Focussing on the ‘happy path’ has served designers well. Until it didn’t. In order to prepare for tomorrow’s wicked problems, we also need to take into account what can terribly go wrong (‘corporate dystopia’) and bake these concerns into the product.
Scenario planning has been part of business practice for a long time. As Design has successfully broaden it’s mandate to impact on a strategic level, we have adopted the birds eye view, the systemic approach and the long term thinking for our practice. Through this we hope to design solutions beyond the single product, towards complex systems and wicked problems.
Only we focus solely and completely on how our designs unfold in the most beautiful and favourable way – and this prevents us from being prepared for things going terribly wrong, while they actually function just as they were intended to.
Facebook did not malfunction when interfering in democratic processes. It’s not a twitter bug that makes it the Nr. 1 hate-speech platform on our planet. Also Amazon is working better than ever – filling up our streets with delivery cars and our landfills with cardboard.
It’s time we make room to think about the role of dystopia in our design process. It’s time we design for what can go wrong in the worst way possible.
As the power of design lies in the ability to make abstract things tangible, we as designers are now asked to bring these dystopian scenarios to life. In the same way we focus on the (immediate) users’ needs and best possible outcome based on our intent. We need know what negative impact looks like.
In this talk at IxDA‘s Interaction’20, Andreas and Thomas present a practical framework to embed dystopian thinking in the product design process to prevent an “Oppenheimer Moment” from early on. They show real world examples from over 40 years of design experience (yes, combined) by showing more than just the happy path. They show how to apply dystopian thinking to design artefacts and how to use them to influence final product and service decisions. They draw from tools of scenario planning and systemic design as well as speculative approaches and practical design fiction.
As this should be an inspiring contribution and engage rather than teach, we aim to not present a dry framework alone but focus on actual design intervention and real artefacts. We hope to spark a discussion with this and to embark on a conversation on how we, as designers, can help each other to live up to our responsibility. How to get more clarity, more stability and more resilience in the solutions we so urgently need for tomorrow’s (and today’s) wicked problems.
(The value of) Dystopian thinking
About Andreas Wegner
Andreas Wegner is an award-winning designer, having worked for 20 years both in Los Angeles and Berlin. He is a trained communication designer and was Head of Design at iconmobile, an international consultancy, where he worked on connected devices and meaningful, data- enabled experiences. His clients included BMW, Bosch Design, Deutsche Telekom, Mercedes, Orange, United Nations (WFP), Samsung, Volkswagen. He gave numerous international keynotes about the role and future of design practise and is a judge for the Lovie and Webby Awards.
About Thomas Kueber
Thomas Kueber is obsessed with humanizing technology ever since he got my hands on his first C64 during the 1980s. Starting his career within HCI research at Fraunhofer institute, he worked my way up and down the design industry in Europe, Asia and the US. Today he lives and work in Berlin, Germany.
During daylight he focus on helping corporations and communities to embed successful design strategies that enable not only economic growth but generate genuine value for real people. When the office lights go out he is co-leading Berlin‘s interaction design community IxDA Berlin, occasionally craft cocktails for his Indian supper club or simply enjoy a dark-brew coffee and bass-heavy music in my backyard garden.