The futures we make

March 18, 2021

This year has brought new meaning to what it means to think, worry, predict, and imagine the future. Whether we call ourselves ‘futurists’ or ‘designers’ or something entirely different, thinking about the future is a universal practice.

In Donna Goodman’s A History of the Future, she positions future thinking as being grounded in the ‘now’ and, ultimately, looks to avoid a potential future. I agree with Donna, that so much of thinking of the future is actually about sitting in and evaluating the present. But, I do also wonder if there’s more to futuring than avoiding a potential future.

There’s a need for imagination, isn’t there? Ytasha L. Womack, writer of Afrofuturism, defines Afrofuturism as, “an intersection of imagination, technology, the future and liberation.” The Afrofuturist movement uses science fiction as, “a way of imaging possible futures through a Black cultural lens,” to quote Ingrid LaFleur.

This is also something we see in speculative design, such as the work of Dunne and Raby, who constantly push the boundaries of what it means to design futures, or as they sometimes call them, new realities.

As people who practice participatory principles, in our work or in our lives, it feels an obvious next step to consider the ways we do this, collectively, and how that might impact what futures we create.


Architect, Deanna Van Buren designing towards justice and equity

I invite them and invite you today to imagine a world without prisons. What does that justice feel and look like?

Designing Justice + Designing Spaces is an Oakland-based nonprofit architecture firm working to end mass incarceration and structural inequity. In this piece, Deanna Van Buren, Co-Founder and Executive Director, speaks about how she brings justice and equity into her work. Through community engagement and designing for restorative justice, DJDS and Deanna’s work is an example of bringing future thinking into the now, shaping your purpose and your decisions.

Exploring futures in Greater Manchester, with this place [of mine]

This project has a focus on empowering young people to reimagine the future of their high streets. Over a series of online workshops, young people from Greater Manchester have explored alternate futures through art, design and hacktivism. The resulting immersive online experience is pretty wild, filled with digital artworks, local artifacts, stories, and more.

Educator as Futurist: Moving beyond preparing to shaping the future

In this blog, Laura McBain explores how educators support their students to envision and build new futures. It’s useful to hear her both acknowledge and tackle the shift from simply preparing for what’s next, to actually shaping those ‘nexts’. Laura also walks through examples of practices the has created to continue developing these new approaches.


As Maya Kuzmanovic said:

You don't need to call yourself a futurist in order for the future to be an important part of your work.

This was originally published on my newsletter, Design With. It was archived in 2023.