By: John Rousseau

While the future is always unknown, the pandemic has amplified our awareness of uncertainty, implicating many facets of life that were once thought of as enduring.

This series explores this altered landscape through the lens of critical uncertainties and narrative sketches of potential 10-year futures. These scenarios are not predictions — they illustrate a range of plausible outcomes that may help challenge prevailing assumptions, spark discussion, and inform more resilient strategies.

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The strategic question

In light of the current pandemic, how might the future of mobility evolve in the US by 2030? …

By: Rob Girling

With COVID-19 extending school closures across most of the U.S., many parents and students are facing the prospect of an entirely virtual school year come fall. But what will students experience from behind the glow of a computer screen? Can digital learning be as effective and engaging as in-person education?

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Educational games prioritize students’ questions and interests over a rigid curriculum. [GETTY]

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” — Confucius

We know interactivity is key to learning, understanding, and growth. People derive meaning through active engagement with the world, such as experiments or real-world problem-solving. Yet, the vast majority of learning software follows a passive view of education: the learner is an empty vessel to be filled with knowledge as efficiently as possible. …

By: Rob Girling

As we contemplate life at home away from others and communal events, we are all seeking ways to maintain a sense of community and connectedness. For many, fitness is a ritual that is not only essential to physical well-being but an important way to connect with and build community.

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Peloton’s bike and treadmill products are well designed — but what about their community experience? GETTY

One business uniquely positioned to thrive in the age of isolation is connected fitness company Peloton. Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, Peloton was establishing itself as a new kind of leader, building a community of shared virtual suffering far from the sweat and germs of the local gym. …

By: Rob Girling

“Important.” “Landmark.” “Genuine and meaningful.” This is just some of the praise received by the most lauded and brilliantly designed hardware device that you may have never heard of.

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Disabled gamers use a shared controller to play a Xbox console racing game together at the new Microsoft Corp. flagship store in central in London, U.K., on Tuesday, July 9, 2019. Photographer: Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

In the design community, there is almost unanimous consensus that Microsoft’s $99 Xbox Adaptive Controller is one of the best-designed industrial products of our time, with the potential to inspire and impact the future of how humans interact with physical products. Perhaps you’re searching the Internet right now for an image of this wonderous design — I will confess part of me hopes you are disappointed when you see it because it is a beautiful product with an utterly utilitarian look. …

By: Jeff Turkelson

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Last year, a few colleagues at Artefact implored me to run a game of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) for them, as none of them had played before. …

By: Eric Croskey

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Last summer, in a dark auditorium somewhere around Minneapolis, EYEO hosted a series of lightning round presentations. Among the presenters that night was Claire Kearney-Volpe, a doctoral candidate and research fellow for the Ability Project at NYU. At the outset of her talk, she presented a simple form for the audience to fill out. That form had one not-so-subtle transformation: it was all set in Wingdings, a font designed as a series of glyphs that rendered the form incomprehensible.

Why Wingdings? Oftentimes, the simplest tasks — whether it’s entering a building or browsing the web — can be tedious, or even impossible, depending on where someone falls on the ability spectrum. Microsoft’s Inclusive Design Toolkit posits that, “If we use our own abilities as a baseline, we make things that are easy for some people to use, but difficult for everyone else.” Claire used Wingdings to transport a group of designers and coders to a world where they were no longer accommodated for. …

By: Sheryl Cababa

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It’s not every day that you get to meet an icon. I had the opportunity to speak with a personal hero of mine last week, indomitable tech journalist Kara Swisher, who was in town giving a talk Artefact organized in partnership with Seattle Arts and Lectures. As witty and wry as ever, her conversation revolved around the pertinent themes of technology usage, industry regulation, and some pointed commentary on Jack Dorsey’s beard.

In reflecting on Kara’s lecture and recent high-profile criticism of the tech industry, however, I got to thinking about the current all-or-nothing approach to technology in our culture. The general response to Big Tech’s many missteps has been to run away from it — be it by limiting our screen time or scrambling to #DeleteFacebook. This abstinence-only reaction is dangerous because it doesn’t help us understand how to relate to the ubiquitous technology in our lives. Rather than retreat from technology, we need to figure out how to coexist with it. …

By: Paul Hoover

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The Metaverse. The AR cloud. The Magicverse. Mirrorworld. Whatever you call it, the concept is coming: a digital layer of reality that coexists over the physical world. It’s been hailed as a new frontier in computing and the “next great digital platform,” according to WIRED. It may not be tangible at the moment, but 10 years from now this digital layer — I’ll call it the AR cloud — will be a fundamental piece of the computing landscape.

Despite all the potential of the AR cloud, such a radical shift in the human computing experience presents a very real possibility for negative consequences or even abuse. We’ve experienced firsthand how technology platforms can shift society in unintended ways, and it is our responsibility as designers and technologists to create the AR cloud responsibly. …

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From smart contracts in the homebuying process to swiftly and securely transferring money overseas, blockchain solutions are becoming increasingly common in sectors such as finance, real estate and the Internet of Things. Distributed web solutions like blockchain provide crucial security and accountability functions that transform our relationship with data. In other words, blockchain delivers trust and transparency — two things we at Artefact take very seriously when it comes to technology and its impact.

At Artefact, we’ve been exploring what role blockchain can play in wrestling with the many intractable, systemic problems facing our world. …

By: Jackson Chu

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I first learned about Bertrand in a New Yorker article. Born with a mysterious, debilitating condition, his case stumped the medical community for years. Misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis, Bertrand and his family lived in constant angst, uncertainty, and neglect in pursuit of a diagnosis. Underlying the human story, however, were conflicting incentives and repeated failures among the doctors, researchers and other stakeholders that comprised the patient experience.

Motivated by Bertrand’s story, we decided to explore the challenges affecting patients with rare and undiagnosed conditions through a systemic lens in order to better understand the wider system patients face; identify relevant stakeholders and their relationships; and pinpoint opportunities to improve research, treatment, and ultimately, patient health outcomes. …

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Artefact

Artefact is a responsible strategy + design firm. We help you harness the power of design to make change + do good.

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