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April 14, 2006

Design Meme: Artifacts from the Future

Over the past month or so, I've noticed a thread of discussion in the design community on the value and power of crafting artifacts from the future.

It first came up on a project at Adaptive Path. We're working with a Big Media client, and encountered difficulty communicating our design vision. The client has offices bedecked with posters touting a variety of successes. A team member proposed a working session with the client to design a poster declaring this project's success. This activity succeeded wildly, with the client passionately embracing the project vision.

Later, I attended Jess McMullin's presentation at the IA Summit, which was about designers creating shared references with stakeholders in an effort to communicate the idea. One tool he uses is "Design the Box" -- even if the project doesn't involve a packaged good, pretend that at the end it goes in a box on a retail shelf. What does the box look like? (One hopes, not like this...)

Victor has a series of posts on what he terms "tangible futures," and how they can communicate to business leaders. I take issue with the over-broad nature of Victor's exemplars (and the rhetorical gambit of associating with such luminaries as Leonardo da Vinci), but, fundamentally, it addresses the same basic point.

And then last night a few Adaptive Path folks went to see a talk at SFMOMA featuring partners from Pentagram. According to a report on one of our internal mailing lists, Michael Bierut explained some of their design process for developing the identity for Ted, United's low-cost carrier, and how they mocked up fake articles from the Wall Street Journal as a way to communicate a potential future.

Given all this speculative thinking, perhaps it's no surprise that the person who is perhaps the best design writer at this time is better known as a science fiction author.

Posted by peterme at April 14, 2006 10:55 AM

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