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Designing desirable futures is more than a recurring theme at Echos; it is our ethos. As technology advances and the challenges of inhabiting our planet become harsher than ever, the notion of having a tool such as human-centred design at hand makes me a little more peaceful. It gives me a glimmer of hope when it comes to thinking about what kind of future we have upon us.  

When we think about “designing futures”, we usually associate the word “future” with our future accomplishments. We think of how our life will be in ten years; we worry about what kind of planet and society we will leave behind to our children and grandchildren in fifty. What we normally avoid thinking, is what kind of future we would want for when the time comes for us to part ways with this world. I know this sounds awfully grim and, quite frankly, we all hate talking about death. The thing is, though, as medicine advances and we live longer than we used to, we also live in pain for longer than ever before.

Last year I interviewed designer, worldbuilder and chronic pain sufferer Laura Cechanowicz, who made finding a way to create a better reality – and future – to “invisible disabled” people, as she calls them, her life’s work.

I asked her: “The health sector as we know it today is much more focused on diagnosis and medication than it is on the person and the circumstances that got them to that diagnosis in the first place. At Echos, we have worked with several clients in the health industry trying to answer this question: how can we make a health process – whatever it may be – more human-centred?” To which she replied: “The more that I can find ways to share peoples stories in an interesting way, the more that I can help people understand where the problems are. Sometimes we can do that through designing funny objects that can draw attention to where these problems are lying, and we can come up with solutions; some of them – I hope – are solutions that we can actually implement in the future. Another way might just be designing to help communicate as I think that, especially for invisible disabilities, one of the biggest problems is communication.”

What became clear to me from researching about our health industry and the way it treats people as patients, is that if we intend to live as long as we are, our care systems need to adjust.

American physician BJ Miller seems to share my point of view. As I came across his heart-wrenching TED Talk, it became so obvious to me that “designing futures” isn’t just about designing for scenarios where we live but also to acknowledge our human mortality and design to care for when we die. 

BJ Miller, TED Talk.

From many of his brilliant insights, here is one that truly resonates with me: “The American healthcare system has more than its fair share of dysfunction — to match its brilliance, to be sure. (…) We who work in it are also unwitting agents for a system that too often does not serve. Why? (…) Because healthcare was designed with diseases, not people, at its center. Which is to say, of course, it was badly designed. And nowhere are the effects of bad design more heartbreaking or the opportunity for good design more compelling than at the end of life, where things are so distilled and concentrated. There are no do-overs. My purpose today is to reach out across disciplines and invite design thinking into this big conversation. That is, to bring intention and creativity to the experience of dying. We have a monumental opportunity in front of us, before one of the few universal issues as individuals as well as a civil society: to rethink and redesign how it is we die.”

Miller’s TED Talk – “What really matters at the end of life” – has been watched by almost 10 million people, and I invite you to watch it too. You won’t regret it.

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Rani Ghazzaoui Luke

Rani is a writer and actor based in Sydney, Australia. She is Echos Head of Content & Communications, and the Editor in Chief of The Echos Newsletter.

Before joining Echos, she worked in full-service advertising agencies as a copywriter, moved onto writing for Broadcast Media, and landed on Digital Media, working first as a Digital Producer and later as a Digital Account Manager. Most recently, she was Lead Client Solutions Manager for GumGum Inc, an ad tech company specialised in Artificial Intelligence.

Rani is a highly curious individual that believes creativity and innovation are the most important tools to propel any person or business forward.

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