Design for the Long Now

This Fall, faculty members Herman D'Hooge and Laura O'Quinn led students in an innovative course called "Design for the Long Now". This course is about designing solutions to complex societal or environment problems such as social injustice, climate change, environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, poverty, intra- or inter-generational inequity requires taking the long view.

To be more precise, it involves the deep integration of Design Thinking, Systems Thinking, and Long-Term Thinking in highly diverse collaborative settings. Dovetailing with the Design and System Thinking disciplines, which are taught in sibling courses, the Long-Term Thinking class starts out by exploring human’s ability – or perhaps more precise the lack of ability – to factor long-term considerations into short-term decisions. This more theoretical portion of the class delves into neuroscience, social psychology, and behavioral economics to provide science-based insights into how we as humans are wired to think about the future and how one can develop communication strategies that are proved effective at getting people to take actions today that are likely to lead to a more desirable future. That is, a future that does not limit or eliminate options available to our future self and/or future generations.

During the hands-on studio portion of the class students work together as a team on the conception, design, and production of an artifact through which they are challenged to demonstrate both their understanding of - and their ability to integrate and apply - the theoretical elements of the class. Besides being a practicum for learning and applying various collaboration and art/design/making skills, in order to successfully carry out their team project, students are also have to reflect on the role Design (or Art) can play in encouraging Long-Term Thinking from their audience and how to infuse long-termness into a repeatable creative design process so it can become a consideration in all design.

This year, students elected to create and publish a “Field Guide for Long-Term Thinking” intended as a practical guide for sparking long-term thinking. Its target audience was the layman; someone not required to be versed in the underlying theories, sciences, or frameworks. Each student created an individual point of view of what they felt would be a useful way of guiding the reader. Each of the sections were then compiled into a small coil-bound booklet, complete with a collectively written introduction, instructions for use, and parting thoughts. Besides applying long-term thinking learnings from the class, students learned about publishing as an artistic process—creating design briefs, team self-coordination, outlining roles and responsibilities, project planning, prioritization, and meeting deadlines. Alongside all the coordination, students also produced the publication managing all the publication design; layout, color, paper selection, pagination, and Risograph printing. In all 17 field guides were produced at Nike’s Blue Ribbon Lab, one of which can be checked out from the PNCA Library.