Global Design Futures – Handcrafting futures

The reason to Question

Designing effectively means acknowledging the past, creating the present and involving the future. As designers, we need to capitalise on the opportunities and signals from the present and past to foresee how we can shape and develop the future.

Design of the future is be future driven, dynamic and change prone. The combination of these factors should make the designer calculate, predict and conceptualise. However, The concept of the future is very subjective.


Huxley,A.Brave new world

The book, Brave new world by Aldous Huxley, talks about the future and its impact. A pre fabricated ideal world by the system is later seen as the most imperfect version of Utopian world. The future has to matched the need to the user.






HowOne of the Assumptions Bell(2004) describes the concept of the ” Open future”. He states that the future is not pre deliberate or pre manifested. This allows probability and chance.  He believes that  because there is no pre existing future”, Individuals have the autonomy to designate choices because “the future is a domain of liberty and power”.

This blog will examine how the hand made artistry, borne of skill, craftsmanship and manual singular reproduction has potential to acquire a newer meaning.

Before the age of science and modern industry, crafts used to spring out of the hearts and hand of a man” Yanagi, S., & Leach, B.(2013,p.95)

Heather,S.().Handmade gold ring

However, various emerging experiences of technology infused or multi-tactile and audial artifacts have started closely changing the meaning of the manual reproduction of objects. By evaluating key design future trends, in terms of patterns, factors, context, needs, focus and more.

The way to achieve this through secondary research and research through design. Frayling, C(1993) discusses that idea of “Research through art and design” as a executional tool to gain insight. The objectives have to be clear for it to work effectively. There is categorisations of various kinds of research. He says that the “material exploration” is applicable for the possibilities and exploration on tactical resources.” Development work is enhancing knowledge of pre existing work and building on it. Action Research is formed around practical research and a report that means meaning of it.

By adopting a variation of action research, I can use those insights to envision futures that can be responsive, flexible or disruptive but will foster a new interpreted reality.


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Strachan, D. (2011).Process Framework for enabling Action


The next step was looking at my actual meaning through my “now what” phase. What is the meaning of Future? Unaware of what the definition expects, I visited a talk at UAL Futures. IAM – Internet Age Media. The focus was how Internet is building on alternative futures. The impact of co designing in the future and how that will shape knowledge hubs and build various communities physical and digital/ sphere. It was being discussed that The future is predicted to be divergent, bringing various perspectives together, has to no definition on a time-line and is not definite.

IAMUAL futures.(2017) Session on the future of technology and design

The session was followed by a participatory activity with small groups to make statement on what the future was about and who was it for. Through a short exercise, I learnt associative words on the future and its applicable user: designer. Designers can augment change. We created a statement brief. This was my steeping stone to my journey.

Global trends – What are they

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Frost & Sullivan.(2014).Frost & Sullivan Analysis

Trend 1# The impact of urbanisation will have an huge impact is multifaceted and cross linked, almost like a ripple effect. The rise in industry will create employment. This will lead to more income and property possession which will trigger consumer economic accumulation.

Trend 2#  Technology – Digital – physical, ‘phygital’ are emerging spaces. The expedited use of technology- internet, connectivity, mobility banking. There is a great deal of these resources used in bio/nano/material and technology information by Silberglitt.R et al. (2006).  This is creating a need to look at data protection and security in a larger way. For example, 4d printing is showing signs of early development but will turn in to macro trend.

Trend 3# Adaptability and meaningful experiences creates more connection. Connection and sharing will be important values as markets are very tighter. There will more platform exchange and modular structures as resources are very expensive to manage. Mckinsey & Company (2013) Individuals will have to co-share physical and digital spaces so this personal, professional and environment are merging. Circular economy and big cloud data have more probability of advancement.

Trend 4# The age of smart lifestyles and cities: The word ” Smart”, coined by IBM, is characterised for the use of intelligent technology that can adapt to environment. It allows the sensor based connections to react to collaborative human and environment spaces. For example, smart buildings or smart cars. A smart city, if coupled with its opportunities such as education, healthcare, energy, transport can create $1.5 trillion.Frost & Sullivan.(2014).

Trend 5# Health and well being: Due to the technological advancements of health. Health is seeing a tremendous amount of advancement is in Research and development. Health care eco systems are maturing due to the ageing population. Devices are becoming accessible, potable and global. Health solutions are collaborative.

Weak signals with in the craft industry: 

The handicraft is alternating its vision and design, which early catered to the tacit knowledge, skill usage of tools, legacy and passion of an artisan and now to new values of collaboration, new age parameters, infused disciplines, and processes.

  1. Beazley Designs of the Year uses design to create human experiences with accessibility, encourages change and envisions various futures. This exhibition had various displays that celebrated the future of craft through different interpretations the future of execution.

Adaptive Manufacturing collection by Sander Wassink and Olivier van Herpt which was inspired by various tactile surfaces produced by nature. By using 3d printing processes, they created a variety of ceramic and clay products which retained the handmade artisanal quality but was produced electronically. This bridge between the handmade creation and technological advancement is creating an alternative future understanding and value for handmade products.

2. Sarat Babu . the founder of Betatype, concentrates on creating and developing artefacts and products that infuse craft practices and technology. This has worked fairly well worked for the medical industry. Their forte lies in creating man-made tissue alternates. These small scale innovations turned to economically viable companies.




Oluwaseyi Sosanya  uses the alternated version of the traditional weaving technique with 3d technology to develop flexible surfaces.

Dezeen.(2014).Oluwaseyi sosanya weaving out through a 3d machine.


Global design futures_ anupa.005

This is a SWOT analysis of hand made artistry shows us how to extract and enhance the possibilities, challenges and successes with this area. There are clear evidences of adaptability, focus on multi directional and skill sharing. There are weaknesses like low appeal and less political backing however opportunity for collaborative, social change and development can be initiate

Insights from the weak signals: Potential drivers for change.

  1. Technology transformation is adding digital creativity and smart usage.
  2. Connectivity with craft in makers – Multidisciplinary spaces of skill and recources- human or digital.
  3. Preservation and sustainable is material resources, positioning and value of the handmade artistry and identity. Mass customization aids the nature of the craft and fits against mass produced machine made objects.
  4. Micro concepts into macro-innovations from biotechnology to wearable’s to robotics.
  5. Skill sharing of resources through easy communication.

These probable futures mentioned above have a strong correlation between technology, sharing economy and craft. The future envisaged has to be reflective or have similar references as we see on how behavioral patterns as skill sharing can aid craft industry in the future or how can digital mediums accommodate hand made artistry in the future?

Crafts council(2014) talks to Gina Czarnecki about the future of craft. She says there is drift towards technology reproduction.This article emphasizes the impact that craft is progressively making traditional craft practices more exploratory and how newer combinations such as medical breakthroughs, 3d  and 4d printing, wearable electronically adapted fabrics which affect cellular and can focus making newer ecosystems consisting of interconnected or individuals expectations.

My provocation

My approach was slightly modeled by critical thinking in reference to speculative and design friction. I wanted to frame instances that experiment on plausible and futures rather than creating ways to possible and preferable. In this way, data generated is more “ radical” and can be assigned to understanding all outcomes – short or long term. Nesta(2016)

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Nesta(2016). Joseph Voros’ depiction of the future.
Building towards the provocation
What ifs – The approach used to created most least probable scenario of how the hand made 
  • My voice could voice command the production of 4d products.

  • I  could physically transport 3d products across the global in a minute. – give example

  • I could physically change the change the colour of a 3d object through a digital swatch.

  • I could create business models through convenience of material and evaluation.

  • I could scan and upload sketches, configure the system to create 4d out of 2d sketch.

Designing future concepts largely create fictional spaces. The use of creating situation out of imaginary possibilities is a way build a bridge between assumed reality and suggested future. For example, By being able to digitally analyses an artifact can address re define of a object, initiate immediate conversations amongst the makers, and give social presence which can create access. This scenario is allowing makers to co create through “smart centric technology. There is co creation, skill sharing and creates a sense of public ness and identity.

This exercises made hypothetical thinking more pragmatic.

Insight 1: The possibilities of building creative spaces which were co-sharing and co creating.

Insight 2: The personalization and convenience of response and outcomes.

Provocation: How can technology aid skill sharing in the future in the handmade industry?


Malpass (2013) discusses associative design as a traditional comprehension of objects where the user is acquainted with form, function and structure. However, it questions these deep rooted associations made to the object. He also uses an aspect of critical design, especially speculative design as a progressive future tool to build products, scenarios and ideas. He emphasizes that it typically regulates forthcoming ideas related to applied technology and science. The propensity of technology as a potential viable source is debated and questioned. Inspired by this I have made my design experiment object centric.

Design Experiment 1: Use of objects to aid my design experiment/

Aim: I wanted new data through an experiential and thought provoking act. Experimentations using the qualitative methods helped define and create speculations. Role playing probes the construction of unrealistic realities which act as cues for potential narratives. This form of participatory behavior helps draw a parallel between the “ logical” present self and the future image of yourself. Using the clues from my what if scenario, I build a scenario where customization and technology could be implemented in online and offline situation though virtual and and immersive enacted experiences.

img_14391.jpg IMG_7455

Setting1: This is a hand crafted organic pouch. These situations are prompters to create hypothetical scenarios. The pouch is directly connected to computer so we can do a product evaluation on material quality, future textural adaptabilities and to document the data of the pouch.

Insight 1= Documentation aids record keeping and makes the product more accessible. Skill sharing is more addressable due to the data availability.

Insight 2=   The craft maker is able to customize and adjust the nature of the tactile product.

Setting 2: The challenge was to build an experience around smart usage. People want their contemporary mechanisms to articulate their lifestyles. We have seen case studies where the future of hand made craft is becoming reliant on the smart making. The conscious effort to experiment with an area I was not sure about gave various insights.

The first provocation, in reflection, was a space where I was role playing the designer as well as the user to examine what I could formulate an experiment to see what were insights, values and recommendations I could create. I was inspired by Gert Pasman’s essay called “Design fiction” as a service design approach. He uses video making as one of tools to gain analytical and holistic feedback. He suggests that speculative personas have the ability to iterate and create more life real experiences. His approach towards narrative building says it best works combined with an object.


The craft maker uses his/her yellow gloves uses his “smart gloves” which allows these following actions:-

  1. Creating while adapting.
  2. Having the adaptability to print the data of the assessed outcomes: on material quality and future textural adaptabilities. This gives accessible computing options to the users.
  3. Skill sharing on a global level by being connected on the phone with a secondary entity: craftsperson in a different geographical location.
  4. There are data protection and security measures while transferring data amongst the users.
  5. Such ideation generations can become easily scalable as it is encourages prototyping and iterations on a small level.
  6. It allows you to track your developments inorder to gage its ability to apply for a patent on your product

Insight 1= Technology is used create instant outcomes and collaborative creation to promote skill sharing. It estimates the product to create customization, preserve information for share and create meaningful experiences.

Insight 2= Time are resource management can be executed effectively. Nesta discusses s- shaped progression are viable in patents and sees this as conceivable aspect in the future.

Design experiment 2: The second phase was reconfirming my insights I found through my self study. I clubbed them in to categories:-Future, Future experience, Future self, Future environment and Future insight.

My user was a practicing craftmaker, mastering in hand knitted and sewn products and craft buyers.

Setting 3: The aim was to build and experience about understanding the value of future world. It was mostly like semantic interpretation of my insights. This participatory activity used conversational and visual prompters to define what my user thought would be an ideal future.

She had to look at the box, closer her eyes and turn the box around. Words visible, on the the sides of the box which open towards the user, should be used as permutations and combinations. Such as as future insight and experience. Future self and future or Future self and environment.

The yellow pouch was intermittently held by the user to generate and discuss her ideas. This was creating more empathy around the situation and making the user feel more in a situational position.

Other users practiced the same exercise and they had similar outcomes. Both had to fill out and assessment to measure the importance of given insights.


Insight 1 = The future of the hand made artistry has to be

Insight 2 = Smart making and usage has to be enhanced

Insight 3 = Lost narratives should be revived

Insight 4 = Co creating and Co designing should be encouraged

Insight 5= The value of documentation and recording craft

Insight 6 = Realizing all innovations and outputs have potentials. Maximizing that.

To sum my design experiment. These are five probable trends for that could be facilitated by service design. 

  1. Interconnected Work modes – Crafts makers of various skills and disciplines should collocate and be connected will encourage interactions, behavioral patterns and various kinds of decision-making qualities.
  2. Smart MAKING and Smart usage – the ability to use technology in using resource and data
  3. Usage of circular economy – Resources and human skills have to be disseminated so that trans disciplinary actions can be accessed.
  4. Micro-concepts into Macro-innovations – The execution or the implementation of an craft object starts at a small level and then can be scaled and maximize and thus creating a new ecology.
  5. Recording and Documentation – Preservation. Ways of preservation in this field are imperative as some technical processes are becoming extinct and need to be recorded.

The role of service designer in the hand made industry



16:31 onwards


Brigit Mager of Koln International School of Design talks about exploring the more capabilities of service through execution and practice. The demand of companies such as Virgin Atlantic and Lufthansa explored service design in the early 2000 and the value in its principle and executional methods were promoted. It encourages inclusiveness which makes organizations more amalgamated and inclusive.   She emphasizes on story telling as a powerful narrative tool to build trust and motivation. She cites Danna Choo by saying that “We have to be the alchemist of physical digital human”. This is key fundamentally that makes service design as a holistic.

Holmlid, S., (2007) has created a model which understand the roles of designer through various parameters – process/production/representation. Inspired by the use of his model as  he looks at the various functions of the role and correlations them to bring meaning to the role of the designer. and the discipline. 


Insight1# Service design has bring about motivation and trust through storytelling so that global trends like connectivity and sharing can be easily introduced. The service design mindset gas to encourage and develop tasks for the users to encourage this cross cultural recourse and skill competency. Create the easy of understanding and sense making this future trend as it will stimulate different behavioral habits and thinking.

Insight 2# The role of the designer is to create seamless through all aspects of the hand made industry. It is an area that is human relational, design centric, natural resource driven and mostly organic.

Insight 3 #Service designers frequently need to make the invisible visible by showing customers what has gone on behind the scenes. The role is adaptive towards change, understanding the necessities of the context and creating towards it and forecasting for the changes of the future. This can be done through awareness and consciousness about the new age technology and skill sharing platforms to make the craft makers roles for dynamic and change ready.“Service designers frequently need to make the invisible visible by showing customers what has gone on behind the scenes”.Polaine, A et al (2011)

In conclusion, the idea and outcome of the future may not predestined or pre attempted. However, the methods and the approaches acknowledge and distinguish what the future is. The main trends identify with technology and connections. The insights of the design experiment proves that there is a need to make the connections more collaborative and co existing. As we can see the role of the designer is to bridge “physical digital human” which is dually the role of the crafts maker and the designer.


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