How Can 2021 be Better by Design?
Looking ahead to how one year’s lessons can yield another’s successes.
Hindsight may be 20/20, but we at OX are ready for some 2021 foresight. So, to end the year on an optimistic note, we posed a question to our organization: “How do you hope 2021 will be made better by design?”
Some of us started with the big picture.
Great design requires thinking carefully about the implications of your actions and inactions. That means considering who will be impacted, how, and to what end — and who might be left behind as a result. Here’s wishing for a more thoughtful 2021.
I hope the world comes back together in 2021 with a radically different “normal” in mind, not a continuation from March 2020. Let’s take advantage of this moment to chart new paths.
By being more intentional about our actions in 2021 and “designing” our lives, we can help 2021 be better by our own design.
Drilling down further, many of us pined for better large-scale systems.
2020 has exposed so many of the hidden and unspoken challenges in our daily lives: Childcare. Hiring practices. Food distribution. Mental health. WiFi deadzones. I hope 2021 will take a larger look at designing policies, services, and infrastructures that will truly help society move in a better direction.
I hope we see significant design improvements in energy, products, and systems so we can curb the climate crisis before it’s too late.
And we held hope that these systems could be made more equitable and inclusive.
I hope that we can design a criminal justice system that is fair and balanced and seeks to protect our children and young adults instead of criminalizing them and forever changing the trajectory of their lives.
I hope that government budgets at all levels are designed with inputs from our least-advantaged community members.
I hope that organizations investing in AI will design more equitable and inclusive algorithms versus those reflecting dominant culture, no matter where they are being built.
We looked to companies for new innovations suited for the world ahead — both big and small.
So many innovations in personal convenience, from voice-activated search to IoT devices, rely on us trusting systems. I hope we design user-first-marketer-later, foolproof, cross-platform personal data security.
I hope we design biodegradable PPE.
I hope someone designs a better tree stand. Arg!!! And a Christmas light timer. Why do I always feel like I’m operating the Mars rover with those things? It’s not that complicated!!!
Many of us hoped to apply social distancing lessons into the real-world experiences of 2021.
In some cases, changes that brick and mortar businesses have made for social distancing have improved the overall experience. I love not being crowded as I shop or eat and drink, for instance. Is that just me?
My polling place this last election was much more efficient than in years past. When people enter through one door and leave through a different one, we can avoid bottlenecks. Why weren’t we doing this from the start?
And we saw other opportunities for improving virtual experiences.
How we come together virtually, from Zoom and FaceTime to social media and Slack, has changed so much so quickly. I hope we put more emphasis on the design of that experience to make it more engaging, more inclusive, more flexible, and less daunting to access and use.
I hope we think more about the relationship between the virtual and physical worlds in how we meet. Maybe we should ask more often if both types of access should be provided. It doesn’t always need to be an either/or solution.
We envisioned better ways for consumers to make buying decisions.
I hope consumers can think about their carbon footprint differently. How can they repurpose what they already own and be creative in their purchases — or be more mindful of what not to purchase? Rather than just spend, spend, spend, I hope we can consciously vote with our dollar in ways that can make an impact.
We wondered how we can treat ourselves better in the year ahead.
I hope we can design our personal lives and schedules in a way that carries forward some of the positive things we learned from quarantine. Here’s to hoping we can leave our fixation with being “busy” in the past, and instead balance our excitement for unrestricted socialization, travel, and activities. Let’s find peace in the quieter side of life.
I hope we prioritize, destigmatize and pursue our own mental health even better than we work to improve our physical health.
Finally, and most immediately, we looked to a current design problem whose solution will help make this hopeful future possible.
Masterminds have spent decades designing logistical systems capable of incredible things. Distributing vaccines in 2021 will be their biggest challenge — and hopefully their greatest success.
All of us at The Office of Experience offer our sincere gratitude for your readership and partnership this year. Here’s to a better and brighter 2021!
(Contributions from Kelly Beasley, Stratton Cherouny, Joe Grimberg, Matt Herlihy, Amy Kaufmann, Emily Meyer, Emily Oxinio, and Yoko Terretta. And as always, illustration by Olimpia Gonzalez.)