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Design Challenge: Future-Casting

Mark Notermann - SAM Gets Dirty - Solution to Future-Casting Challenge from Creative Workshop

Until the end of the year, I'll be sharing design challenges from my book Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills, which was just released by HOW Design Press. The book consists of 80 creative challenges that will help you achieve a breadth of stronger design solutions, in various media, within any set time period. Each exercise includes compelling visual solutions from other designers and background stories to help you increase your capacity to innovate. Here's the third one in this series, "Future-Casting."

We can be trapped in cold, hard business realities.

Sell a million more widgets by Q4 and bring in twenty cents profit on the dollar. Conduct this rebrand so we can reap a ten-percent increase in our overall customer satisfaction rating. We can barely keep up with the constant iteration of competing products and services.

Then there are clients whose aim is to not only strive to become leaders in their industry, generating meaning and delight for their customers, but also to anticipate their role in shaping that industry’s long-term future—and by extension, how we may positively reconsider how we live our lives today. Part of the reason that these clients succeed is because they invest in wielding the power of design to re-envision what their business could become in three, five, or ten years.

Never thought about what the far-off future holds for your clients? Gain some practice by forging a long-term vision for a nonprofit institution in your area.

You’ve been tapped by a modern art museum in your region to help them brainstorm a booth for next year’s Art Basel Miami Beach, one of the most important art shows in the world. The booth needs to sell to collectors, donors, artists, and investors what the vision of the museum will be five years in the future.

Take thirty minutes to brainstorm big-picture concepts, then spring into action and execute your best idea in 30 minutes as an architectural rendering, being aware of what materials and inputs are necessary to fabricate the experience. And if you have some free time left, determine the logistics necessary—both in dollars and time—to ship, build, and staff the booth for the four days of the show.

Mark Notermann - SAM Gets Dirty - Solution to Future-Casting Challenge from Creative Workshop

In the example shown above, designers Mark Notermann and Jill Vartenigian brainstormed the following ideas for a Seattle Art Museum exhibit in thirty minutes, which Mark then executed. “The concept for presenting a future for SAM is based on combining the element of random play as an act of creation, and digital media as a means of participation and connection. A kiosk with ‘dirt boxes’—magnetically charged dirt-like material—would be the interface to control audio and visual output. Each participant would need to spend time in play, learning the interface, before becoming more deliberate with their audiovisual compositions. Two touchpad controls would allow them to wipe the display or save a static image to their e-mail address or phone as a keepsake.”

Want more? The first 24 pages of Creative Workshop are available free on Scribd.

David Sherwin is an interaction design director at frog. He has built his reputation as a design leader, interaction designer, and researcher with 17 years of experience in generating compelling solutions for systemic business problems. David is the author of Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills and Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers. You can follow David on Twitter @changeorder.