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Everyone in the world is making changes in their daily lives. We have been asked to put the health of others before our own comfort. Should human centred designers also be making a shift?

One of the most prominent changes happening globally is moving from thinking in a primarily individualistic sense to a broader society focus. Designers should start thinking less in terms of ‘human’centred design to ‘society’centred design.

Part of this new outlook means becoming comfortable with complexity. What does this mean for a typical design process? It means when we design with our users in mind, we need to think of the larger impact of our product or service. What are the other layers of society that surround our user, and what are the flow on effects of this new service?

Let’s look at an example using ride sharing apps. The apps are an amazing experience for users who are booking their rides. However, for the drivers, it can be a different situation entirely. What is the real effect of the ride sharing service in their lives? In some circumstances a driver can work 12 hours to just make enough money for their car payments. They are barely able to sustain themselves in the gig economy.

What happens if we shift to a more society centred design? It adds an additional layer of complexity. We are not only thinking about the users booking the car, we are thinking about designing a sustainable livelihood for the drivers.

This is an important transformation in how we think about our impact on the world. The actions of each individual can have a global effect. We are learning to understand the complexities of our systems. The current global crisis we are living with has exposed this large and growing crack, we are not designing for whole systems.

Global Challenges Versus Local Solutions
We are experiencing a global problem that is being treated locally. As designers we have been trained to focus on our local communities to co-create solutions. Now is the perfect time to shift our mindset. Global challenges need a global solution. This pandemic is not just a problem in China, Italy or Australia. It’s global. If we shift our thinking to a global societal scale it is going to make us stronger as designers and empowered global citizens.

Change Happens One Step At A Time
As designers we need to be optimistic, so we can create new and interesting solutions. We need to ask questions like, what are the social problems? What are the societal needs? What is the emerging technology that people are embracing now? These are big questions, however, if we neglect asking them at the beginning of our journey we risk repeating our past mistakes or worse making solutions that make the problems worse, not better.
How should we start thinking about tackling these issues? One step at a time. Start asking questions such as, how can we do better for our users? How can we add one more layer of stakeholders to creating better systemic design? If we try and tackle everything at once we will fail. But if we take it one layer at a time, we will begin the journey towards deeper understanding and better outcomes or our world.

Four Principles To Guide Thinking About The Future
We have four guiding principles for thinking about the future. They are steps that we have refined over the years to create better outcomes for our systems and societies.

1- From People

People should always drive future design; it should not only be driven by technological enhancement. Every future design is intentional and needs to be designed by people to suit all of society.

2 – Emergent

Many people think about the future looking exclusively to emerging technology. We believe in also examining emerging behaviours, cultures, and social-political movements. We define emergence as things start from the bottom up, but aren’t yet mainstream, and can feel hidden from most people’s points of view.

3 – Ethical and diverse

Every creation of a desirable future state is a political act, it should be ethical and diverse. Designing futures must be a collaborative, inclusive and ethical task.

4 – A possibility

The future is always a possibility and not a destination. As an intentional act of change, and as designers of future, we need to see the future as a spectrum of possibilities, where unpredictable things can happen. And as unforeseen events can alter the path of the future, it’s always important to remember that any future is still only a possibility. That means we still have the power to create change.

We designed these four principles to help us create desirable futures. Desirable futures sit far from dystopias, a vision of the future that is often apocalyptic or negative. On the other hand, it doesn’t sit next to utopias, often too fictitious and idealistic. Desirable futures are achievable preferred futures, designed co-creatively, bringing diversity from people, emergent and ethical future forms that help to inform us how to get to these better futures.

In this moment of time, the questions you should be asking yourself is where do we want to go from here? And how do we achieve it?

We would like to leave you with this final thought:

“It’s impossible to predict exactly what’s going to happen. The future is not a prediction at all, it is just a range of possibilities. We need to speculate possibilities to make the ones we desire more probable, because they are the futures we would prefer.” Juliana Proserpio, Chief Design Officer, Founder

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