Futureform  Conceptual Inquiry






'Futureform' is the culmination of a year-long conceptual inquiry: my senior capstone project. It includes a series of interconnected areas of research:

1:  The ‘maker’ in the 21st Century,
2:  Moving beyond antiquated methods,
3:  Explorations of graphic style, and
4:  Engineering a new ‘ecosystem’





1: The ‘maker’ in the 21st Century

Before the computer, designers were physically tied to the analog process of creating their work. Now, software allows us to ideate much more efficiently—at the cost of operating an interface from behind a screen. 

No matter the seniority of the designer, they’ve stepped into the role of a ‘composer’: the art of directing multiple software agents to produce a desired object by the use of gesture. 


To illustrate the concept, I created my first 3D-printed object. The designer of a 3D-printed object works digitally and is physically separated from it until it is brought into existance. These advanced software options are like having a small team that helps influence and drive the direction of a project.















2: Moving beyond antiquated methods

No matter where we look, old habits die hard—in politics, in hospitality, at home—when a system is big enough it becomes difficult to change. But just because something is difficult to change does not mean we should not try if there are stronger alternatives. For this section of the project, I focused on two antiquated systems: restroom signage, and exhibition tactics.

Public Restroom Signage

To find a public restroom—a slightly uncomfortable place of refuge—we search for a sign with a little picture signifying a man or woman. What? Upon further investigation, it is a complicated issue with many ardent opinions surrounding it.

Inspired by Cooper Union’s decision to remove gender distinctions from their signs, I’ve proposed an alternative that designates the contents of the room, rather than who is allowed in.




Indicating the type of person that is allowed into the room is exclusive and enforces gender stereotypes. 

This sign is a step in the right direction, but the majority of people do not feel ‘neutral’ about their gender.


By utilizing symbols of the amenities encountered inside, this solution facilitates a choice based on one’s own preferences.





The Senior Exhibition

We’ve all seen a DIY exhibition consisting of work, displayed on a wall, with supporting vinyl text. This is okay, but for the senior exhibition of a leading design institution, we needed to show our creative problem solving, down to the wall text.

We decided to not use vinyl, because the material is made from a plastic that never deteriorates. Why are we using such a durable material for exhibitions that span less than a month? Instead, a modular system comprised of cardboard and non-traditional display surfaces made the exhibition interactive and far less wasteful.



















3: Explorations of graphic style

As an opportunity to sharpen my visual design prowess, I examined a number of trends and experimented with new ways to move forward.

Future Posters

Navigating the modern world leaves us with many intense questions about our legacy as a species. These posters represent that idea, the sort of existential angst in the younger population.







Skeuomorphism

Eventually, the flat on-screen design trend will crash and burn, leaving us looking for alternatives. We have to find a middle ground between faking reality with skeuomorphism and scrubing away joy with material.

I explored this idea further in the final section of this project.















4: Engineering a new ‘ecosystem’

‘Futureform’ reached its crescendo as an investigation into how my vision of a better technological future might materialize. 

It all begins with the theory of the ‘tripple bottom line,’ which represents a model of genuine sustainability: economy, culture, and environment. They’re all symbiotic, like an ecosystem—you can’t simply focus on one without harming the others.


Environment


Culture

Economy


The new world is on-screen. Regardless of whether this is good or bad, it is true, so it would be ideal if it was designed in the best interest of the people who use it.

A large portion of what makes the current situation toxic is rampant advertising. It’s an absolutely necessary evil, companies have to have capital. But my exploration centers around providing more freedom of choice to consumers.

On Instagram, every fifth item one sees is an advertisement. For some, this might be fine—but I imagined having different options that suit individual lifestyles. 




I imagine three different options:

1: Paywall subscription that eliminates all advertising
2: Intermittent advertising (the current model)
3: ‘Adwall’ that unlocks content after viewing advertising

We unfairly expect online content to be free. It would be like walking into a grocery store end expecting to get something for free after watching an ad—it’s just not sustainable. However, when online, not everyone has the means to access paid content, so supplementing that with advertising models keeps it fair for everyone. 




The Collection

Our mobile devices have much more potential than how we are currently enabled to use them. Are there more things that can be migrated to a digital form, reducing physical waste? Is there a more engaging experience that is ‘unlocked’ by the screen?

These questions led me to the idea of the ‘collection,’ a digital space that expands upon the digital wallet. Along with boarding passes, you would collect important documents and ‘digital objects’ that you could carry with you everywhere you go.






The cornerstone to this concept is the creation of ‘digital objects.’ Skeuomorphism isn’t sustainable because it attempts to visually emulate reality in a non-real space. Material design isn’t sustainable because it strips experience to the bare minimum. Somewhere in between, where objects have depth that is true to their environment, a new visual model will emerge.



Navigational elements are placed at the bottom of the display, where it it natural for the hand and fingers.













Thank you to Isaac Gertman and Kristian Bjornard for all the help and guidance during this project.

Mark