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If this past year has shined a light on anything, it’s the need for a robust overhaul to the education sector in America. Chronic misinformation, divisiveness, and untruths have run rampant, leaving our nation to fall behind in the fight for healing during the Covid pandemic. And even as experts blaze forward designing new communications technologies, contact tracing platforms, and scientific solutions like vaccines and rapid testing, many in the general public continue to ignore a universe of fact — in lieu of opinion.

This, more than anything, points to a missing link in education — the inability to creatively problem solve, define rational strategies, and to observe nuanced information and make informed decisions as a result. Moreover, students (and adult learners) have been thrust into hybrid and remote learning environments, creating a gap between those who succeed and those who struggle with this adapted learning model. But we can’t afford to leave anyone behind in the evolution of our educational system — from K-12 or beyond. …


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What day is it? November.

More than ever, the aging population has been at the forefront of conversations since COVID-19. Many of us are wondering how to spend time with our parents, grandparents, or other aging friends and relatives. And as we check in with them — often by phone — we’re curious how they’re actually coping with the rampant isolation beyond the friendly voice they wear for our calls. Here in the US, where we tend not to live in multigenerational households, that’s especially true.

Increasingly, we’re turning to technology and automation as bridges to maintain connections and to help our loved ones get the support they need with video calls, smart watches, supply subscriptions and such — evermore innovating new, well-intentioned support structures for aging. But what happens when those innovations go too far? When the digital life of a grandparent becomes a thin substitute for real human connection and companionship? Or worse, when our focus on tactical solutions — like ensuring Dad or Grandma Bess take their pills on time — registers as a false positive and convinces us we no longer need to stop over the weekend to check-in. …


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The Future of Aging is an exploration into the inevitability of technology as a well-intentioned support structure for aging. As the baby boomer generation grows into their later stage of life, many of us are watching our parents, or grandparents, age. Their expectations for growing old are unique to this generation — they’d prefer to avoid nursing homes and are looking for creative solutions to retire on their own terms — and in their own homes.

It’s tempting to throw technology at the challenge of aging in place, given that ability to see potential in helping our parents through designing systems of automation. But a technological cure-all can be dangerous, too — and can quickly become as out-of-sight and out-of-mind an experience as the nursing home one. So as we consider applying tech to solve real life challenges for a generation who wasn’t raised with automation, there are essential design considerations to be sure the solutions we create really help — and with empathy for the person’s true needs. …


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Design research is about spending time with real people and using their experiences as the center of influence for our designs—rather than shaping them based on technical and market trends.

In this introduction to design research, Jon Kolko — expert designer, strategist, educator, author, founder of Austin Center for Design, and COO here at Modernist — shares case study examples, discusses predictions versus provocations (and which approach is the most successful), and teaches how to implement user-centered research methods including think-aloud testing, diary studies, post cards, and user timelines.

Watch the video below.

Learn more about Modernist’s approach to design strategy at moderniststudio.com and add your email to receive our monthly Design Futures content for more resources and inspiration. …


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Designers aim too low. To better understand large and important scientific phenomena, scientists have large and important scientific research tools that can cost tens of billions of dollars. Design researchers are trying to understand large and important behavioral and cultural phenomena, and we, too, need large and important design research tools.

So, where is design’s billion-dollar research tool? What is the Petri dish for design, the space to propose ideas, explore new provocations, and see the impact of designs on culture?

The Large Hadron Collider is a massive machine that helps physicists explore theories about particle physics. It’s physically enormous, took years to build, required collaboration between many countries, and is a shared tool. Estimates of its initial building costs hover around ten billion dollars, and estimates for operations are approximately 1 billion a year. On paper or in casual conversation, it seems an impossibility. The construction and costs aside, to build such a machine requires collaboration between opinionated scientists across political borders, and the logistics of coordinating such a project seem insurmountable. …


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Design strategy is all about experience, emotional insight, and narratives, built on a foundation of empathy. It’s designing for behavior over time instead of just a single moment in a static artifact.

In this introduction to design strategy, Jon Kolko — expert designer, strategist, educator, author, founder of Austin Center for Design and COO here at Modernist — discusses in the ins and outs of combining design and business, transcending reality, getting real about careers, and creating value for companies large and small.

From Disney to Blackboard, learn about using design strategy to build iconic brands, products, services, and systems that users want and need. …


Profile of an experience designer or design strategist surrounded by textures and pencils
Profile of an experience designer or design strategist surrounded by textures and pencils

Here at Modernist Studio, we create products that solve real problems for real people. We believe in humanizing design — and technology — and that requires educating people about the way our process works in a scalable way. It doesn’t always come easy, but the process is one that can transform the way businesses approach and execute on new ideas, creating sustaining value over time.

We also focus on sparking new ways of thinking for those interested in design strategy, interaction design, service design and product management through courses, trainings, and bootcamps. …


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Lately, it feels like we are balancing on the edge of a great conflict. The landscape seems full of friction, miscommunication, and an abundance of misalignment between strangers, commerce, politics, and even friends and family amidst these great distances. Within this trend, we are pondering peace: how to define it, what it means, how to achieve it.

We move first to the obvious: the opposite of war. Then to someplace more intimate and vulnerable — the notion of being at peace with oneself. Then peace resembles a journey map — a process that requires work, intention, and awareness at every juncture. …


A speculative design exploration

Man using an interactive app design that maps historic, political, and cultural moments in his city
Man using an interactive app design that maps historic, political, and cultural moments in his city

“The past has been there all along, reminding us: This time — maybe, hopefully, against all odds, we will get it right.” — Leslie T. Chang

In honor of its 75th anniversary, the United Nations called on designers and futurists to imagine how a future of sustained peace could take shape.

The call is timely — the UN framed its initiative as a search for “speculative design artifacts that evoke novel futures of how to sustain peace” at a moment rife with clashes over racial justice and staggering inequality in the United States, rising global tensions over a pandemic, ongoing regional conflicts, and the fracturing of longstanding international coalitions. …


September 2020 event in partnership with IxDD

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On September 29, 2020, Modernist Studio hosted a lively evening of moderated discussions with top design and technology experts around the relationship between Design, Culture, and Sustainability. With real-world examples, followed by a series of “what-if” provocations, we opened the door for new perspectives, unexpected partnerships, resource uses, approaches, processes, and insights for adapting to our rapidly and profoundly changing world.

Were you unable to attend Future Sessions? Or do you want to revisit the resources and insights shared by these industry experts? …

About

Modernist Studio

Modernist Studio is a strategy, experience design and innovation consultancy that designs and builds the future across products, services, experiences and teams

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