that we're using to collaborate, they're not well designed. And so I got really interested in taking classes online and found IDEO University. And I think that's where I first said: Oh, design is a field that I can leverage for solution in the social sector. And after 15 years of working as a fundraiser, a policy analyst, a strategist in nonprofits, I was like: Wait a minute, there is a field here called community design, which really refers to a set of practices and tools and orientations that allow people to do work together to solve complex and systemic issues. So I really took a bit of a pivot from being a nonprofit fundraiser to then launching my own design consultancy in 2019 called Flox Studio. And so now I get to blend nonprofit management and like management theory, community based work, and design all together to help make the world a little bit better organized and a lot more humane.

Lee Moreau
In particular, I'm excited by Sloan Leo's background in that he's working as a community designer, so he's thinking about issues of co-design and collaboration and specifically will bring that thinking to bear on objects that are related to convenience, so we'll be looking at objects like the bug zapper, the blender, and even the automatic door.

Sloan Leo
Part of my design practice is really about restating who convenience is for, and also about relocating power and decision making from the one to the many. You know, community work requires us to be vulnerable and to hold space for things that get in our way like shame, like fear. I like to think that I'm taking design, capital D design, and finding new ways of understanding it as a tool for organizational development and community building. And I think that I come to the design world with a lot of critique and a lot of love and a lot of hope about what's possible after human centered design. So finding ways to democratize design for people who are solving social challenges probably puts me in a good position to critique what is currently our base model. I think that we are at a moment of intersectional crises and intersectional opportunities for dreaming. When lockdown was kind of beginning to recede a bit in what May 2020, I got really obsessed with the idea of urgency and how power and responsibility are responding to someone, or some in some communities urgency. And so in as much as this season can talk about whose urgency are we prioritizing with the interventions that design offers, that's where the power lives. If you say: I am a person in power, this challenge is most important— like what more powers is? You framed the entire thing, you've set up the entire question, the full inquiry. And I'm really excited to see if this season we can talk about how else others can hold on to that power and how we can share power if you believe that's possible.

Lee Moreau
New to The Futures Archive, but not to collaborating with Design Observer is one of my new co-hosts Sara Hendren.

Sara Hendren
Hi, my name is Sarah Hendren, and I am an associate professor of design at Olin College of Engineering, which is outside Boston in Needham, Massachusetts. It's a tiny little lab school for engineering education. All our students study engineering there, so it's a really interesting place to work, and we think about engineering deeply tied up in the context of people's lives. So I teach there human centered design, broadly conceived and design and disability, what is often thought of as assistive technologies and prosthetics. I am also the kind of maker and collaborative social designer of a number of projects, and I'm the author of a book that came out in 2020 from Riverhead called What Kind of Body Do How We Meet the Built World, and it's about all the places where disability shows up in design in our world.

Lee Moreau
So Sara brings an incredibly unique perspective in that she's an artist, but she teaches within an engineering program.

Sara Hendren
So I often say that I'm a humanist in tech, meaning —my training is in visual arts history, cultural studies and I work deep in the laboratory. So I'm someone who's trying to bring all the why questions in the humanities: What is a good life? How do we know? What is the common good? How do we build it? Why are we here? All those deep enduring questions to the very pragmatic, you know, maker space, engineering-y, how-to, tinkering laboratory. That's-that's a place where people are looking for how do we do this thing? What next? What are its specifications and how do we know? And I love that energy. But it's a kind of muse for me, a humanist showing up to the room to say: But why? What is this for? What does it mean? How does it operate in the world? I'm trained in the humanities and fine arts and in history and then in design, most recently in kind of public design design in the public domain. So where does design show up in a civic and political way in our lives? But, maybe it's surprising, that I also topically ended up in disability studies. I'm a family member of a lot of people with disabilities, but also the mother of a six year old named Graham, who has Down syndrome. You know, his his his early life just filled up with prosthetics and assistive technologies to help him walk, to help him sit, to help him speak. And that caught my imagination and a couple of ways. One is just how interesting the material culture of the world does do low tech, high tech tools, kitchen gadgets, office supplies, all kinds of things that bridge the gap between the body and the world. But also it opened my eyes to, in disability studies, what's called a social model of disability that's not just a medical model of disability. So a lot of us think, you know, what does disability mean? While it means something on your body doesn't work correctly, something you're missing a sensory capacity or something. But a social model of disability says, actually, that disability is somewhere between what your body can or can't do. And actually the the rigid, maybe inflexible structures of the world. And that's a design question, in part, it's partly a civic and political question, but it's partly a design question.

Lee Moreau
Together, Sara and I will examine the impact of human centered design in the health care field, and we'll be looking at objects like the defibrillator, the refrigerator, and the insulin pump.

Sara Hendren
We enter the world dependent on other people. We often exit the world dependent on other people, giving and receiving assistance tools, technologies, design, human care networks of caregiving. That's a part of our experience. We want to design for it. Disability can collect you if you let it. It's actually a human part of our existence. It's part of what makes life worth living, giving and receiving help. And also design is for you, and it's everywhere. And if you start to see design with disability at its, you know, sparkling core, you might get a better imagination for what, what all your stuff can do and what we call assistive technology is this kind of a misnomer and a redundancy all of our stuff is giving us help. So that's where I'm just try to counter the excessive problem-solving nature of design, just the kind of default of rushing in with the right tool and the tidiness of that story and trying instead to locate design in and among wildly rambunctious, rowdy, creative, messy human ecosystems where disability is also at the creative center of stuff we make.

Lee Moreau
New episodes come out every other Thursday, starting March 17. Find us at TFA Dot Design, Observer, dot com or wherever you get your podcasts.


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