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


“People came here or already lived here, young people with lots of energy and ideas and ideals who wanted to start things,” observes Syd Staiti, Executive Director of Small Press Traffic, a Bay Area poetry organization and archive. They're turning 50 this year—and they're not alone! Bravo to all the hard-working artists and arts organizations on this list—and here's to the next 50.

Self-disruption allows companies to stay ahead of the curve, anticipating and responding to changing market dynamics rather than reacting defensively; it fosters a culture of innovation, encouraging employees to think creatively and take calculated risks; and it can even open new revenue streams and markets, ensuring long-term sustainability. Sam Aquillano, the former Executive Director of the Design Museum in Boston, explains it all.

In New Jersey, the ballot is structured in a way that favors endorsed candidates. Three candidates are making a persuasive case on why this might be a critical design problem.

TikTok has become a target of parents, policymakers and regulators who are concerned about the company’s data-collection practices and the platform’s effect on young people’s mental health—including whether there is a risk for addictive design.

Australia's first moon rover rover will collect samples of lunar soil known as regolith, from which NASA will attempt to extract oxygen — a key step toward establishing a sustainable human presence on the moon and producing rocket fuel to support future missions to Mars. And they need design help.

Thai graphic designer Chalermpol Jittagasem has created a new typeface family to help immigrants improve their English pronunciations. “I've seen so many Asian Americans subjected to truly cruel shaming for speaking English with a strong accent and incorrect pronunciation, even though they, like me, are living in the most diverse state in the US,” he says. 

Design Justice AI was announced in 2023; the Global Humanities Institute is sponsored by the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes and the Mellon Foundation and is a partnership of four university-based centers at Rutgers, University of Pretoria, Australia National University, and University of Connecticut. Things are gearing up for a summer meeting in Pretoria; bookmark and follow along. 

Marsha Ann Maytum, founding principal of Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects (LMSA) and longtime champion of environmental, social, and justice causes, has died at 69. “Her quiet, tenacious brand of leadership is notable, especially in a profession where ego often proliferates,” says architect Kim Gould.  “It is as if her enormous humility gave her a change maker superpower, to the point that thinking ‘what would Marsha do’ is something others actually do.”

“But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise, it's not lapis, it's actually cerulean.” Miranda Priestly, the deliciously vicious fashion editor from The Devil Wear Prada, will be back in the U.K. spotlight in a new musical adaptation of the novel and film from Elton John. Vanessa Williams will be playing the devil herself

Restoration AI? Architects and designers have been using AI to help manage large data sets and visualize ideas for better decision-making. But can AI tools also help assess structural damage in aging infrastructure and underresourced communities? 

Anywhere this is a camera, this is a risk

In Chicago: A Love Supreme.

“For decades, Charlene Prempeh writes, ”Black designers have been sheathed in an invisible cloak.” Her new book uncovers just a few of the cracks and erasures and oversights: from postwar African-American cartoonist Jackie Ormes, to mid-century West African riffs on “Tropical Modernist” architecture pioneered by John Owusu Addo and Oluwole Olumuyiwa, to the rise of more recent Black British fashion stars like Bianca Saunders and Samuel Ross, this is one exhilerating (and expansive!) list.

Glen Weldon—host of NPR's buzzy Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast— calls the Yorgos Lanthimos film Poor Things a weird and intoxicating and unforgettable “visual tasting menu”—and makes his own (rather compelling) case for why it should win this year's Oscar for Production Design.

Design-led accessibility … at Starbucks.

Apple's longest-ranking designer, Bart Andre, is retiring. (Andre joined Apple in 1992 with Jonathan Ive.) Andre is also one of the biggest holders of Apple patents.

Monotype’s recently launched A.I. font-pairing tool inspired this Valentine’s Day piece in Print on type pairs that designers just love. Font obsessives: put on your do-not-disturb, pour yourself a cup of tea, and prepare to be triggered/delighted.

What if the designers showing in New York Fashion Week created looks for (super stylish) working shlubs?

Forty years ago, Joy Gregory, the first Black woman to earn an MA in Photography at the Royal College of Art in London, recognized the beauty and power coming from the emerging cohort of Black women photographers in London. Her idea, long dormant, has finally become “Shining Lights: Black Women Photographers in 1980s–90s Britain,” a new photography book edited by Gregory and co-published by Autograph and Mack. Chapters explore community and activism, kinship and family ties, travel and landscape photography, and joy. 

Yoko Ono has instructions for you (via the Tate Modern.)

Why aren’t we all at Mexico City Art Week? Turns out we are! The digital nomads, tourists, Instagram influencers, and hordes of aspirational curators are making the Zona Maco Fair a logistical and economic nightmare for locals. 

Fast Company’s Rob Fabricant has written the long read of the modern design era: what are we to make of the now clearly diminished role of design — and design leadership — in corporate life? “The very people who advocated successfully for a ‘seat at the table’ when design first made inroads into big business (and jump-started thousands of creative careers) find themselves at major crossroads with fewer seats left,” he writes. Is big business done with “design thinking,” or is the trend more personal? 

An interview with Jiminie Ha, Deign Director at the Guggenheim in New York.

Pierce Freelon and his mother Nnenna, in partnership with Paperhand Puppet Intervention, are the co-creators of Where Our Spirits Reside—an all-ages giant puppet show about: love, transformation, and ancestors. They performed last night in Durham, North Carolina, and we hope the show will travel so we can all see it. (In the meantime, we bring you … Little Mushroom!)

Planning should be chiefly a design process, not a legal one. From Scientific American, a story about urban planning, sustainable futures, and what people actually need from their cities.  

Created to accelerate health access to everyone, the Panadol Pain Phone was awarded a historic Good Design award for 2023 by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture, Art, Design, and Urban Studies.

While design attention is often directed toward patient care, how can design help caregivers? The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the rate of injuries from violent attacks against medical professionals grew by 63% from 2011 to 2018, and hospital safety directors say aggression against staff escalated as the COVID-19 pandemic intensified in 2020. Can design contribute to more reliable security measures in public places like hospitals and schools? And won't that help us all feel more safe?

In Lincoln, Rhode Island, students combine design inquiry with inspiration—and a call for diversity.

Chairs! Champagne! Design! See the winners of the Design Within Reach contest here. Robust participation this year also helped raise $20,000 for United States Artists, a nonprofit that supports creatives in their essential roles as part of a healthy society.

Research consistently shows a link between comfort and productivity, but traditional school desks are hardly a comfortable learning environment. Even playgrounds need to reflect more nuanced and inclusive practices because no child should ever be left out—especially at school. Think it's all about reading, writing, and arithmetic? Think again: why we should all be designing for neurodivergent students.



Jobs | February 22