Course Description

Course description ASW v. 3.3, 02.12.13

DEXIGN THE FUTURE: Human Centered Innovation for Exponential Times

Arnold Wasserman & Peter Scupelli.

“It had long since come to my attention

that people of consequence

rarely sat back and waited for things to happen to them…

…they went out and happened to things”

– Leonardo Da Vinci

The job of the designer is to go out and happen to things.

During the coming 50 years of your design career, you will happen to things in a world where everything will change and accelerate exponentially in ways uncertain today.

But uncertainty does not mean one can only wait for things to happen.

The purpose of this course is to explore the direction of design for exponential times, and to ask what methods and tools might serve designers to happen to things in uncertain futures.

We will ask how designers can develop and use an understanding of the forces – social, economic, political, environmental, technological – that are likely to create change in the future and how to align innovation with the trajectory of those forces.

This is not about predictions or forecasts, which rarely prove accurate. These tend to view the future in a push way, as a linear projection forward from the present. Designers, by contrast, take an imaginative leap into a desired future and then integrate backward (its called backcasting) to describe what has to happen, the milestones of progress and the solutions, to bring that future into being. DEXIGN THE FUTURE is about using design to help pull forces of change toward what are known as “normative scenarios” – vision narratives of positive, desired futures.

As corporations, governmental organizations and civil associations face exponential change in turbulent and uncertain times, increasingly they are looking to designers for new ways of thinking and acting. Designers today have opportunities to be thought leaders, strategists, activists, and agents of change in complex socio-technical problems throughout the private, public, civil and philanthropic sectors worldwide.

In this studio course, students:
1. Explore your role of designers in an explosively dynamic field in a radically transforming world.
2. Learn to use long-range strategic scenarios to understand the forces that will create change to shape the design of not only material culture but the institutions and policies that shape democratic society.
3. Develop the tools, skills, resources required to be a proactive agent of positive change.
4. Collaborate with researchers, professionals and change agents across the CMU campus and the Pittsburgh region as well as remotely.
5. Gain teamwork experience to understand how high performing multi-disciplinary teams operate on complex, wicked problems.

The Semester Project: Student teams will create design scenarios for life in 2050 in Pittsburgh 3.0 (e.g., home, work, learning, health, community, mobility, play, creativity). This design studio course is “blended”. Delivered mainly in a traditional studio setting, the course is augmented by remote online instruction, including global online tele-guest coaches.
We will also use a “flipped” structure in which students will view instructors’ presentations and view reference materials online prior to class in order to maximize teamwork time and discussion during class hours.

Context Understand design content within larger contexts: social, economic, environmental, technological, and political.

Methods Use long-range strategic scenarios to understand the forces that will create changes that will shape the future of material culture in democratic society

Outcomes Create future design scenarios for LIFE2050 in PGH X.0, focusing on areas such as:
Sustainable Production & Consumption, Economic Development, Learning, Wellness, Habitat, Energy and Resilient Community.

Locus Pittsburgh LIFE2050 in PGH X.0.

Structure Prototype for global open design studio.

Why take this course

  • Understand your rapidly changing role as designers in an explosively dynamic profession in a radically transforming world.
  • Learn the tools, skills, resources required to be a proactive agent of positive change.
  • Collaborate with researchers, professionals and change agents across campus, in the Pittsburgh metro region and globally online.
  • Gain teamwork experience to understand how high performing, multi-disciplinary teams operate on big, wicked problems.

Who should take this course:
Obviously any School of Design graduate students or senior design student in HCI, Heinz, Tepper, Architecture.

Also anybody else at CMU that understands Design as broadly construed by CMU Nobelist Herb Simon:

“Everyone designs

who devises courses of action

aimed at changing existing situations

into preferred ones”

– Herbert A. Simon, Sciences of the Artificial, 1969

 all materials copyright © Scupelli & Wasserman 2013 unless otherwise noted.

2 thoughts on “Course Description

    • Anita, DEXIGN THE FUTURE was an experimental course in the Fall 2013 semester at the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon U. in Pittsburgh. My co-instructor, Prof. Peter Scupelli, will be giving the course again in Fall 2014/Spring 2015. This time it will be a two-semester sequence with the Fall course as a prerequisite for the Spring.
      Here is Peter’s email if you want to pursue it further:

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