Postcards from the future: Democratise the debate

29th November 2017
by Anusia Grennell

Cover image: Postcards from the future: Democratise the debate

The future (with a little ‘f’) is unknown and therefore nothing can be posited for certain. With that in mind, the role of a conference thus titled is to facilitate speculation and debate. This highly-anticipated addition to the conference calendar was well-received in this, its debut year, and for me the most exciting thing will be to see how it adapts and builds on its successes in the years to come.

Design is profoundly political, no more so than when we discuss it in terms of the future of our own lives and those of subsequent generations. It’s impossible to be didactic about something so uncertain. The Future’s smaller stages moved away from the traditional show-and-tell set up to include a number of workshops and intimate Q & As. This shift in format democratises the discussion. Fostering a participatory environment can lead to richer, and more critical, outcomes. It allows people to have a say and to consider opposing viewpoints. Opening the debate up to attendees also reveals the interests of those people who are not design, marketing or advertising professionals, who equally have a dog in the fight when we talk about the future. The onus then lies on the audience to avail of this opportunity to participate in shaping the discourse. In this way, the conference becomes a space to challenge ourselves and gain insights; to be critical, cross-disciplinary and collaborative so that when we return to our studios, classrooms and offices we are equipped with an awareness that can help us work towards a better future, with each other in mind.

I hope next year’s event will see this diversification of format extended even further. What I’d really look forward to is some powerful debate á la 1972’s legendary contest between Jan Van Toorn and Wim Crouwel. Design needed it then and I think we might need it now, too. With a host of excellent speakers and an engaged and diverse audience, The Future presents an opportunity for a culture of design criticism, beyond discipline, to seed and grow in Ireland. Things are looking bright, roll on The Future.

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