Article magazine # 114


Editor’s: The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet

Post de: Cosmina Goagea

In every big industrial company there are research and innovation units or innovation-labs focused on the study of tomorrow’s habits, needs, and tendencies. Such labs are strikingly different from design offices, since they do not draw in there; as a rule people from all over the world, professionals in anthropology, sociology and from a wide range of other sciences and arts talk about future.

Design is there just to materialize such visions which more than once are granted international design prizes that go to the whole team, not just to engineers and designers. Well, as a rule the team always stands behind a brand. The good side of the story is that the development of scenarios meant to stimulate creativity, collaboration and inter-cultural communication are made attractive enough so as to conquer new markets.  

Such practices produce everyday new hybrid jobs which require new competencies. Now since all the information is available one-click-away on Wikipedia, it seems it is far more important how you handle the information than the amount of your extensive knowledge. Consequently, both one’s innovation and communication skills as well one’s capabilities to team up and think critically are more significant than any sort of academic education as we have known it. What is more, to communicate well does not necessarily mean to write a press release correctly but to master instead those rules that make people identify with each other, to find common grounds beyond their language and conquer their fears – even in the most advanced and organized countries – and to know how to approach a person they haven’t expected to meet. These actions have led to a new paradigm of learning philosophy that structures any educational system according to four pillars: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, and learning to be. It is in keeping with this structure that the ELLI Index Europe (European Lifelong Learning Indicators) evaluation is carried out under the aegis of the UNESCO, which centers on the quality of lifelong learning. (The Romanian education system contains only the first out of the four pillars; for further details see Thus, the direction of primary education in future will be based on children’s preparing for innovation (not just for academic studies), which means to teach them to add more value to the things they are asked to do. While traditional careers change or simply vanish, our children will be taught to invent their own job opportunities and adjust them continually depending on their own motivations. However, this is only possible if they have been acquired solid communicational and entrepreneurial skills in school. Such curricula have already come out in the world. For instance, in Finland they have been applied and the first results are visible within the most innovative world economy. In the United States, 500 primary schools affiliated with the Hewlett Foundation’s Deeper Learning Initiative and other 100 county schools called EdLeader21 are developing the new methodologies of teaching the abilities needed for the 21st century. Academic departments or laboratories are being re-invented; some of the young people who are going to change the world study at M.I.T Media Lab, at Olin College of Engineering and at, the innovators’ hub at Stanford.

The is the most significant example for us as architects; it is there that students in design, engineering, medicine, social sciences, humanities, law, and economy learn how to innovate by interrelating creativity and analytical approach in the framework of some interdisciplinary teamwork. The process has been named “design thinking”; it takes out methods from technology and design and mixes them with ideas and instruments from arts and sciences with the goal to find out new possibilities for life. Students are not asked to solve problems, instead they are required to understand and explain what the problem is about in a given situation. The whole process starts on the site where students are supposed to empathize with other people and find out as accurately as possible which the human needs they are going to approach are. Next, the design projects are replaced by actions applied to real world by students who attend various courses in order to confirm or cancel out the chosen solutions. In this way what we currently name as the design theme is being re-adjusted. In fact, at they are taught to ask the right questions, which is not in the least of little significance. That does not mean the form is less important, but in this case it is not discussed at length. 

* The title is a quote often attributed to William Gibson, american novelist, the creator of the term “cyberspace” and of the cyberpunk sub-genre.

** Photo: Vitamins Design / Morph Folding Wheel – designed by Vitamins for Maddak Inc. More details in this issue of  Zeppelin