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.

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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


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.”

The pageant system is a toxic workplace, according to Miss USA Noelia Voigt and Miss Teen USA UmaSofia Srivastava, who announced their resignations last week. Srivastava said her "personal values no longer fully align with the direction of the organization," and Voigt cited mental health reasons in a statement, then later accused the Miss America Organization of providing "a toxic work environment ... that, at best, is poor management and, at worst, is bullying and harassment." Miss Colorado Arianna Lemus resigned in solidarity on Friday, writing that Voigt and Srivastava's "voices have been stifled by the constraints of a contract that undermines their rights and dignity.” 

Democracy, it’s a design thing! Last March, a federal judge ruled that New Jersey’s ballot — a confusing design known as the “county line” system — was likely unconstitutional and couldn’t be used in June’s primary. One county has unveiled their new ballot design, which looks awfully familiar. 

Heading to NY Design Week? Here’s the itinerary. (It’s May 16-23.)

Ann Pizzorusso, a geologist and Renaissance art historian, says she has finally solved one of the art world’s enduring mysteries: where in the world was the Mona Lisa when she was sitting for Leonardo da Vinci? It took her dual expertise to find the clues that were there all along. “Geologists don’t look at paintings, and art historians don’t look at geology,” she says. 

Three chatbots explain themselves

Here’s the first design proposal to replace Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, which collapsed last March. It's from an all-star team: Carlo Ratti Associati — the architecture firm led by architect and MIT professor Carlo Ratti — WeBuild, an Italian construction group, and Michel Virlogeux, a French structural engineer known for his work with Foster + Partners designing the world’s tallest bridge.  Their version has a longer span, a raised clearance, and the aesthetic of an enduring landmark. “The team hopes to deliver a bridge that is more contemporary visually and is also safe and durable for decades to come.”

Design as an act of neighborly pettiness.

The Biden Harris campaign is looking for a design lead and a graphic designer. (Both positions are full-time and based in Wilmington, Delaware.)

Mexico City is facing a desperate but unsurprising water crisis.  But, Javier Sánchez, founder of architectural firm JSa, says that by returning to ancient water technologies—like efficient rainwater harvesting—homes can be both beautiful and water-self-sufficient. 

Climeworks, a Swiss start-up, has just unveiled Mammoth, the world’s biggest carbon-absorbing plant. Located in Hellisheidi, Iceland, Mammoth is designed to remove 36,000 metric tons of carbon each year, the equivalent of taking 8,600 cars off the road. “It’s a drop in the bucket, but it’s a much bigger drop in the bucket than any we’ve seen so far,”  Klaus Lackner, who heads the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University, tells the Washington Post. 

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has instituted a voluntary “Secure by Design” pledge for enterprise software makers. It affirms they are improving, documenting, and publicly sharing a host of security protocols, fixes, and best practices. All the cool kids seemed to have signed up.    

Veterans are now playing an essential role in helping VA health centers design new facilities by piloting design simulators and assessing physical mockups before construction begins.  

It's hard out there for a young designer, says Nendo founder Oki Sato. "You have to think about materials and the process — not just human-centered, but for the planet — and we have to think about how it will be recycled in the future as well.”

Fast Company’s global design editor, Mark Wilson, sat down with Fuse Project founder Yves Béhar, Neri & Hu Design cofounder Rosanna Hu, IKEA CEO Jesper Brodin, and Mattel Chief Design Officer Chris Down and asked how AI was impacting their businesses. “The era of designing general devices and or apps that work the same way for everyone is going to be over soon,” says Béhar. Good ideas come from teams, but in the future, says Hu, “we might be able to get something in three minutes.” But Brodin asked the big questions. “What are the risks to humanity? How are we impacting truth?”

At the screening of Gary Hustwit’s new documentary, Eno, visionary musician Brian Eno said: "Algorithms cannot be in the hands of individuals like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg."⁠ It’s a capitalism thing. “Well, one thing that is really, really clear to me is that whoever designs the algorithms, designs the future. And it’s completely terrifying to me that the design of those algorithms is, in fact, almost 99 percent made by a few young Americans who want to make a lot of money. If profitability is the main goal of the design, then we’re going to end up with the same kind of shit that we got from social media.”

Did you know that since 1956, each Eurovision host broadcaster has had to come up with its own logo? Some are generic and forgettable, while others are more professional (and maybe also forgettable) (and speaking of forgetting, Istanbul completely forgot to design one in 2004, which is where at least one generic stand-in proved useful). As a suite of visual emblems, they're fascinating as a collective snapshot, sitting at the intersection of typography, globalism, and the amped-up TV culture of the music business. Among our favorites is the 2017 logo, which claims to have taken its inspiration from a traditional Ukrainian necklace, or namysto—considered to be a protective amulet and a symbol of beauty and health—and in this case, a way to honor and celebrate diversity.

Wonderful job opportunity—perhaps for a newly-minted MFA grad—working with the amazing people at Cita Press, where they celebrate the spread of culture and knowledge by publishing the writings of women authors whose works are open-licensed or in the public domain. Through its library of collaboratively designed free books, Cita honors the principles of decentralization, collective knowledge production, and equitable access to knowledge.

Struggling to figure out what to watch on Netflix? You're not alone! That's a challenge that still keeps Steve Johnson, Netflix’s VP of design, up at night.

How does color function In factories, schools, and hospitals? In the 1950s, it functioned like this. (Part Two is here.)

As if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn't have enough on his plate, public response to a new identity program sparks controversy (and ridicule). "It looks like a moose getting a prostrate exam!" one person noted. "It looks like a Minecraft character milking an elk!" observed another. Behold: the communications kerfuffle around the design of a new logo for the Canadian Army.

Every object we bring into the world has a contextual backdrop, and every design decision is a compromise. How long should objects last? Charlie Humble-Thomas—a student at the RCA in London—ponders the question of what he calls “conditional longevity”. 

The United Methodist Church has reversed its denomination’s anti-LGBTQ policies and teachings and lifted all bans on same-sex marriage and gay clergy. The fight to allow same-sex marriage and gay clergy has been part of a painful debate within major Protestant denominations in the U.S. for nearly fifty years. Click through for a timeline of major milestones of the last five decades. 

AAPI History Month turns 45 this year.  Most people credit its establishment to Jeanie Jew, a fourth-generation Chinese American and a co-founder of the congressional Asian-Pacific staff caucus. Her grandfather had helped build the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1800s and then was killed amid anti-Asian unrest, a story which moved her colleagues on the Hill. In 1979, with support from California Rep. Norm Mineta and Hawaii Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga, President Jimmy Carter issued a proclamation designating the first week of May as “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.”

The impossible dilemma of Black female leadership. “In predominantly White spaces, a Black woman is expected to code-switch, mimic White culture, and either explicitly or implicitly affirm harmful propaganda about Black people, in order to signal that she can be trusted by the establishment,” says Shauna Cox in Nonprofit Quarterly Magazine.

Weimar, Germany—the city that was home to both Germany’s post-1918 government and the first (of three) Bauhauses—has taken the courageous step to re-examine the school’s relationship to National Socialism. Organized by the Klassic Stiftung Weimar and running from May 9 through mid-September, three exhibitions take on this immense subject: The Bauhaus As a Site of Political Contest, 1919-1933, will be at the Museum Neues Weimar; Removed – Confiscated – Assimilated, 1930/37 at the Bauhaus Museum; and Living in the Dictatorship, 1933 -1945 at the Schiller Museum. A review in today's Guardian looks at the complexity and coordination of this trio of shows, and delves into the historical nuance—and torment—of its political and artistic history. 



Jobs | May 24