Stuart Candy: To World a Better Design

Stuart Candy, in his lecture titled ‘To World a Better Design,’ describes his work with experiential futures. The sheer aspect of reality and its relation to design led me to become both intrigued and puzzled by the vast array of problems that design can solve. He led me to realize that a good designer doesn’t just shape the world around them with their product, but allows the world around them to shape their design process.

Candy began his lecture with the “strange thought” that humans have made their home all over the planet; if one were to drop a person in a different geographical, historical, or cultural context, a human could fairly easily pick up that attitudes and behaviors of that time because of the way that our brains are wired. Therefore, humans are capable of becoming chameleons of different cultures. Thinking about humans and the way that the environment affects human activity every-day, Candy raises the question of “How might we world a better design?” He states that the best way to design for the future in means of a better world is to actually use our experience from the past to guide our changes. With the past’s information, we constantly shape our future’s imaginaries and have conceptions of why we do things, while they meanwhile shape us.

He highlights that the four types of ways we can conceptualize the future include: growth, collapse, discipline, and transformation. These are four extremely different types of futures. Growth suggests progress; collapse suggests that society has fallen apart; discipline suggests a future in which order is deliberately imposed, and transformation suggests a future in which a profound historical event has occurred. His work doesn’t just categorize these conceptualizations, but is able to physically embody these ideas. There has been an experiential gulf between how we represent these futures for seriousness versus how we experience them. Sometimes conceptualizing the future gets put off because society outweighs what’s real and tangible today compared to what’s important tomorrow. Discounting these futures affects us because our current decisions now will be full of regret in the future.

His experiment, titled Hawaii 2050 tries to allow people to think more critically about their conceptualizations of the future through an experiential process. The experiment consisted of a group of people inhabiting 4 potential futures (growth, collapse, discipline, and transformation) and render them into a world where people could experience them to catalyze insight and change. Another one of his works was an app titles Coral Crossthat used the same ideals to produce a serious game that engaged that Hawaiian public to prepare for a flu outbreak. NaturePod, a faux product dealing with emergent reality, face-planted people into a screen that acted as a scene of nature and convinced the people involved that this screen was just as good of a substitute as actually enjoying the outdoors. His last product included a game, titled The Thing from the Future, that presented three objectives: a kind of future, an artifact, and a theme to allow the user to conceptualize and imagine how one might live in this random experience.

Candy related his breakthroughs in what is known as experiential futures to a combination of both the future and design. When conceptualizing about the future, he relayed that any useful statement about the future should at first feel ridiculous, because we fail to recognize the vast possibility of change in the future. He made me realize that the importance of a good designer lies within their ability of imagination of change, and their usefulness in “any world they were dropped into.”