The Futures Archive

The Futures Archive

The Futures Archive is a podcast from Design Observer that looks at the history of human-centered design with a critical eye to its future. In each episode, we begin with an object, interrogating the motives and methods that put people—and their complex needs and desires—at the center of the design process. From research to iteration to manufacturing and distribution, we’ll look at design as more than the sum of its countless parts—learning from the “what” and searching for the “why”—as we explore, together, the possibilities for our collective future.

Subscribe to The Futures Archive on or your favorite app.

Enter your email to receive updates


Automattic
Our season sponsor is Automattic.


Episodes

The Futures Archive S2E12: The Vibrator
On the final episode of season 2 of The Futures Archive, Rachel Lehrer and Lee Moreau explore pleasure with a conversation about the vibrator and women’s control over their bodies. With additional insights from Lynn Comella, Ti Chang, Jenny Winfield, and Mireille Miller-Young.


The Futures Archive S2E11: The Microphone
How many microphones are in the room you are in? Did you count the ones in your earbuds? On your phone? Your smart device? On this episode of The Futures Archive Lee Moreau and Liz Danzico discuss the microphone as an embedded technology, and the power it commands from center stage to tucked away in a drawer.


The Futures Archive S2E10: The Automatic Door
The automatic door is a part of most peoples everyday lives, and certainly considered a convenience. But when you walk up to one does it feel magical? Futuristic? Frustrating? On this episode, Lee Moreau and Sloan Leo discuss the automatic door, and how we can design thresholds of all kinds to be inviting to all people.


The Futures Archive S2E9: The Insulin Pump
How does the act of care get designed into our everyday lives—beyond medical procedures and technology, into our relationships, our schedules, our lives? On this episode of The Futures Archive, Lee Moreau and Sara Hendren consider the insulin pump, and discuss what it might look like to think about a medical device in the context of all that’s actually human.


The Futures Archive S2E8: The Car Radio
What do you listen to when you are in your car? On this episode of The Futures Archive Lee Moreau and Liz Danzico discuss the car radio and what sounds you are conditioned to hear.


The Futures Archive S2E7: The Refrigerator
On this episode of The Futures Archive Lee Moreau and Sara Hendren discuss designing for health and safety within the everyday context of refrigeration and the mysterious coldscape.


The Futures Archive S2E6: The Bug Zapper
On this episode of The Futures Archive Lee Moreau and Sloan Leo go deep on how human-centered design doesn’t always reflect humanity.


The Futures Archive S2E5: The Air Conditioner
On this episode of The Futures Archive Lee Moreau and Rachel Lehrer discuss the pleasures and pains of air conditioning for ourselves and the sustrainability of the planet.


The Futures Archive S2E4: The Defibrillator
On this episode of The Futures Archive Lee Moreau and Sara Hendren discuss the defibrillator, designing life-saving machines for everyday users, and the power of the power button.


The Futures Archive S2E3: The Blender
Do you have a blender? Do you use it? Does it make your life more convenient? On this episode of The Futures Archive Lee Moreau and Sloan Leo discuss the blender, gender roles, and power structures.


The Futures Archive S2E2: The Dongle
What does our need for dongles say about the sustainability, or obsolescence, of the electronics we are designing and consuming? On this episode of The Futures Archive Lee Moreau and Liz Danzico discuss dongles and how we might find a more sustainable way forward.


The Futures Archive S2E1: The Disco Ball
What are the relationships between design and pleasure? And how can we design the most pleasurable experiences? On this episode of The Futures Archive Lee Moreau and Rachel Lehrer discuss the disco ball and the importance of embodied design.


The Futures Archive S2E0: Introductions
Introducing the four co-hosts of season two of The Futures Archive.


The Futures Archive S1E12: The Pet
Do you have a pet? Do you name inanimate objects in your life? On this episode of The Futures Archive Lee Moreau and guest host Liz Danzico discuss her dog Harriet, and the anthropomorphization of things. With additional insights from Greger Larson, Gail Melson, and Hannah Chung.


The Futures Archive S1E11: The Recipe
On this episode of The Futures Archive Lee Moreau and Lesley-Ann Noel discuss how recipes apply to human centered design and the importance of abductive thinking. With additional insights from Xinyi Liu, Julia Collin Davison, and Jon Kolko.


The Futures Archive S1E10: The Shoe
What do your shoes say about you? On this episode of The Futures Archive Lee Moreau and Garnette Cadogan discuss the challenge of designing shoes, and the way we assign meaning to our shoes.


The Futures Archive S1E9: The Mask
On this episode of The Futures Archive Lee Moreau and David Sun Kong discuss the mask, microbes, and the importance of designing with the microbiome not against it.


The Futures Archive S1E8: Daruma Doll
What do your possessions say about you? Which ones speak the loudest? On this episode of The Futures Archive Lee Moreau and Sarah Nagle Parker discuss Daruma dolls and the importance of objects to people and design research. With additional insights from Hiroko Yoda, Dori Tunstall, and Daria Loi.


The Futures Archive S1E7: The Ball
On this episode of The Futures Archive Lee Moreau and Saeed Arida discuss the ball, play, and learning.


The Futures Archive S1E6: The Toilet
On this episode of The Futures Archive, host Lee Moreau and this episode’s guest host, Devorah Klein, discuss the toilet, privacy, and connections.


The Futures Archive S1E5: The Uniform
On this episode of The Futures Archive designer Lee Moreau and this episode’s guest host, Grace Jun, discuss the notion of a uniform, and the importance of inclusivity in human-centered design.


The Futures Archive S1E4: The Chair
On this episode of The Futures Archive Lee Moreau and Judith Anderson discuss the history and design of the chair, and the importance of prototyping.


The Futures Archive S1E3: The Bottle
On this episode of The Futures Archive designer Lee Moreau and this episode’s guest host, Jamer Hunt, discuss the design and production of the plastic bottle.


The Futures Archive S1E2: The Toothbrush
On this episode of The Futures Archive Lee Moreau and Harry West discuss the toothbrush, toothbrushing, and over-learned behaviors.


The Futures Archive S1E1: The Passport
On this inaugural episode of The Futures Archive podcast Lee Moreau and guest host Natasha Jen discuss passport design, which leads them to ask “who is the human is in human centered design?” With insights from Ellen Lupton, Kipum Lee, + Craig Robertson.


The Futures Archive S1E0: Trailer
The Futures Archive looks at the history of human-centered design with a critical eye to its future.



Observed


In stripping objects of all but their essential elements, the Shakers not only exposed the elegance inherent in even the most humble of items but also reinvented the concept of beauty itself. With its emphasis on durability, functionality, and timeless minimalism, Shaker design has had a profound effect on generations of artists, architects, and designers. (“Do all your work as though you had a thousand years to live,” urged Shaker leader Ann Lee, “and as you would if you knew you must die tomorrow. ) Now, they have their very own postage stamp.

At MIT on June 27—Designing With, Not For: a conversation between Richard Perez, founding director of the Hasso Plattner School of Design Thinking at the University of Cape Town; Amy Smith, founding director of the MIT D-Lab; Surbhi Agrawal, 2022 MAD Design Fellow, urban planner, and data scientist at Sasaki; and Aditya Mehrotra, instructor of Mobiles for Development at MIT. This event is part of this year's Design Research Society (DRS) conference, on the theme of recovery, reflection, and reimagination.

Multi-Species Worlding is an experiment, for no more than twenty people, into the felt perspective of another species, in which participants will practice speaking as that species, and build shared worlds that serve all of life.  This workshop brings together multi-species artists, architects, researchers, storytellers, communicators, educators, entrepreneurs, designers, and anyone curious about co-creating worlds where all species thrive. 

Coming this fall, join a pivotal gathering of minds from Italy, Netherlands, Ireland, UK, China, Kenya, Germany, Denmark, Turkey, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Poland, Spain, Finland, Hong Kong, and the United States for Designing Nature and Humanity-Centered Future,  at ISMAT Portimão (in Portugal's Algarve) from 8 to 11 of October. Interested? You have until the end of July to submit an abstract.

“Must be buff, charged with the emblem of the State, a pine tree proper, in the center, and the North Star, a mullet of 5 points, in blue in the upper corner; the star to be equidistant from the hoist and the upper border of the flag, the distance from the 2 borders to the center of the star being equal to about 1/4 of the hoist, this distance and the size of the star being proportionate to the size of the flag .”  The State of Maine is seeking design ideas before voters in November determine whether to adopt a new, more distinctive flag.

Picture this: A photographer wins an AI Image competition with a real photo. "I wanted to show that nature can still beat the machine and that there is still merit in real work from real creatives," said Digital Artist Miles Astray before he was disqualified. 

The American artist Kehinde Wiley—whose work he describes as “shedding light on the inequities Black and Brown people face in our society,”—has been accused of sexual misconduct. Wiley has denied the charges, but two museums have canceled upcoming exhibitions of his work.

In tandem with this exhibition (on view through the end of January 2025),  a new, five-episode podcast—hosted by British design critic and author Alice Rawsthorn—traces the evolution of Gae Aulenti through the voices of friends, curators, and a range of international architects.

The Los Angeles Design Festival is looking for new board members.

The Obama Foundation is looking for a new VP of Communications.

An Idaho pub owner celebrates “Homosexual Awesomeness Month” because “Pride is too extreme.”

SCOTUS gets it right on tribal health care:  In Becerra v. San Carlos Apache Tribe, the justices ruled that the federal government will have to pay more for health care on the reservations, making it a ruling on sovereignty

Something’s going on at Baraboo High School, y’all. Wisconsin? Thoughts?

Anne H. Berry, whose work focuses on representation and diversity in design as well as ethnic and racial disparities in the field, has been selected to be the next Director of the School of Design in the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts at UIC Chicago.

Read about the fifty people helping to shape Chicago. (Gensler's Andre Brumfield leads the charge!)

You need a Wall Street Journal digital subscription to view this in its entirety, but the story needs to be shared whether you read it or not: high-profile school shootings, and the fear they spread, are shaping how architects design the modern American school.

Anna Gerber and Anna Holsgrove's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming is a new quarterly magazine focused on the relationship between technology and an unlikely trio of influences: ancient wisdom, spiritual practices, and natural intelligence. Their first issue is expected later this summer.

Grace Jun's new book on adaptive, wearable design—Fashion, Disability, and Co-design—is,  in her own words, “a practical book on the intricacies of design with examples of the many ways people can collaboratively work together”. Jun will be speaking on May 31st at Rizzoli Bookstore at 6pm in New York City.  (She was our guest on The Design of Business | The Business of Design back in season two.)

At the Business Design Centre in London, New Designers—now in its 39th year—brings together a whopping 3,000 design graduates every year from over 100 universities. The first week (26–29 June) highlights fashion and costume, contemporary design crafts, textiles, ceramics, glass, jewelry, and precious metalwork. The second week (3–6 July 2024) showcases furniture, product design, industrial design, spatial design, graphic design, illustration,  animation, motion art, digital art, and game design.

In a shocking announcement this morning, The University of the Arts in Philadelphia announces it will cease operations effective on June 7, 2024.

In partnership with the IKEA Foundation, What Design Can Do supports creative climate solutions aimed at fostering a more circular society. The winning projects in their latest challenge—Redesign Everything–include approaches such as bio-cement reef structures that mimic oyster reefs, bead alternatives designed to eliminate microplastics, and the use of agro-industrial fruit waste to create sustainable biomaterials.

Can you taste design? Designer, researcher, and author of Why Fonts Matter Sarah Hyndman has been conducting “typosensory research” experiments into how our senses “sway our perception.” 

A Banksy museum… with no Banksys?

Three Black men are suing American Airlines for racial discrimination, alleging all Black male passengers — none of whom were traveling together — were removed from their departing flight "because a white male flight attendant had complained about an unidentified passenger's body odor.” In 2017, the NAACP issued a travel advisory warning Black travelers that the airline had a “corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias.” The advisory was lifted in 2018.

How do you know it’s racist if you didn’t watch it? This was largely the response from the three judges on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel, who appeared unmoved by the accusation of a white former manager that his employer, Honeywell International, had fired him for refusing to attend a brief training session on unconscious bias. “It would be very different if your client had watched it and came in and said, ‘I found it discriminatory for the following reasons,’” Circuit Judge Amy St. Eve said to plaintiff Charles Vavra’s lawyer. Vavra sued Honeywell in 2021.

The not-so-quiet panic from climate scientists.

Donald Trump has been framing Chinese immigrants as mostly “military-age” men, here to stir trouble from within. “And it sounds like to me, are they trying to build a little army in our country? Is that what they’re trying to do?” he said in a campaign stop last month. But one immigrant who traveled through Ecuador to the U.S. border told the AP that it’s not true. “It is impossible that they would walk on foot for over one month” to organize an attack, he said. “We came here to make money.” Another, who hopes to make enough to bring his wife and children, said, “This trip is deadly. People die. The trip isn’t suitable for women — it’s not suitable for anyone.” 

“You need to kick that f***ing door down!” Vice President Kamala Harris was the guest of honor at an AAPI Heritage Month event this week and encouraged attendees to break through the barriers they still face. “We have to know that sometimes, people will open the door for you and leave it open, sometimes they won't. And then you need to kick that f***ing door down," as the audience cheered. "Excuse my language," she laughed.

This is why we can’t have nice things. An art installation project called the Dublin Portal experience, a 24/7 live cam and screen offering a real-time link between Dublin and New York City, is being ruined by “a small minority of people” doing “inappropriate things.”

More than 100 high-profile French art world figures have signed an open letter supporting the Palais de Tokyo in Paris after longtime patron Sandra Hegedüs withdrew her funding, saying, “I don’t want to be associated with the new, very political direction at the Palais de Tokyo...dictated by the defence of wokeism, anti-capitalism, pro-Palestine, etc.’” At issue was the show Past Disquiet, which focuses on four “museums in exile” and is constructed as a touring exhibit. From the response to Hegedüs: “These words and these methods, using a popular tribunal on social networks… are dangerous for the art world, for artists and for the freedom of institutions, as well as for our democracy.”



Jobs | June 21