Beginning in the late 1940s, after the trauma of World War II, American designers introduced us to Optimistic Design. They began to intentionally intertwine work and play, resulting in designs characterized by innovation and whimsy, paving the path for a forward looking and optimistic world. Prior to this, many designs were focused mainly on function.
These designers believed that play was not adjacent to their process, but essential to it. They discovered that humans and machines could collaborate in a positive way. And so, we had machines that improved lives – like dishwashers, photocopiers, and finally computers.
We are more than 100 days into the “new normal” and do not know how long this will go on. Once again, the relationship between humans and machines — especially those that give us digital access, has become an integral part of keeping us not just employed but also sane.
As we look around, we have witnessed how different companies have had to adapt, fast. Some brands have completely pivoted from their core business, innovating in order to survive. Others have switched messaging to resonate better with people living in lockdown. Every company right now is considering whether it is doing enough to foster diversity and inclusion. Improvisation skills and creativity are becoming our most valuable assets.
We, as designers, have been trained to look at our surroundings and the world in a unique way. We dream of a future that doesn't yet exist, and work to bring that future to life; how could it be different, better? We are trained to identify paths of opportunity; the old can become new again, we can breathe new life into existing assets, reuse and repurpose to create new value, problems can be solved, constraints moved, policies evolved, and behavior changed. We think up solutions, create innovations, are pioneers, make things tangible and functional.
For us designers; people, services, and things are all malleable. And a more positive set of experiences could always be right around the corner. When it comes to navigating the unknown, there’s really no better approach than the one we have always used, even in the old normal.