About

Dexign Futures is a required class for all third year undergraduate students in the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University.  The Dexign Futures course was based on three prior courses taught by Peter Scupelli, Arnold Wasserman and Judy Brooks. Dexign Seminar, Introduction to Dexign the Future, and Dexign the FutureBelow is a brief overview of the Dexign Futures course.

design |dəˈzīn| noun 1 a plan or drawing produced to show the look and 
function or workings of an object before it is built or made.

The dictionary definition of design emphasizes the function, look and feel, and planning aspects of an object. Communication designer Jorge Frascara (2001) proposes a very different perspective with “Design is not concerned with objects, but with the impact that those objects have on people.” Herb Simon’s definition of design (1969) “Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones” shifts from objects and impacts to more broadly cover “preferred situations.” A preferred situation is much broader than an object, or the impact of design.

dexign |dəˈzīn| noun 1 an experimental type of design that integrates 
Futures Thinking with Design Thinking.

The Dexign Futures course focuses on aligning near term design action with longer time horizons aimed at sustainable futures. Dexign is defined as “an experimental type of design that integrates Futures Thinking with Design Thinking.” The distinguishing feature of dexign in our usage is the focus on aligning current action with long-term sustainability goals. Arnold Wasserman is credited with inventing the term.

The School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University proposed Transition Design as an explicit framework to guide the societal level transition to sustainable futures (Kossoff, Irwin, & Willis, 2016). Peter Scupelli described the difference between designed transitions from a current state to a desirable state and Transition Design (Scupelli, 2016). The Dexign Futures course focuses on aligning near term design action with longer time horizons aimed at sustainable futures.

 While most design is about moving from a current state to a preferred state that is situated somewhere in the future, in practice that future is only an incrementally improved version for the next release of a product. The distinguishing feature of dexign in our usage is the focus on aligning current action with long-term sustainability goals. A further distinguisher of dexign is a critical approach to epistemic authority concerning futures narratives.

|future |ˈfyo͞oCHər| noun 1 (usu. the future) the time or a period of time 
following the moment of speaking or writing; time regarded as still to come.

There is no such thing as a single “future.” Futures are always plural. Futures studies explores possible, plausible, probable, and preferable futures (e.g., Voros, 2001) and their underlying worldviews, myths, cultures, and metaphors (e.g., Inayatullah, 2004).

Just like futures are plural so is the past. There are multiple stories of what happened. The multiplicity of stories and futures are influenced by one’s values, cultures, gender, and perspectives.

The future is already here; it just isn’t very well distributed. 
 - William Gibson, (1993)

The past, present, and future are interconnected. Present decisions can make some futures more likely or unlikely. The present becomes past as futures become present.

The future is fiction. It will come, of course, 
we hear about it all the time, 
but the old wisdom knows that only what is, and what was, exists. 
The rest does not, because no one ever saw it or touched it. 
- Andrzej Stasiuk, (2004)

Publications

Scupelli, P., Brooks, J. & Wasserman, A. (2016) Making Dexign Futures learning happen: A case study for a flipped, Open-Learning Initiative course. Design Educators IDSA International Conference 2016: Making Things Happen. August 17-20, Detroit, MI, USA.  [25% acceptance rate (10 accepted, 41 submitted)]

Scupelli, P., Wasserman, A. & Brooks, J. (2016) Dexign Futures: A Pedagogy for Long-Horizon Design Scenarios. 2016 Conference of the Design Research Society (DRS2016), 27-30 June, Brighton, United Kingdom.
[11% accepted with revisions,(53 accepted with revisions, 478 submitted)]

Wasserman, A., Scupelli, P., & Brooks, J. (2015) Learning to Dexign the Future. Design Educators Asia Conference 2015. December 1-2, Jockey Club Innovation Tower, Hong Kong, China. [30% acceptance rate,(31 accepted, 105 submitted)]

Wasserman, A., Scupelli, P., & Brooks, J. (2015) Learn!2050 and Design Futures: Lessons learned teaching design futures.  Design Educators IDSA International Conference 2015: Future of the Future. August 19-22, Seattle, WA.
[50% acceptance rate,(21 accepted, 42 submitted)]

Scupelli, P. & Wasserman, A. (2014). Dexign the future: lessons learned from teaching a design studio course on human-centered innovation for exponential times. Oxford Futures Forum, OFF2014, Saïd Business School, Oxford University, May 30-31, 2014.