Design at the Present Tense
Publications – Article/chapter
We designers, through our activities and our practices, have tirelessly produced the future. We have seen, foreseen and made others see the future by realising it, by making it real. Other disciplines and practices have imagined or planned the future, but they have still relied on design to produce its iterations at a human, vivid and tangible scale. We have been called to materially weave together the horizon of the “vision” and the plane of “action” by using “projects” as vectors. All modern reflections on design and its methods have mobilised this ability as their very disciplinary justification. They have articulated an idea—or an ideal—of design as a problem- solving activity (Dorst, 2006). A transformative process obtained by jumping into the future and then returning to fix a specific reality. The field of Design has unbound its scope ever since, to the point that, as Colomina and Wigley (2016) noted “[t]here is no longer an outside to the world of design. Design has become the world.” This completely designed world, the one that has been brought back from the future, is today showing its fragilities, its precarity. As Tony Fry (1999) showed, design—the global, modern and solutionist enterprise—triggered some significant “defuturing effects”. It contributed to hindering the world itself from having a future. The contemporary reality, along with its political, social, technological and ecological issues (Latour, 2018), transformed the future—once thought of as an infinitely expandable horizon, spatially and temporally—into an incoming pressure acting on the present (Latour, 2010). Faced with a contraction of possibilities in terms of the availability of time and space, we should question the way in which we are allowing our present reality to be investigated, represented, designed and, ultimately, endowed with a future.