Fast Company

Thinking Our Way Toward the Future, Faster

When the dot-coms were revvin' up their engines, we thought things were changing fast, and that opened up plenty of opportunities for design. We loved to read about speedy people taking advantage of the quick changes. Today we really need to think faster about the future--if we want one! Aesop's fables about grasshoppers, ants, turtles and rabbits are basically about how we can control our future if we are careful and plan ahead. They are stories design about making the future better than today.

ants

I used to think that fables, myths, songs and movies were mostly about love. But now I've been thinking about how they all boil down to the conflict between truth and fiction (love still fits), reason and magic, now and later. And like the heroes on quests, solving crimes, or combating dragons, designers are fighting those battles everyday: Trying to get clients to believe in the truth and to ignore the irrational whims of the public that are based on false information, faulty reasoning and foolish mob influence.

Then I was thinking that most people don't even think about the future much, or at least not very far into it. Their dreams are really about now: "I wish I could eat like this every night." Their goal is to be comfortable: "I wish I was taking a nap." Those dreamers don't think about where things come from. Like the boy in the balloon, they are surprised when something happens.

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But the very essence of design is thinking ahead--that's how we make things better. Designers use basic logic and physics: "I do this to make that happen." Problem solving, experiments, design thinking, creativity, strategy, talent, feedback loops--we use anything we can muster.

We have real problems now and we need speedy solutions. To fix the economy, end terrorism and slow climate change and all that, we need grasshoppers and rabbits!

Read Tucker Viemeister's blog What's Cookin'?
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Tucker Viemeister leads the Lab at Rockwell Group, an interactive technology design group combining digital interaction design, modeling, and prototyping for hotels and restaurants, casinos, packaging, and products. The LAB seeks to blur the line between the physical and virtual, exploring and experimenting with interactive digital technology in objects, environments, and stories. Tucker also co-founded the collaborative Studio Red with David Rockwell that was dedicated to innovation for Coca-Cola. Since joining Rockwell Group in 2004, Tucker has been instrumental in the design and development of JetBlue's Marketplace at the JFK International Airport, "Hall of Fragments," an installation that opened the Corderie dell'Arsenale at the 2008 Venice Biennale, a "living wall" for the lobby of the Sheraton Toronto, the traveling Red Lounge for Coca-Cola, and MGM City Centre in Las Vegas.

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