Dreaming up reality

Anna Langdon - Purpose Experience Design Team

13 November 2015

Sometimes, when setting out to conquer an insurmountable challenge, we just need permission to imagine it being so. The emerging purpose-led business community wants to see things done differently.  We want ‘better’ 21st Century business.  But what is better?  How can it be different?  What would it look like?  As soon as you express dissatisfaction with an existing system/product/way-of-being and start imagining alternatives, you start thinking like a designer.

In his paper ‘I <3 sustainability, because necessity no longer has agency’, design philosopher Cameron Tonkinwise posits that designers are in the business of constructing the future, in that they literally imagine the future and then materialise it.  Imagination has brought us every designed-thing we cloak ourselves in today, and not just our Happy Socks and our novelty iPhone cases.  To use Tony Fry’s description, we are a ‘designed species’, clothed in human-made shelters, environments, infrastructures, systems, interfaces and practices.

And so, how do we go about visualising the future we desire?  This is where design fictions can come in handy. We can dream up alternatives, use our imagination to invent products, systems, methods, interactions and situations which may not naturally develop within our current structural trajectory.  We can create prototypes of possible futures and put them to the test.

In their book, Speculative Everything:  Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming,’ Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby explore the role of design in imagining alternative ways of being.  Speculative design can inspire people’s imaginations to flow freely and creates spaces for discussion and conversation around the kinds of futures people actually want.  It’s kind of a ‘try before you buy’ approach; a test-drive of a possible reality.  Test tube meat products a delicacy?  Humans giving birth to endangered species?  Technological devices which demand human intimacy?  Utopian visions?  Alternative social structures?

Fiction and imagination are powerful tools for helping us clarify our values, illuminate our purpose and redefine our relationship with reality.  (Remember how you felt about our planet Earth after you saw Avatar?  Or how you looked at your smart phone a little differently after seeing Spike Jonze’s Her?)

So what better location for a conference full of hearty, imaginative conversations about ‘the future of business’ than a theatre stage?  The stage is home to the imagined world; entire other realities are invited to come alive on the theatre stage.  For Purpose, (being held at the Eternity Playhouse in Darlinghurst, December 2015) we are borrowing from theatre conventions in our event theming to create a magical and delightful experience, aimed at stimulating creative conversations and encouraging new perspectives.

In thinking about the role of design in building a better tomorrow, I am currently interested in ‘design to promote imagination and reflection’.  I like to ask:  In what ways can design be useful in facilitating a paradigm shift?  You can see an example of my work in this area here.

At Wildwon, our experience design theory is implicit in what we do, and we keep our wildness close at heart.   When you come to Purpose, take some cues from Marti Guixe’s Traveller’s Manifesto:  bring your humour; your identity as a human person from the Earth; your concentration; your imagination.  These are your tools to really soak up the experience.

And imagine with care…we might be living in your imagined reality a hop, skip and a jump from now.

Experience designer and in house artist




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