From how we communicate and connect to how we dress, eat, work, travel and play, designers and illustrators dream up what everyday life will be like, in close to 50 years’ time, in Tomorrow: Design Stories of our Future. This was exhibited at SingaPlural 2017, an anchor event of the Singapore Design Week.
Curated by homegrown multidisciplinary creative agency BLACK, project editor Justin Zhuang of writing studio In Plain Words says: “It is exciting to speculate about our future. As much as we plan for it, there will be something that we did not account for and that keeps us guessing.” Jackson Tan, Creative Director of BLACK wanted the designers and illustrators to “dream wildly” with the emphasis that good design can shape our dreams into future reality.
We dive into some of these dreams from Tomorrow: Design Stories of our Future with excerpts from the exhibition.
Concept by Randy Chan
Illustrations and texts by Lee Xin Li
Connect is about identity with respect to our relationship to distance, the perception of distance and our surroundings. These relationships shape our perception of identity. In the next 50 years, we are set to experience uncertain transformation that will shape the way we connect as technology, climate change, demographic shifts and political events unfold.
In the next 50 years, we might see sea levels rise that change the geography we once know as Singapore. High-speed rails, hyper loops, virtual connectivity will shape our definition of Singapore and our worlds. Communities are set to become more connected yet plausibly isolated in selective universes known as “bubbles”. Like the evolution of languages, it will be “same same but different” as we adapt our identities to the changing of times shaped by the way we connect in constant flux.
What is work?
Concept and text by Wendy Chua and Gustavo Maggio (forest&whale)
Illustration by Koh Hong Teng
Does it bring to mind the emotional rewards of a vocation? Or the pursuit of money and power? Is it the means to an end; or an end in itself? It seems, in a capitalist society, work is undeniably tied to wages. We rarely work for its own sake – like the craftsman who seeks to perfect his skills and not his profits, experiencing the flow of making. Instead, in the name of productivity, the virtues of hard work have been ingrained into our sense of purpose and duty; though few found a calling in their industry and fewer found joy.
We work for survival. Imagining a future where machines take over work, we live longer, we work on Mars and we return to farming instead. How will the human form be redesigned to work?
Against this norm, philosopher Bertrand Russell argued that “the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organised diminution of work.” He saw that “modern methods of production” have created the possibility of ease and stability for all. Working hours can be reduced to four a day for the provision of basic necessities, and the rest of the day spent in idleness – a contemplative habit of mind open to play, discovery and study of “useless knowledge”. But dismissed as idealistic, the 20th century saw an increase in working hours for the employed and desperate struggles for the unemployed.
Concept by STUCK Design and Dan Wong
Design and renderings by STUCK Design
Illustrations by Dan Wong
Story by Justin Zhuang
“Please remain calm. A replacement bus is on its way,” said the driver. “We apologise for the inconvenience caused.” He couldn’t believe his luck. Of all days, the bus had to break down when he was rushing to catch a flight out. Unzipping himself from the nap pod, he picked up his luggage before lining up behind the other annoyed passengers. He would have given the driver a piece of his mind – except “she” was virtual. Plus, it had a camera. The last thing he needed right now was getting his courtesy points docked for abusing the bus driver. The bus door opened to a collective groan from the passengers. Somehow, the bus had brought them to Yishun.
What if we can travel overseas without physically being there in the future?
“Wa lao, how we come here?” exclaimed the uncle in front of him. “Simi fuzzy logic? More like funny logic!” He nodded in agreement. This was supposed to be a 30-minute ride from Punggol to Changi. How they ended up further from where they began eluded his human brain. This “smart” system was what took over when Singapore became the first city in the world to automate its transportation network. The once car-lite city gave way entirely to a self- driving fleet of public busses powered by artificial intelligence. Fixed bus routes were replaced by flexible journeys based on demand and traffic conditions.
Pro-Limiters Concept and rendering by Hans Tan with Loren Lim and Jon Chan
Illustrations by André Wee
Text by Justin Zhuang
She stared at the countdown timer projected on her spectacles, wishing her school bus would not actually arrive in 10 minutes. Daddy and mummy had left her to wait by herself this morning because of work, but that wasn’t why she felt all anxious and flustered. “15 more points…where can I get it?” she mumbled as she desperately scanned the void deck. Nothing came up except the notice board blinking at her to download the town council’s latest newsletter. She sighed. There would be no more time once she boarded the bus.
Her glasses would be synced to the school cloud automatically – so would her incomplete assignment. If only she helped mummy do the chores yesterday. That would have been worth 10 points. Instead, she pretended not to hear and continued studying. Her spectacles noticed and docked 5 points for not paying attention. She thought of appealing and saying she was studying for today’s science test. But she recalled what her teacher replied that last time she tried, “Grades are not everything, you have to listen to mummy too.”
With the increasing proliferation of augmented reality, the world we live in becomes a playground for each of us.
Pro-limiters is a collection of speculative artifacts for an alternative future world where augmented reality is ubiquitous. With reality medicated through augmentation, digitalisation, artificial intelligence and holography, our perception of reality has been desensitised as computer-generated sensory blends with the real world environment. Therefore, with these “essential products” that assist us in neutralising and negotiating with the veil of mediated reality, this project experiments with the plausible social, emotional and cognitive implications of these phenomena.
SingaPlural is an annual festival that celebrates design in all forms and functions. The 2017 edition in March focused on 'Stories' and was curated by design firm BLACK. SingaPlural is organised by the Singapore Furniture Industries Council in partnership with DesignS.
Banner image: skyland@keppel, an imagined pioneer state experiment to reclaim land from the skies and redefine home ownership for Singaporeans. Concept and rendering by Tan Cheng Siong.