Rhetorical Answer

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A response to the question never asked

Through nerd-colored glasses

I just attended the first session of a course called Design: Past, Present, and Future. It is pretty much what it sounds like: a survey of design history from 15,000 BC to the present day, with speculation on future directions. Sitting through the instructor’s halting, verbatim reading of his slides was mostly an exercise in contained boredom, but the class finished with a thought-provoking, structured discussion of the evolution of design. We selected examples of design from the past, ranging from cave paintings to illuminated manuscripts to the Rococo style; identified modern-day analogues; and projected how the designs may continue to evolve. Plenty of my classmates came up with examples from the present, but I noticed that the two people in class who contributed almost all of the ideas in the future trends category were me and another person in class who, shall we say, skew nerdy. Take a look at a few of the ideas brainstormed:

PAST PRESENT FUTURE
cave paintings graffiti
tattoos
murals
laser beam projection into the atmosphere
interactive wall panels
fabric touchscreens
petroglyphs icons
emoticons
still and animated images as txt messages
logos with scannable embedded information
cuneiform laser-cut printing
graffiti in cement
die cuts
3D printing
customizable object extruders
Rococo style excessive weddings
dense data visualizations
data presentations that appeal to senses besides vision – smellovision???

Most of the conjectures for the future were inspired by things we’d read about or seen as emerging technologies that could one day be developed into commercially viable products. It seems extraordinarily difficult to come up with visions of the future that don’t stem from something familiar and present. What do you see coming down the pipe in the next 20-50 years?

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