This story originally appeared in Carnegie Mellon Today
It’s the year 2050 in the city of Pittsburgh. Everything is so different compared to just 35 years ago, when Peter Scupelli, assistant professor of design, left Carnegie Mellon University’s campus for a conference in Seattle. Instead of buses, rapid transit pods carry people from station to station. Cyclists wind their way throughout the city on carless roads and recharge electric bikes at docking stations. Rather than commuting long distances to offices, many people work side-by-side at local collaborative work centers, which buzz with the exchange of ideas and information. Most people live in compact apartments, given the region’s space limitations, often with extended families. They regularly use 3D holographic technology in their “media rooms” to interact with loved ones or coworkers elsewhere in the world. Evenings and weekends, neighbors socialize in large communal areas, such as rooftops or vibrant community centers. Educational opportunities exist through online courses and other learning resources at a nearby “Learning Hub.”
This is the future as envisioned by a group of CMU students, Scupelli tells the audience at the 2015 international conference for the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), one of the oldest and largest membership organizations for industrial design professionals. He and Arnold Wasserman—a 1956 CMU alumnus and co-founder of the renowned design consultancy Collective Invention—have traveled to Seattle for the IDSA’s 50th annual international conference. They’ve been invited to speak about “Dexign the Future,” which is a novel design studio course they’ve developed and co-taught. At the Westin Seattle Hotel, they join some of the brightest minds in the field of design, whose affiliations include, among others, Amazon, Intel, Microsoft, Netflix, and PepsiCo, as well as prominent design firms, nonprofits, and design schools. They’re all here to discuss the topic of this year’s conference: “The Future of the Future.”
“This is perhaps the most important conference in our history,” writes IDSA Board of Directors Chair Emeritus Charles Austen Angell, as designers increasingly find themselves playing key roles in businesses, nonprofits, and governments, searching for solutions to the global problems of the 21st century.