It's about time we move beyond the call for hope and greatness.

Why Trump’s #MAGA and Obama’s #YesWeCan have kept us a decade in the dark, and how we can define a new #FutureField

When did we forget that ‘future’ is a verb? Not too long ago, the world felt buoyant with Obama’s promise of hope. Yet without a clear vision to harness itself to, the groundswell of communal momentum that swept him into office soon dissipated into a directionless passivity. Just as our political narrative has shifted from ‘Yes We Can’ to ‘Make America Great Again’, the expansiveness we once felt has been replaced by a mindset more intent on recreating past visions than dreaming up new ones.

Haus-Rucker-Co’s Environmental Transformer helmets: the Flyhead, the Viewatomiser and the Drizzler, 1968 (left).
Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog, established 1968 (right).

Our industries and artistic disciplines doggedly champion social change but feel yoked by their need to address the pressing critical issues that define today. Even the best-intentioned use creativity merely as a mode of problem-solving to dig our way out of what is. With this laser focus on the realities and shortcomings of the present, we are unintentionally blinding our innate capacity for visioning into the future.

We used to be better at dreaming audaciously. The 1950s and 1960s saw us boldly going where no man had gone before. We tested the unthinkable in social, cultural and scientific endeavors. President Kennedy took us to the moon, while the modern environmental movement championed a gentler relationship with the planet. Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes and Dymaxion car, Superstudio’s radical architecture, and Haus-Rucker-Co’s pneumatic structures probed our built environment and social spaces with an unapologetic sense of potential that continues to influence and inspire creative practitioners. Sure, the proposals put forth by these futurists had flaws, but they dared to bring bold ideas to the table with an aliveness of imagination and playful possibility that feels sorely lacking today.

Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Car, early 1930s

Practitioners like Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby show us that creativity can be engaged differently to help us find our way forward. Having spent the last 15 years honing a design methodology that frees itself from the immediate concerns of feasibility, Dunne & Raby have emerged as the godparents of a burgeoning new speculative design movement. Their works untethers us from our insatiable fixation and faith in technology and open up space to explore the social, cultural, ethical, and personal meanings of progress.

Dunne & Raby

It’s time we once again begin to actively dream up outlandish and engaging visions of a future we want to live into. This time, however, let us direct our creative inquiry to articulate and test what it means to be alive well. Let us propose new states of being, seeing, and engaging with our world with a deeper fullness. We offer a call to creatives of all types to stop solving problems and start seeking possibilities; to field futures of a more rounded and worthy becoming. Please join us.

Dunne & Raby, Designs for an Overpopulated Planet: Foragers, 2009