Q&A: IDEO Looks Into the Future of Design

A multimedia brainstorm from the acclaimed design firm explores how tech’s next steps will shape tomorrow.
IDEO Made in the Future
Made in the Future

New manufacturing ecologies and the increased ability to make goods ourselves could lead to exceptional customization and new ideas, according to an new IDEO report.

Technological advances—and the exciting social, design and economic changes left in their wake—have never been more of a constant. In an effort to explore and understand these “seismic shifts in how we design, manufacture, and distribute,” IDEO started talking, enlisting the insights of experts and resident geniuses at the MIT Media Lab to create Made in the Future. It’s design thinking turned design forecasting, a look at the tools, systems and skills that will allow us to shape our own bright, shiny future.

IDEO’s Colin Raney, an Associate Partner and Managing Director of the Boston studio, answered our questions about the exploration, and how these exciting changes may influence interior design.

Could the increased technical ability to customize furniture, products and layouts possibly suggest we need to rethink the idea of "modular" and focus on objects that are more adaptive and customizable?

There are two movements that suggest that we’ll see a greater abundance of individualized products in the future. Firstly, there is some exciting technology being developed to help us gain a better understanding of ourselves. As that technology improves, it will give us new parameters to consider when we create experiences. Secondly, on the manufacturing side, we’re seeing a lot more flexible processes that could respond to these new inputs. In the past, a lot of mass-manufacturing scenarios arrived at personalization by creating many, many options. These advances in new sensing and new manufacturing could create the possibility for true personalization. In the meaning economy section of the MITF site we had a lot of fun with how personalization might evolve, looking at things like clothing that responds to your mood or jewelry that can sense your emotion. In New Matter we look at our we might design with nature, for example co-creating with termites.

How might the increase in sensor technology and the rise of "The Internet of Things" influence how homes and home appliances work with and for us?

We’re going through a cultural evolution around how comfortable we are sharing data, and it’s a very personal choice. If a device gathers your data, it needs to use it to create a really compelling experience. Smartphones are a great example; they collect massive amounts of data from us, but they deliver amazing experiences. This seems to be the way that sensing and privacy will evolve; If companies can create more compelling experiences with our data, we’ll likely share it. It’s all about keeping things simple and human.

Could the rise of more distributed manufacturing, and 3D-printing, change how people design, buy and sell furniture and housewares?

The rise of online marketplaces, really favors the individual makers and designers. Just as Etsy has created a cottage industry around handmade goods, you’re seeing sites like CustomMade.com connect consumers directly with custom furniture makers. I think this is a little different than the music industry shift. There will likely still be a place for mass manufacturing as some people don’t want to get into the detail of customizing their furniture. But for people who are passionate about every detail, it is becoming a lot easier and more affordable to design the exact products that you want.

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