dConstruct 2015: Designing the Future

Published at Ladies that UX

This year’s dConstruct was celebrated in Brighton with a really interesting topic on discussion: Designing the Future!

With added perks of good weather, a nice venue and an onstage UFO these interesting set of talks really inspired thought about the future we want.

dConstruct looked at the implications of our design decisions in the future, questioning who should be the ones designing it and how to approach that.

dConstruct was presented by Clearleft and they did an awesome job. Even though the percentage of women/men within the speakers this time was not the one I’d expect for an event of these characteristics.

But dConstruct wasn’t just about talks; there were activities and games that you could enjoy during the breaks for example a mailbox with postcards to be sent to the future yourself and an origami competition.

Activities during the break

It started with some food for thought from Brian David Johnson, who posed the question “What’s the future we want and what’s the future we want to avoid?” He talked about using science fiction as a prototyping tool, using his robot Jimmy as an example. He showed us some kids making their own robots, starting with just one constraint: “What can your robot do that nobody´s robot does?”

Image from Matt Novak’s blog

After it was the turn of Matt Novak, talking about Paleofuture with beautiful images and stories of possible futures from the past. One of the illustrations he presented showed a woman at the wheel, which as he said, was the most futurist part of the image at that time.

One coffee later, John Willshire’s turn arrived. He talked about metadesign and designing from the parents’ perspective. Josh Clark’s talk was about the internet of things and he mentioned how the smartphone was the first mainstream gadget for it. Chris Noessel, who made a great job as a pre-lunch speaker, showed us some beautiful but useless interfaces and interactions from science fiction movies.

Nick Foster talked to us about the future mundane and the physical future as a mixture of elements. It´s not just about the brand new things we design, but the ones that are still pertinent from previous times and how both coexist together.

And finally the turn of the women! The first one was Carla Diana, that showed us how to give emotion to objects with her really impressive robot. She talked about the importance of story-telling, storyboard scenarios, artifacts and how videos can be a really useful design tool.

The next speaker was Ingrid Burrington; using Terminator to introduce other possible futures and talking about the inevitability of systems of power, it was one of those talks that make you reflect about the real impact of what you do stating that “I’m talking about problems that all the Post-It notes in the world can’t solve”.

The final slot was for Dan Hill and Mark Stevenson. Dan talked about cities, how to change mobility and make them more friendly and cited some services that are changing the way spaces work. Then Mark made the best wrap up that this event could have (yes, this was my favorite talk). He started talking about his colleagues; all of them are artists, because he says that you have to arrive to the people´s hearts in order to arrive to their heads. Mark ended telling us we should stop designing just apps and start designing for a better world; we should design something bigger than ourselves.

Mark Stevenson on stage

There were a lot of interesting talks about the future from different perspectives, from the most positive and encouraging ones to the more cautious one. But in all of them there was something in common: it´s a really good moment for us, the designers, to make a real difference on what’s coming next.

This is supposed to be the last dConstruct as we know it, but I’m waiting to see what they do next. However to finish, I´d like to mention a sentence from Brian David Johnson´s talk: “We need more people and more ladies designing robots”, just to remember that we have to keep working on increasing the number of women involved in the design of the future we want.