Some notes on “forward-thinking design”

19 February 2012

A few weeks ago, Christopher Butler (who you might know for his year of ideas books) asked me if I could supply some notes on “forward-thinking design, the skills designers need that they may not have learned in school, and the future of their practice” for HOW magazine.

The full article is now online, including some comments from me. I was a bit apprehensive about writing this: I’m not trained in design, but I know and have worked with people who very much are, so I’m wary of making proclamations. Also, much of my own understanding and practice is shaped by my time (and colleagues) at Berg, so I hope they understand where my thoughts come from. As ever, their work on “Immaterials” has a lot to say here.

But I also hope there’s a bit of me in there too, and that I didn’t say anything too heinous.

Read the full article here.

  • "My hope is that Playfic opens up the world of interactive fiction to a much wider audience — young writers, fanfic authors, and culture remixers of all ages." Which is always the audience Inform 7 felt like it was really branching out towards. Sometimes the way to make things accessible is to lower the cost of entry – and in that case, it means a webservice, rather than a downloadable app. Will be interested to see how Playfic develops.
  • "As a novelist, his ludic delight in finding new ways of playing with language — new ways of narrowing the ever-descending phalanx of cliché — is palpable in every sentence. So for all its contextual aberrance, this strange and disreputable book actually makes a certain kind of warped sense. And if for some reason you happen to be looking for a guide to arcade games of the early 1980s, you could probably do a lot worse." I knew of the book already – but this is a striking look at it.
  • "…what he fundamentally had right was the understanding that you could no longer run a country properly if the elites don’t understand technology in the same way they grasp economics or ideology or propaganda. His analysis and predictions about what would happens if elites couldn’t learn were savage and depressingly accurate." Timely, sad, accurate, and lovely writing from Tom. A particular twinge of sadness for our loss as I realise I'm now older than Chris was when he died.
  • "…a whole art form has developed in my lifetime. I remember for the first time reading: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." I remember the first time I heard: "I believe in America. America has made my fortune." And I remember standing in an open field, west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox here." This is quite baggy and in places unfocused, but every now and then, there are moments of sharp focus. Most notably: the relation of the impulse to write to the impulse to play games (an escapist impulse in Prebble's mind, but that's not a bad one), and the understanding that 'culture is culture'.

Links & notes for this month