What We Are Reading

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How the 'What We Are Reading' library works

The future as a design space has been described as "The revenge of Steve Jobs."   People are writing about the implications of this revolution.   We're collecting the insights we find fascinating in this curated library.   Click on one and you'll find a brief explanation of the item, a quick idea of its importance, and a link to the original.


When technological futures are driven by profit maximization, one may chose the short-term benefit and avoid seeing the long-term negative consequences. There are alternatives.

Practitioners, Messiness of Real World
social justice design thinking process

Can you design for social impact without trying to achieve social justice?  How can designers move beyond superficial participation to sharing agency with the user?

Visions, Large Hypotheses, Messiness of Real World
screen of many webcam screens together, participatory media

Should we really design with just the user in mind?  Or does the lens of the user obscure the big picture?   Should we instead design for *all* system participants?

Messiness of Real World, Practitioners
ice pattern

One size does not fit all, particularly in an increasingly complex world. Behind every pattern is a design problem.

Rules of Thumb
Jilbert Ebrahimi photograph of a town square

When great design solutions are discovered, they are validated by proving their worth again and again, across quite dissimilar eras and cultures. In designing the human future, The Guide Project aims to see what past successes have in common, and how their elements can be placed in a “pattern language” on which others can build.

Success Models, Large Hypotheses, Messiness of Real World, Practitioners, Rules of Thumb

On March 12, 1989, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web.  On its 30th anniversary, however, Berners-Lee lamented the spread of hatred and crime online.  The anniversary offered another existence proof that the future most certainly can be designed.   The original goal – quite conscious – was real and democratic liberation, for free.   At the same time, the eventual outcomes underline the need for those who would steer the future iteratively to learn where their predecessors went wrong, as described in this piece from The Atlantic.

Messiness of Real World, Practitioners, Real World Experience
Jose Aljovin photograph

What are the lessons from Steve Jobs in designing human futures? (He did, after all, provide evidence proof that it could be done.) His biographer discusses many of them here. But ultimately, he says Jobs was describing himself when, in the Apple "Think Different" ads, he wrote: "Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Visions, Success Models, Real World Experience
Chris Barbalis architecture photograph

Design based on research into what actually works spans a remarkable range, including not only all the traditional design disciplines, but facilities management, education, medicine, and nursing. For example, the seminal study showing the impact of a window view on patient recovery. The Guide Project suspects that working across many intellectual silos is required to treat the future as a design space.

Real World Experience, Practitioners, Success Models, Messiness of Real World
Frankie Cordoba photograph

Insights into designing the human future are by no means all cosmic. Some interesting ones come -- quick and tentative -- from practitioners doing the best they can, with what they've got, at the time. It matters less whether they're all correct, than whether these might be profitably viewed as blocks to be hewn into larger edifices.

Rules of Thumb, Messiness of Real World